Young Artist Interview: Will Barry

Pianist, drummer and composer Will Barry is the Company’s 2017 Young Jazz Musician of the Year. A regular performer on the British jazz scene, Will is a member of the Alex Hitchcock Quintet which won the Conad Jazz Contest at the 2018 Umbria Jazz Festival. Will also performs internationally, most prominently with Phronesis bassist Jasper Høiby’s group ‘Fellow Creatures’ along with Company yeoman Laura Jurd.


Pianist, drummer or composer – which do you identify with most?

I identify most as a pianist, for sure, despite drums being my first instrument. I think that I take a lot of subconscious musical inspiration from having started on drums and a lot of people comment that I play in quite a ‘percussive’ way.


When did your journey into jazz begin?

My journey into jazz began when my dad brought back four CDs from a trip to New York (he’s a musician too). He went into a record store and asked what was popular at the time and they recommended him some recent releases. They were all fairly different but shared common themes of improvisation and rhythmic complexity. I must have been about five or six at the time and was captivated by what I heard.


What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a piano trio that will feature my own compositions. I’m hoping to release something in the upcoming year. I’m also embarking on a new project with my close friend and colleague Alex Hitchcock that is currently in its infancy but our shared passion for the music that we’re creating will undoubtedly be a great source of creative energy.


What’s been the highlight of 2018?

This year has had multiple high points, notably performing at some of the world’s most renowned festivals including the North Sea Jazz Festival with Fellow Creatures, Umbria Jazz Festival with the Alex Hitchcock Quintetas well as recording on the new Kairos 4tet release which I’m very excited to be a part of.


Has winning competitions helped you win more work?

I think that winning the Musicians’ Company Young Jazz Musician Award definitely helped to raise my profile on the international stage. As an ‘award-winning pianist’ I’m better equipped to draw larger crowds with my name and generate a larger and growing following.


Are you working on any jazz compositions?

I’d say that on a day-to-day basis I’m always thinking about new ideas. They haven’t always ended up as fully-formed compositions, but with my trio I’m hoping to finalise some of them and release the results soon. Composition can be a slow and frustrating process, but intensely rewarding nonetheless.


What are you most looking forward to in 2019?

In January I’m going on a ‘jazz pilgrimage’ to New York alongside some of my best friends and collaborators. We’re going to indulge in as many of the musical wonders that the Winter Jazzfest has to offer. Later in the year I’m looking forward to releasing my own music with my trio and travelling the world doing what I love!


You can find out more about Will at

Interview by @suzywillmott