After discovering the piano at age six, Kevin Hastings began a musical journey that propelled him to stardom.
His background in classical and jazz training led Kevin to Hollywood, where he graduated with honors from the world-famous Musicians Institute. In 2005, he was invited to play keyboards for Liz Phair’s world tour, which included performances on The Tonight Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and a special guest appearance on the WB’s Charmed. Hastings went on to tour with Grammy Award-winning pop icon Rihanna, traveling the world and performing at high-profile events like the MTV Music Awards, The Late Show with David Letterman and 2007’s benefit concert Live Earth. Kevin also has a side project called Kevin Does Piano Rock—and has released one EP with another soon to follow.
How is your live performance rig configured?
Soon after I bought my Axiom 49, I knew it would become my favorite keyboard for touring. It plays well and is incredibly portable. I use the Axiom 49 as my primary keyboard, controlling many soft synths and samples throughout the show. I also use my MidAir 37 keyboard so I can run around the stage wirelessly while performing. Finally, the Trigger Finger allows me to trigger samples during the show. All of this runs through the FireWire 410 in stereo. The set-up is incredibly easy to tear down and put up night after night. I have never experienced signal flow problems and the small issues that do arise are easily fixable.
Have you done much recording on the road?
My live performance rig also doubles as a recording studio when I’m out on the road. Hotel rooms and backstage areas are all utilized, and in 2006 I wrote and demoed my entire EP while on the road using M-Audio gear.
Touring can be grueling for both the artist and his/her gear. How has your equipment held up with all the touring you do?
Anyone who has seen me play knows I definitely give my keyboards a beating. While on tour with Rihanna, I bought a MidAir 37 keyboard and attached a strap so I could run around the stage while playing. During the middle of a rehearsal I tried to swing my keyboard around my body like a guitar—but since I hadn’t figured out the proper technique for attaching the strap, the keyboard went flying… down the stairs, across the stage, etc. As I sheepishly walked down the stage to pick it up, I was surprised to find the MidAir completely undamaged. At that point I knew I would forever be in love with M-Audio products. That same keyboard worked great for me the entire three months of that tour.
You recently released an EP entitled So Far Off Center. Describe how you approached the songwriting process.
My songwriting process generally starts with me at the piano just venting about where life is taking me. Songwriting is obviously personal and a means for dealing with life’s issues and complications. Usually I get an idea for a chorus first and the rest of the song will flesh out from there. Once I get the basic musical song structure finished, I write the lyrics for the verses and bridge. To get an idea of the song’s overall sound, I demo it in Pro Tools M-Powered. First I lay down the piano parts, then move to drums. I sequence all the drum parts in Reason using the ReWire plug-in and Pro Tools M-Powered. It’s brilliantly easy.
What do you use in your personal studio?
My home studio is rather small, yet very powerful. I use my FireWire 410 interface to handle keyboard inputs, and I record into Pro Tools 7.4 on an Apple G4. Then I use Reason 4 to create everything from original drum sounds to incredibly complex synthesizer leads and pads. Though my tools are few, I’m proud of the huge sound I can generate.