INTERVIEW WITH MUSICIAN WARREN GALEA

Warren Galea is a Maltese multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer currently residing in Brooklyn, New York. His biggest five influences are Mozart, Charlie Parker, The Beatles, Frank Zappa, and Jimi Hendrix. He has performed in a variety of contexts ranging from musicals to orchestral concerts across Malta, Paris, and New York.

In 2014 he won the Malta Jazz contest and in 2016 he released an EP with F-Trio. Later that year he performed at the Malta Jazz Festival. After recently graduating from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, Warren is working on his debut album. Another recent project is Flight School – a septet exploring freely improvised music. Besides performing live and creating electronic music, he enjoys reading books and eating chocolate.

Eve: What’s your real connection to Malta? Do you visit Malta frequently?

Warren Galea: I was born and raised in Malta. Both my parents are Maltese. Most of my family is in Malta though I also have relatives in the US. I grew up in Naxxar and lived on the island until I was 24. Then I moved to New York to study Jazz Guitar at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. I recently graduated and I want to keep living in the city, exploring its large music scene. I do visit Malta quite often to spend time with my family, catch up with many good friends, and also perform with local artists who played a crucial role in my early development. The years I have spent living abroad taught me to appreciate things I took for granted while I was still living on the island, most notably the beach, the warm weather and the Prehistoric Temples dating back to a time earlier than the pyramids.

Eve: You’re a multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer. Can you let us know more all about these roles?

WG: My main instrument is the guitar. I have been playing for 15 years and sometimes I feel like I’m just getting started. Besides the guitar I also have a strong connection to the piano. My mother is a pianist and we had a piano in the house. In my earliest childhood memories the piano is always present. In 2018 I started doing gigs on bass around New York. Another instrument I play for fun is the clarinet. I studied with Freddie Mizzi and practised quite intensely for a period of about two years. Now I treat it more casually, though I have performed as a clarinettist on a few occasions.

I took several composition classes at the New School, where I was lucky enough to be closely mentored by artists such as Jane Ira Bloom and Kirk Nurock. In 2018 I was happy to be finally able to unify a body of works composed during the past four years into what became my debut album, which will be released this coming May.

How it all began. Photo from personal album

Production has been the most recent extension of my musical expression. Having grown up amidst the Paceville club scene, my relationship to electronic music has been a tumultuous one. While I have learned to enjoy it as dance music in some cases or appreciate it as art in others, what interests me most are the seemingly endless textural possibilities it opens. During my time at the New School I finally befriended audio software and began, with a dose of sarcasm, producing electronic works for my Soundcloud page. In the future I want to release an album consisting entirely of electronic music – I still have a long way to go and much to learn in this field.

Eve: You have performed in a variety of contexts ranging from musicals to orchestral concerts across Malta, Paris, and New York. What was your journey like?

WG: I began performing in Malta when I was around 17 with my friends from the Johann Strauss School of Music. Eventually the band broke up though I continued to play in a duo setting with my cousin Chris, the pianist in the band. At that point I also worked on Masquerade’s rendition of ‘Thirteen the Musical’ under Kevin Abela, who then invited me to play on his ‘Movie Spectacular’ concert with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. I played with the MPO one more time on Joseph Calleja’s 2011 concert in Floriana.

Around this time I met one of my closest collaborators on the Maltese scene – bassist Alan Portelli. We began playing with drummer Manuel Pulis in what later became F-Trio. After a hiatus, we resumed playing around the island in 2014, and we released our debut EP in January 2016. The record featured original material by all band members as well as some standards. We also collaborated with guitarist Jimmy Bartolo on a few tracks.

In 2014, as the winner of the Malta Jazz Contest I had the opportunity to perform in Paris with bassist Joachim Govin and drummer David Georgelet. I presented some original compositions as well as standards. This was my first time performing under my name outside the island and I remember being struck by possibly the worst stage fright I have ever experienced in my life. As the winner of the contest I also performed in the 2015 Malta Jazz Festival as part of an ensemble consisting of Maltese and Italian musicians.

While I was living in Malta I was involved in a multitude of other musical projects and professional engagements. One of these was a guitar duo with Jes Psaila. We played many venues around the island and in December 2014 we gave a concert at St.James Cavalier. Since moving to New York I have worked with several Jazz singers including Joni Paladin, Juliette Shipp, Rosdeli Marte and Emmie Te Pas. I am currently performing and recording in Zana Rifai’s band. We have a monthly residency at the Bitter End with her band. During my last two years at school I worked for the New School gig office, playing functions around the city. I have performed in art galleries, parks, bars, and hotels.

Eve: What has been the single greatest challenge in your career so far?

WG: I would say the biggest challenge in my career so far has been moving to New York and having to start pretty much my whole life all over again. I had a comfortable life in Malta before I left the island four years ago. Having said that I have absolutely no regrets and I intend to stay in New York. I feel truly fortunate to have the most amazing family and friends that support me. I also want to thank the Malta Arts Scholarship, the Malta Arts Fund Project Support Grant, the BOV Joseph Calleja Foundation, the ADRC trust, and Janatha Stubbs.

Eve: What do you enjoy doing during your time off?

WG: Most of my time at the moment is dedicated to my career – practising, writing music, booking gigs, performing, recording, rehearsing, teaching, checking out equipment, building my home studio, working on my YouTube channel and social media – it goes on and on. The rest of my time I spend with my girlfriend or with friends. I enjoy attending gigs by musicians that inspire me – New York is the best place on Earth for that – and I am also a voracious reader, sometimes I go through multiple books in a week.

Read Eve‘s earlier interview with Warren Galea here