Pritesh Walia is a Jazz Guitar player and educator who resides in Boston, MA. Pritesh's musicianship and performance was highly recognized from the beginning of his musical journey starting with his entry to the Musicians Institute College of Contemporary Music with the "Steve Vai Scholarship" as well as earning recognition from Berklee College of Music in his contemporary jazz performance and composition during his B.M. by receiving “Berklee Achievement scholarship” and the "Professional music achievement award". He also holds a Master’s Degree in Jazz Performance Studies from New England Conservatory where he was awarded the “Dean Scholarship”.
Pritesh has played numerous festivals and gigs worldwide, and can be heard on numerous records and projects over the years ranging from Jazz Big Band, Modern Jazz, Gypsy jazz to independent singer-songwriter music. Pritesh held the guitar chair at the NEC Jazz Orchestra where he performed with various musicians like Maria Schneider. Pritesh has collaborated and performed with highly acclaimed musicians at renowned venues such as Jordan Hall, Berklee Performance Center, and Agganis Arena.
In July of this year, Pritesh Walia will be releasing his highly-anticipated debut album titled, "Hope Town"! Follow Pritesh on his social media platforms to stay updated on his upcoming music releases.
"My music is basically a self reflection of my life and my experiences. All the songs from my record are based on my experiences and different periods of my life." - Pritesh Walia
Hello, Pritesh! I'd love to know, when did you first discover your passion for music?
Pritesh: Hey, thank you so much for having me its super amazing to meet you. I believe I found my passion for music at a very young age, which is interesting in itself because I started playing my instrument really late in my life. I believe I picked up the guitar at the age of 14 and I vividly remember it was an indian knockoff brand acoustic guitar with 3 strings missing. I discovered the guitar in the corner of the music room in my school where I briefly studies Indian classical music. I feel like passion in itself is a by product you get if you enjoy what you do. I find passion in music because there is so much more to learn everyday and I can never seem to get enough.
What three words would you say best summarize your musical style?
Pritesh: I feel like as a musician, composer and a listener I can never constraint myself to one genre of music and style. I have days where I spend hours obsessing over the works of Charles Ives, Oliver Messiaen and Debussy where as days where I just listen to Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. My love for Brazilian music, Big band music, Hip hop and Gospel music has also influenced me in a lot of ways as a composer and performer. I feel like if I had to put a label to my music style I would say it is primarily jazz/Improvised Nu-music with hints of different musical styles.
Tell me about your upcoming album titled, “Hope Town”... what is something very special about it?
Pritesh: "Hope Town" is my debut album which already makes it super special to me. The album name is based in the the album track “Hope Town” which I wrote on a bus ride from New York to Boston. During the Bus ride I saw this beautiful small town. Imagine you are in a bus sitting on the window seat and its 5:30 AM in the morning and just around sunrise and you can see this beautiful town at a distance. A town with nothing special going on but is very far from our worldly distractions of technology a town where everyone knows each other, I found that to be a profound experience and I wrote my first draft to the song “Hope Town”. I feel like one of the special aspects of this record is that its a trio Album and all the songs are originals except for one cover.
Most artists say that through their art they learn more about themselves, heal injuries… in what ways has music helped you?
Pritesh: Well absolutely, the more I play and write I discover a lot about myself. I realize what I like on a conscious and sub-conscious level and how I’ve developed my musicality. I do believe that playing music and especially an art form like Jazz has been very liberating for me. It has allowed me to be free and treat my instrument as a part of my consciousness rather than something that is detachable. Playing music has been my therapy; an emotional outlet and the more I develop and continue to understand this language the better I am getting to expressing myself through it.
How do you want your music to help other people?
Pritesh: My music is basically a self reflection of my life and my experiences. All the songs from my record are based on my experiences and different periods of my life. I don't really have any expectations of how my music will be perceived by the listeners and I think that applies to every musician/artist that decides to put out music in the world. This music has been reflective for me and has helped me get through tough times in life. I've always used my music as a medium of expression and I hope people can hear that and relate to that aspect. I can only hope that my music has the same effect for a listener as it does to me as the composer and performer.
What inspires you the most about jazz music?
Pritesh: Jazz music is an art form which allows us as musicians to freely express ourselves. The aspect that inspires me the most is that there are no rules of being creative in this genre of music. As a matter of fact I believe Jazz music is a lifestyle, a reflection of culture and history that can’t be bottled down to just a genre. This music has provided me tools to look at music and life in more depth and be able to process my emotions through sound, which is so beautiful and personal. One of the biggest inspiring aspects of this music is that there is no end to learning it and perfecting your art even the greats were pushing the envelope of this art form till the day they were alive and I'm very proud and honored to be a part of this culture and world of musicians.
Who are the first music artists or composers that inspired you?
Pritesh: I think John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker were the artists that blew me away. Every idea or though they had was cohesive and full of commitment; a level of mastery every jazz musician only dreams of. Not only are they pioneers but they also paved the pathway for new musicians and gave us tools to better understand this art form.
I am also highly influenced by piano players like Brad Mehldau, Kenny Barron and McCoy Tyner and I’ve been trying to find ways to emulate the sound of a piano through guitar. Being a guitarist I’m also super influenced by modern jazz guitarists like Kurt Rosenwinkel, Jonathan Kriesberg, Lage Lund, Julian lage.
I see that you have performed and collaborated with many accomplished musicians… who are some of the most notable that you have worked with?
Pritesh: Well more than just performing, I have been blessed to play and study with some of my heroes like Jerry Bergonzi, Donny McCaslin, Ethan Iverson, Jason Moran and Miguel Zenon. One of the biggest and influential performances was playing with Maria Schneider Big band in 2020, it was super inspiring not only to play the music but also be able to look at the composer and watch them perform.
What is the next "big thing" the world can expect from you?
Pritesh: Like every musician, I realize that music is a journey and it doesn’t have an ending, I am going to keep releasing music and writing my music and being truthful and honest to my art. I believe the next big thing would be to record my Organ trio a musical style that is very close to my heart and I want to be able to share it with people.
Where will you be performing next?
Pritesh: I have a few concerts lines up for this coming month where I am playing my music or playing as a sideman for some astounding performers and composers. You can check out my the music of Henry Godfrey Big band on the 18th of March at Virtuosity Boston and my Jazz Guitar trio which would be playing the music of my new album “Hope Town” on March 19th at the Lilypad Boston.