Jarret Gray – Edmonton’s Fiddle Troubadour
If you walk down 104th ave on a Friday night, you’re likely to hear the tunes of local fiddle player Jarret Gray.
“Roger’s Place. I like that place. Everybody there is drunk and they all have lots of money.” Jarret can be seen busking near the Edmonton Oilers’ new arena downtown whenever the venue hosts an event. “Even the Oil King games are good because there are lots of little kids. Their parents will give them money and then Little Billy waddles up to your [violin] case and gives you a dollar.”
Gray has been an active musician in Edmonton for over 10 years and has been playing violin since he was only 3 years old. Aside from the busking, he plays fiddle in the rockabilly band The Devil’s Sons, the folk punk band Whyte Ave Womp Rats, and the freak folk project Electric Audrey II.
He’s recently developed a stage outfit that makes him instantly recognizable. He dawns a cheetah-print cape, Electric Audrey II shirt, skin tight cheetah-print pants and bare feet.
Gray has recently pondered adding his violin skill to one of Edmonton’s best known anomolies – shirtless rollerblading guitar guy. The man in question rollerblades around Old Strathcona shirtless while strumming an acoustic guitar whenever it’s warm enough outside to do so. “I’ve considered finding him and becoming shirtless fiddle guy, following him around and trying to jam with him,” explained Gray. “I think that’d be hilarious for about a day.”
He acquired his current violin through his busking adventures last year. It’s a gorgeous, hand-made German Klaus Heffler violin, worth at least $2000. “I was busking at an Oilers game and I brought both my cheap violin and my expensive violin. I kept my expensive one tucked away behind me, which I don’t normally do ever.” Once the crowd on the street died down, he packed up his instruments and walked away, accidentally leaving his more prized violin behind on the ground. “Within 5 minutes I came back, but it was gone. I was devastated.”
The next day, he got in contact with CTV News and told them the story of his lost fiddle. CTV broadcast a piece about his tribulations the following week and the story went viral on social media around Edmonton. “It got shared around Facebook to a group called the Edmonton Cannabis Community,” Gray recalls. “One of the guys in the group who makes mad bank off weed decided he wanted to give back to the community and take me fiddle shopping! He had a couple grand to spend, so we went down to Long & McQuade and I got this fiddle.”
He now uses the Heffler for all his band and busking purposes. “Shout out to Phil from the Edmonton Cannabis Community,” he laughed. “We’ll leave it at `Phil.’”
The violin is now covered in small dents along the sides. “Sometimes I put it away and forget to take out some of the coins [from busking],” Grey said. “I think the coins have been scratching the varnish, but now it’s just infused with the sound of a thousand coins, which is how I’d like it to be anyway.”
Next time you’re having a drink at Denizen Hall or leaving an event at Roger’s Place, listen for the fiddle in the air. For whatever price you decide to put on his performance, you can enjoy a few “crazy fiddle solos,” as Gray calls them, before heading home.
You can see Gray fiddle for Electric Audrey II at Shaker’s Roudhouse on May 4th.
Top photo courtesy of Johnny Blue-Eyes. Podcast photo courtesy of Jarret Gray.