NASHVILLE, Tennessee- I often encounter veterans while writing about country music. And while only a few veterans also become performing musicians, something about having served makes their music ring true, especially in the patriotic realm of country music.
Scotty Hasting is from the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area. Although he was in several school choirs, being a musician was never a life goal. He joined the army in October 2010, and by April 2011, he was shot and was lucky to be alive.
Narrowly escaping death in an ambush in Afghanistan, Hasting was left with severe nerve damage to his right hand and a loss of purpose as he was unable to continue his journey in the Army. It took six months at Walter Reed Hospital for Hasting to recover. He then returned to Fort Riley because those from his unit who were not killed were returning home. He stayed in the Army for another four years while he continued therapy.
In 2015, he followed some of his pals to Fort Campbell, an hour north of Nashville, and fell in love with the city.
“[Nashville] was close enough to home and it felt right to be here. And even then, music was never something that I ever thought of doing,” he said.
He filled the void with a newfound love for adaptive sports as competitive archery became his primary outlet to cope with PTSD —until 2020 when COVID-19 hit and shut down most of the world.
Not one to lay down and accept defeat, the former Army Infantryman picked up the unused guitar in the corner of his room, opened YouTube, and set out to teach himself how to master the instrument in hopes of fighting the isolation and silence.
The first song he ever learned to play was Toby Keith’s “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” Hasting was immediately overtaken by this new passion and attended his first open mic night in Cookeville, Tennessee. This night changed his life forever as he found that he could escape his PTSD while on stage performing. And strangely enough, he was an exceptional singer.
He said, “For me, the demons of PTSD knock the loudest when it’s quiet. When I have a guitar in my hands, I find peace.”
A few months later, Hasting went with his mother to buy a car. The salesman was Michael Kerr, whose father, Gordan Kerr, was CEO of Black River Entertainment. He heard Hasting’s story and gave his dad, A & R director and songwriter Doug Johnson, a call.
He explained, “Doug being the songwriter that he is, he was like, ‘Man, you seem great, you have a great story, but I don’t really know anybody until I write a song with him.’”
So, they wrote a song together called “The Stories That They Tell.” The idea for the song came to Hasting when he was at Walter Reed. He noticed that when veterans tell stories, it is therapeutic for them.
“For those brief moments in time, the people that we lost are alive again. And we lived for those moments to be able to tell their stories. To everyone else, it may sound like we are sharing war stories, but to us, we are just sharing memories,” he said.
The song practically wrote itself, and in about 45 minutes, Johnson and Hasting had an incredible, heartfelt song. And Hasting got signed to Black River Entertainment.
Nevertheless, while healing from PTSD, Hasting was dealing with survivor’s guilt as several from his unit never returned home. To help cope, he, alongside his buddy, Wayne Taylor, wrote “How Do You Choose,” a song that asks God how he chooses who he takes and who gets to survive.
Although Hasting is a Purple Heart recipient, writing “How Do You Choose” following a conversation with his best friend Adam Hamilton’s mother was “one of the scariest things I have ever had to do because it made it real.” It was also one of the hardest songs for Hasting to write, as it is his survivor’s guilt put into words. The song has only been out for three months and has had nearly 30,000 views on YouTube, which is unheard of for a rising artist’s first single. It bravely resonates with many.
On February 9, Hasting released his 2nd single, “I’m America.” Although he didn’t write this song, he stated, “Every single line of this song is why I decided to enlist in the Army. The moment I heard it, I fell in love with it and knew I wanted to record it. ‘I’m America‘ celebrates all of the things and people that make this country beautiful and indivisible.”
Written by Wade Kirby and Phil O’Donnell and co-produced with Johnson, the song echoes the sentiments of patriotic Americans.
Since the inception of his burgeoning career, Hasting has already opened for incredible artists including Tanya Tucker, Jelly Roll, and more, and had the opportunity to open and introduce rock legend Dave Grohl at downtown Phoenix’s Crescent Ballroom during an exclusive pre-Super Bowl 2023 show.
He has taken the stage for numerous performances at Nashville’s Grand Prix and most recently played at the Patriot Fund Invitational Golf Tournament, where he helped raise more than $400,000 for veterans.
Inspired by 90’s country and hitmakers Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson, Hasting has also earned his place in the writing room with well-known and respected country artists, hit singer/songwriters, and country music’s most promising up-and-comers.
What impressed me most about Hasting (besides his obvious talent) is when he said, “I don’t care about being famous. I don’t care about money. What I care about is that we put music out there that people can hear, and it can help them. And it can make them want to decide to try tomorrow, to give them the hope to put the gun down and just give tomorrow another shot. At the end of the day, for me, that’s what’s most important.”
This drive to help others survive and thrive sets Hasting apart from many his age and in genre. His reason for playing country music makes him one of the most authentic performers I have encountered. His voice needs to be heard.
Stream “I’m America” today!
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