“I needed something to break up the quiet because that’s when the demons knock the loudest,” Hasting shared.
Retired Veteran and singer/songwriter Scotty Hasting is gearing up for a big year with new music on the way.
Having dedicated himself to a military career, Hasting never anticipated embarking on a musical journey. Following an injury that led to his retirement from the military, Hasting resiliently pressed forward in life. Refusing to back down in the face of challenges, he now channels that unwavering determination into his poignant songs, and his powerful music.
With a newfound appreciation for life, Hasting reflects on the life lessons he’s acquired that have carried him through to where he is today.
“Being in music has really taught me to just appreciate what you have. I think a lot of that appreciation for every second comes from almost dying in Afghanistan because I recognize that more time is never guaranteed,” Hasting said.
Hasting caught up with Country Now to talk about his music, his backstory, and his overall purpose. Read on to find out more about Scotty Hasting in this exclusive Q&A below.
Can you share a little bit about your journey from being a Purple Heart recipient and serving in the army to discovering music as a form of healing?
After I got injured, I was actually shooting archery with the US Paralympic program. I was traveling all over the world shooting, and then Covid hit, and the world shut down. I just needed something. As someone who suffers from PTSD, depression and anxiety, I needed something to break up the quiet because that’s when the demons knock the loudest. I always had a guitar in the corner of my room, and one day I just looked at it and I was like, ‘you know what? I’m going to figure out how to play this thing.’ My right hand is messed up with nerve damage, but it wasn’t going to stop me. I was going to figure it out because I needed something to escape into, so I jumped on YouTube and started learning how to play guitar. I found that escape and that ability to get out of my mind and focus on something else for a while in learning how to play the guitar. From there, I started learning all the songs that I grew up listening to. I grew up in the ’90s, which in my opinion, was the best time for country music. I started learning all these songs that I grew up listening to because I knew what they were supposed to sound like and I knew that if it didn’t sound right, I would have to fix or tweak things here and there. It got to the point where I was like, ‘well, I have all these feelings and all these emotions, and I want to get them out and put them somewhere.’
Again, I jumped on YouTube and I started learning how to write music and write songs as an outlet to get all of the emotions and crap that I was dealing with on a daily basis out. It was honestly the escape that I was looking for. My days were literally filled with learning to play the guitar, composing music, and fully immersing myself in the musical world. The Nashville stage shut down due to Covid, but eventually the restrictions started to lift. So I went to Cookville and I played an open mic night. I played the first song that I ever learned how to play, which was ‘Should’ve Been A Cowboy’ by Toby Keith. I still play that song all the time because it is freaking awesome. In that very moment, the escape I discovered through archery, then further through playing guitar, and finally through songwriting, was not just present, but magnified a hundred times. I knew that playing music was what I needed to do. I started living for the moments where I could get on stage and be in the moment. As someone who suffers from PTSD, depression, and anxiety, it’s hard to be in a moment when you’re there because all of the other crap just stays in your mind and it stays there all the time. Being able to be on stage and find complete peace for however long I’m on stage was a godsend. I immediately knew that I wanted to do this forever. No question about it…At one point I was playing five nights a week down on Broadway, for three to four hours a day, because for those three to four hours a day, it was literally peace and an escape. I was able to be in the moment, which is something that I had been looking for since I got injured in Afghanistan, I was finally able to find it. So I jumped on it and I played every single freaking show I could possibly play. It taught me a lot and it gave me the ability to interact with people and feel at home on stage. To this day, it is still that escape for me, and it’s incredible.
Considering you took it upon yourself to learn to play the guitar, how would you describe the process of self-teaching and mastering that skill so quickly? Did you know music before? Did it come naturally?
I had been singing for a long time in church choirs and different things like that, but no, learning how to play guitar was hard. Like I said, I have nerve damage in my hand and everyone that you find on YouTube is fine. They have all their fingers and stuff, so when I’m learning, I have to kind of dumb it down a little bit for my hand, depending on what it is. So that was a challenge in itself. The fact that everyone that I was seeing on YouTube had two great working hands, and I have one and a half, it was a little bit different. I can finger pick some stuff now, which is freaking awesome, but it was something that I never thought I’d be able to ever do. I mainly worked on strumming, learning how to strum chords and stuff like that. There were definitely some challenges between the hand being messed up and the traumatic brain injury that I have where I’ll learn something and then completely forget it within five to ten minutes. It involved playing the same things over and over again, really getting the muscle memory down and basically forcing myself to remember how to do things. But it was worth every bit of it.
Who gave you your guitar?
The guitar that was in the corner of my room was a gift that I got. Originally a buddy of mine went to Guitars for Soldiers or something like that, it was a nonprofit that was giving out guitars for people who were deployed, and he had gotten one. He would play it out in Afghanistan when we were there and I was like, ‘I’m going to order one. If they’re giving guitars away, I’m going to order one. Why not?’ I got shot before I got it, but it somehow made its way to Walter Reed Medical Center when I was there. I had it from the time that I was at Walter Reed until I started learning how to play it. I still have it today at my house.
After picking up a guitar in 2020, did you see yourself making a career of music? Did that become a new dream of yours?
When I first picked up the guitar, absolutely not. It was just me wanting to learn how to play the guitar, so that I could get out of my head and get into something else. The writing just became me wanting to learn how to write, so that I could get the thoughts and emotions out and put ’em on paper. I don’t know if it ever became a reality, but it became something that I really wanted to do after I went on stage and played for the first time. Then it was like, whatever I need to do, I want to do this. This is what I need to do. I feel like I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that this is actually a reality for me and a career for me, which is wild. Something I never thought in a million years I’d be able to say. But yeah, it’s incredible.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as an artist?
