Hunter is an incredible musician. . . . He handles any style I throw at him. —Devin Leigh, GRAMMY® nominated artist
My playing is known for being filled with groove, catchy melodic ideas, and an undercurrent of moving harmonies. While jazz and gospel are my main passions, I know how to listen and fit into any style. If your recording needs thoughtful simplicity, I can do that. If you need more aggressive and soulful playing, I can do that. Check out the recording I've posted here to get a better idea of my sound (0:00-1:21 is solo piano, 1:22-2:32 is Rhodes and B3 on an R&B track, 2:33-3:44 is piano on a pop track).
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Interview with Hunter Spivey
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: One time I got a call from some guys needing horn parts. I was on vacation and didn't have my computer or even staff paper with me, but they said the session was that night and they didn't have anything for the players. When they texted the song to me, I wrote down some straightforward horn parts on blank printer paper, and sent them pictures. They were able to get them printed and on the stands before the session started, and they worked!
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Arranging In the Garden (an old hymn) for choir and orchestra. I'm excited about this one, it's got some pretty heavy jazz/gospel changes that really bring the feel of the hymn up to date.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: Kailey Miller, she's a wonderful pianist that I went to school with.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: In terms of instruments, analog. You just can't recreate the feeling of a grand piano or a B3.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I will always do my very best.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I get to do something I'm passionate about for a living!
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: Because I do a lot of different genres, I've been asked before if I can really pull [insert genre] off well. My answer is that musicianship doesn't change with style or genre. What is important is whether someone is skilled enough to pull of the music, and humble enough to not overplay. If you find that in someone, it doesn't matter what genre they play.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: Most people think it's about talent. It's about skill, which is talent put to work over a long period of time. Most of my fellow musicians are not prodigies, but we've all worked really hard to get where we are, and it's paid off.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What instruments are going to record after me? Am I the main guy, or should I make plenty of room for a guitar player who will record later?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Get a pro to produce and mix your final version, if you're not an expert at it yourself. The trouble with recording in layers is that by the time you get to your last instrument (which is often the keyboardist), the other instruments have taken up all the space. People start playing over each other and doing conflicting ideas that don't serve the music. A professional producer/mix engineer can weed through the takes and create balance and space.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: A Steinway grand piano, a Hammond B3 (with Leslie), and a Rhodes. That's not five, but it's plenty for me!
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I'm an arranger, pianist, and teacher. I've been doing this professionally since 2011.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Dark, smooth, and refined. Like a good bourbon. Haha.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: Israel & New Breed. Their team is stacked with some seriously skilled players and singers, and it would be an honor to arrange or play with them.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Think in terms of space and roles. For instance, if the guitar is taking up space in the higher register (like playing high bar chords or something), then the keyboard should use lower voicings to avoid crowding the guitar. And if the guitar is playing a more rhythmic role, then the keyboard should been more subdued and take on a different role.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I most often work on jazz, gospel, and R&B, but I also enjoy working on alternative rock and country.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: I listen to the entire band when I play, not just myself. Even though we work hard to play thick voicings and fast lines, if we don't listen for the big picture, then the whole recording ends up being a mess. My primary goal when I'm adding to a recording is to only add what it needs, and no more.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I bring a warm, smooth sound to a song. I play a little lower on the piano than a lot of players, giving it a deeper sound, do my best to weed out unnecessary fills, and voice my chords fully without it sounding crowded.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I write a chord chart for the song, listen to it another time or two to hear how I want to approach it, then start recording. I'll start with the primary instrument (usually piano or Rhodes), and then add the auxiliary instruments (organ, strings, pads, synths, whatever is needed).
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I use sounds that I've worked on in my Yamaha Motif and in Logic.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: I'm greatly inspired by jazz pianists Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. As far as modern player, though, I really love listening to the jazz/gospel organ player Cory Henry. I'm also deeply passionate about worship music, and I really love the sound of Israel & New Breed.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Adding keys (primarily piano and Rhodes) to tracks. I also do a fair amount of arranging for choir and orchestra, mostly in a gospel setting.