Keeping Time

Molding bluegrass with folk sensibilities, Giri Peters’ musicality is an inspired extension of his individualism. Making sense of his experiences may be easy behind the neck of a guitar – but at this age, pinpointing life’s opportune moments often proves trickier

Episode 3: Giri Peters

A Before We Could Drink Series

“For this series, I knew I had to have at least one musician. I had a friend who headed up the marketing department of a country recording label in Asheville, North Carolina, so I reached out to him. One of his bandmates was familiar with Giri.

After perusing his Instagram, I was absolutely amazed by the talent on display. It took about three months to connect, but when we did, I was struck by how organized and articulate he was. I was moved by the adversities he’d faced regarding bullying and fitting in, but what really cut through was how he used his musical abilities to externalize that experience.”

– Leah Judson, Before We Could Drink Creator

“I’ve always felt inspired by sunrises and sunsets.” Photo 2022 © Leah Judson | FUJIFILM GFX100S and GF45mmF2.8 R WR

Listening to the somber, reverberant pentatonics of Giri Peters’ Don’t Wait On The Rain, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear it wedged within the radio schedule of a country chart, or blaring through the dusty jukebox of some lively Deep South bar. The voice is strong, tuneful, and emotive – lyrically dissecting the importance of seizing the moment, of avoiding complacency – pushing through apprehensions in quest of that lofty ambition, that distant desire. By its own merit, the conviction alone makes for a compelling listen.

“It’s about not waiting around for an ideal time,” Giri explains, illuminating the sentiment behind his ballad. “You shouldn’t expect trials to go away or wait for the ‘perfect’ circumstances to act. The music industry is so sporadic, nothing is ever going to be completely fair. It’s good to rely on and trust other people to an extent, but you should also cultivate your own path.”

Born in Houston, Texas, Giri and his family moved to Nashville, Tennessee, when he was four. Raised in the birthplace of bluegrass, he would soon find his Indian lineage at odds with the cultural identity of America’s Music City – even more so when his own enthusiasms began to emerge.

“I’ve always felt inspired by sunrises and sunsets.” Photo 2022 © Leah Judson | FUJIFILM GFX100S and GF45mmF2.8 R WR

“The beauty of the world really adds to my music.” Photo 2022 © Leah Judson | FUJIFILM GFX100S and GF45mmF2.8 R WR

“The beauty of the world really adds to my music.” Photo 2022 © Leah Judson | FUJIFILM GFX100S and GF45mmF2.8 R WR

“I started out with classical. I’ve been interested in music for as long as I can remember. I even went to symphonies when I was little.

“I took violin lessons and loved it – but eventually wanted to get out of that box and explore a wider variety of styles. So, naturally, I went straight to the opposite end of the spectrum,” he chuckles.

Reliant upon the mimicry of icons like Mozart and Beethoven, orchestral music can often become a void for originality. In a world dictated by historical giants, repertoire overrides resourcefulness, limiting the genre to a retrograde approach that can stifle expression. For Giri, a particular show was able to bridge the gap between these two ostensibly opposing styles, opening his eyes to the idea of synthesis and musical fusion.

“The Goat Rodeo Sessions was this amazing collaboration of classical and country. It changed everything. I realized that this – this is what I want to do. When I picked up mandolin guitar, doors started opening. Since then, I’ve expanded my horizons by delving into a bigger catalog of genres. That’s where I’m at now. Merging different styles together and being more open-minded.

“When I started researching, I realized that all music is connected. You play differently once you know that. Bluegrass came from blues, which also gave birth to jazz, which also has its influences in pop, rock, you name it. I don’t even like thinking about genres. Get rid of boundaries and you can experiment and be more innovative.”

Music has always been an escapist tool, and for Giri, it’s allowed him to convey and process some of his own tribulations. When operating on the peripheries of ‘normal’, uniqueness is suffocated by a whole host of narrow-minded outlooks. Luckily, Giri understood these pig-headed perspectives for what they were – misguided opinions of those overly concerned with fitting in.

Photo 2022 © Leah Judson | FUJIFILM GFX100S and GF45mmF2.8 R WR

“It was weird for my peers – that culture clash. My mom’s been great through all that negativity. She’s kept an open mind and been there for me,” he continues. “I’ve attended lots of different schools, and always felt I had to separate the worlds of education and music. It’s got better – I’ve slowly found my crowd this year and had her to lean on. I knew that I was a little different. People don’t have to understand that. I do. And that just takes time.”

He may be only 17, but Giri’s passions manifest like those of a time-honored professional. As a writer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, his versatile skill set is clear.

“I’ve been using Logic since my freshman year of high school. At first, I was messing around, making beats – hip-hop stuff, mainly. Another weird offshoot, I guess! It was a hobby, and I didn’t think much of it.

Photo 2022 © Leah Judson | FUJIFILM GFX100S and GF45mmF2.8 R WR

“Another natural environment.” Photo 2022 © Leah Judson | FUJIFILM GFX100S and GF45mmF2.8 R WR

“Another natural environment.” Photo 2022 © Leah Judson | FUJIFILM GFX100S and GF45mmF2.8 R WR

“But then the pandemic started, and I began to combine my instrumentation with production, as well as songwriting. I recognized then that they didn’t have to be separate. Now, I’m able to unleash my creativity, and a lot of that’s down to becoming self-reliant.”

If advancements in technology made music production a more accessible, affordable venture, the internet has given mass distribution a reachable reality, tangibly realized via various social media channels. Although the positives are undeniable, creatives must also contend with a whole host of inevitable downsides – namely an oversaturated space, where measly streaming earnings are common, and competition is rife. Add that to the challenges posed by an industry crippled by coronavirus, and a career in song can seem like an intimidating enterprise indeed.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about the future recently,” Giri ponders, mulling over his college plans. “I toured one school with a precise idea of what I wanted to pursue, but then it struck me – I don’t really know! I do know that I don’t want to take the route of a main artist. I’m interested in the collaborative aspect. I want to jam; I want to operate in a group.”

Photo 2022 © Leah Judson | FUJIFILM GFX100S and GF45mmF2.8 R WR

Giri stops, reflecting on the trade itself, and its obstacles. “I also know that I want to study music business, so I can navigate the difficulties a lot of professionals face in this sphere,” he concludes. “Everyone’s after a quick fix. I’m about shaping my identity.”

For teenagers with musical ambition in today’s world, the temptation to cash-in on snippets and materialism is more pronounced than ever before. Algorithms feed norms as clickbait trends are lucratively exploited. When clout becomes the principal objective, the real dream dies.

“I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who’ve got great mindsets. At the same time, I’m also grateful that I’ve had to deal with people who don’t. Having both sides is so beneficial – it keeps you grounded. A lot of people are only interested in fads. My passions run much deeper than that. You have to do this for the right reasons.”

Wrapping up the conversation, Giri shares one of his. “My grandfather came to America from India. He started from the bottom, working his way up with emotion, integrity, and honor. I’m continuing in that spirit. I’m banging that drum, maintaining that tradition.”

 

To learn more about Before We Could Drink and how it got started, click here

Photo 2022 © Leah Judson | FUJIFILM GFX100S and GF45mmF2.8 R WR