The best piece of advice that I’ve ever received was from Lee Brice. He said, ‘just enjoy every second.’ I mean, you think that that’s like a no-brainer, right? But it’s easy to get caught up in everything else. Really taking the second and just enjoying it, without a doubt, that was probably the best advice. As far as writing goes though, the best thing that I was ever told was from Doe Johnson. He said, ‘write whatever’s in that room that day. It doesn’t matter what it is, no matter what you thought you were going to go in and write, write whatever’s in the room today.’ That’s kind of how I’ve lived my life. Not only is it writing whatever’s in the room, but at the same time, just understanding that you need to really soak in where you’re at in the moment at all times. Being in music and stuff has really taught me to just appreciate what you have. I think a lot of that appreciation for every second comes from almost dying in Afghanistan because I recognize that more time is never guaranteed. Everyone that I look up to, Lee, Brice and Doug [Johnson], they’re like, ‘just stay in the moment. Whatever you do, wherever you’re at, just be there.’ That’s some of the best advice.
Your single “How Do You Choose” is a powerful song inspired by your experiences. Can you talk about the process of writing that particular song and how it felt to put such personal emotions into your music?
That song was the hardest song I’ve ever written. It was a song that came from a conversation that I had with my best friend’s mom. My best friend was killed when we were in Afghanistan, and she came to a show and she hung out for all four hours and we had a great time. We talked, I played music, we laughed, and we cried. It was incredible. At the end of the day though, I just had this overwhelming sense of why am I here? How is it that I get shot 10 times, but my best friend gets hurt less than I do, and he’s not here anymore? How does that happen? It was something that had been on my mind and stuck in my heart for a really long time. I went to write a song with my buddies at CreatiVets and they were like, ‘Hey, if we’re going to write a song, let’s write a song that means something.’ At the time, I was really having a hard time and struggling with my best friend being killed. Like everything, some days are good and some days are bad. That particular day was a little bit rougher for me. I was like, ‘okay, well if we’re going to do it, let’s do it. I don’t know if I’m ready for this, but we’re going to try it anyhow.’ Luckily I felt safe in the environment that I was in, and it gave me the opportunity to really open up and just kind of throw my heart out into a song. Now that it’s out and people are listening to it, I think it’s the best thing that I’ve ever done. Letting people see me open up and pour my heart out shows that it’s okay to deal with this crap, and it’s okay to have these feelings. As a veteran, I deal with survivor’s guilt so this lets them know that they are not alone in having these feelings. That song is amazing because it also bridges the gap between civilians and Veterans. While Veterans lose their brothers and sisters, so do civilians. Everyone at some point has asked ‘why him or why her,’ or ‘Why am I here and this person isn’t?’ In this song I just tried to portray that feeling to the best of my ability and it is the most personal and hardest song that I’ve ever written, but it’s incredible.
Was “How Do You Choose” your first music video that you’ve ever done?
That was the first music video I’ve ever done, which was a whole other experience. I’ve never done anything like that before, but it was so cool. I’m getting to see more of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the industry that people don’t normally think about, so that’s been incredibly interesting. Most people only see or hear the finished product, or they just see the artists that’s out there doing it. They don’t get to see the amazing team that they have behind them, or all the cool things that they get to do with the team. There’s a lot of incredible stuff in this industry, and I’m just trying to soak every bit of it in because it’s awesome.
With your upcoming track “I’m America” dropping on February 9, can you provide some insight into the story or inspiration behind this particular song?
That song was written by Phil O’Donnell and Wade Kirby, and when I heard that song I immediately fell in love with it. I told Doug when I got done hearing that song that every single line of that song is the reason why I signed my name on those papers and fought for this country. Right after that, I was like, ‘listen, I want to cut this. Can I cut this? What do we need to do? Whatever I need to do, I’ll do it because I love this song.’ Of course, Doug was like, ‘absolutely, this song means a lot to you. Let’s do it.’ I feel like you can even hear how much it means to me when I sing it. I fell in love with it because it’s every single reason why I decided to join, but yet it doesn’t pick a side. It’s an American song that is pro-America. It’s very much a ‘we love America, we love this country’ kinda song, but it doesn’t pick a side, which I think at this time is so freaking important. This song is very me. I love this country and I fought for this country, but I’m very much right down the middle. I think that this song is important because it’s not one side or the other. It’s just talking about the country as a whole and how beautiful it is and everything that this country is and can be. God, it’s incredible.
What can you share about the music video for this song?
The music video idea was something that I had on my heart and on my mind for a really long time. Once I heard this song, I knew what I wanted the video to look like. The main thing is just people. It’s just Americans and the people that are in this country. The song focuses on the country and how beautiful it is, but I want the music video to focus on the people and how beautiful they are. The diversity of ethnicities, cultures, and various walks of life is what makes this country. This melting pot that is our country is absolutely beautiful to me and I wanted to show that in a music video. I wanted the song to focus on the country, and I wanted the music video to focus on the people. I think that in itself, bringing those two together is so powerful, and I’m hoping that it hits as hard as I think it’s going to hit when I watch it.
What do you want fans to take away from your music?
Before I even started this journey, I talked to Black River and everyone and said that I don’t care about being famous or making a lot of money. All I care about is that someone hears my song and it makes them want to put the gun down and try tomorrow. If my music can help somebody in any way, shape, or form, I’ve done more than I could have ever imagined doing in this industry. At the end of the day, at the root of it, that is what I want to do. I want to help people. No matter what I do in this industry, it will be founded in the fact that I want to help people.
Fans can keep up with Scotty Hasting on Instagram