Tasteful overdubs for country, folk, indie rock, and experimental projects. Pedal Steel, Lap Steel, and Electric Bass. I'm a mixing engineer, too.
My greatest joy is playing steel guitar. I have recorded on over 30 albums with artists from Mexico, France, UK, USA, and Germany. I have performed with over 30 bands in the US and Canada and have been direct support for acts as disparate as Whitey Morgan, RJD2, Darlingside, Timber, Timbre, and Marshall Crenshaw.
I have a blast laying down traditional honky tonk licks in the twangy E9 or jazzy C6 styles, and I absolutely love experimenting with new techniques to apply pedal steel or lap steel in new ways. If you want to get weird, I am all for it! I play steel guitar regularly with two honky tonk bands in Denver and a psych-rocker from Maine. I am a bassist for Jackson Melnick's live band, and I've played guitar, banjo, synthesizers, and drum kit in live and studio settings. As a bassist, I'm a big fan of Carol Kaye, and Paul McCartney. I am also a mixing and live sound engineer.
Check out the samples to get a sense of my versatility.
Most importantly, I am not satisfied until my client is 100% stoked. I like to have fun, but I am SERIOUS about your satisfaction. I look forward to working with you!
Would love to hear from you. Click the contact button above to get in touch.
- Jacob Augustine
- Field Guides
- Henry Jamison
- Last of the Easy Riders
- High Plains Honky
- Wesley Hartley and the Traveling Trees
- Tall Horse
- If and It
- Jeff Beam
- Joel Thetford
- The Wyatts
- Nevin Kight
- Dominic and the Lucid
- Rodeo FM
- Travis Cyr
- William Jiordan
- Bright Common
- Bob Zezibwa
- Edwards Radio
- Jack Reed
- miguel zapata
Reviews (19)Endorse Hamilton McKay Belk
Hamilton's expertise on the mixing side of my project was excellent. He has a great and sensitive ear, was terrific to work with and cannot say enough about his promptness, attention to my needs, and I would recommend him to anyone who is looking for such a qualified musician on their own project. Thank you Hamilton for a job well done!"
Hamilton always impresses with his amazing talent. He exceeds expectations and has an amazing ear for nuance. He knows how to add the elements I never knew were missing. Wonderful work.
Quick and reliable. Pleasure to work with.
A wonderful pedal steel player! His mixing skills are top notch and my song has taken on a new life as a result of his dedication to the musical arts. His conversations were thoughtful and his gift of understanding my vision was excellent. I would recommend Hamilton to anyone and everyone without question. Thank you, Hamilton!
Hamilton is an incredibly talented versatile player and an absolute pleasure to work with. Friendly, professional, attentive, fast. If you're looking for a pedal steel guitar player or someone with great knoweldge on recording/mixing, look no further. Highly recommended.
Hamilton is a great musician and a very cool guy.
I asked him to put his wonderful pedal steel touch on my tracks, 100% successful. And a good spoken exchange
No problem, if you need this instrument, Hamilton is the one to choose
Wow! Great work from Hamilton on this track. Very professional, great player, easy to work with, and was supportive of a few call back edits. I'm thrilled with the result and am eager to work together again!
Great tone and soulful playing. He captured my idea without having to explain a lot. Thanks for the recording Hamilton feels good to work with a professional like you. I’m excited to continue working with you on my other tracks.
McKay is amazing. Sometimes we'd track and I'd keep a full take, maybe the first pass. Most of the time he'd finish a take and we'd all wait a couple seconds before speaking, not to break the air. He's chill, smart and plays with a voice.
Hamilton played on three tracks of the second rodeo.fm album. We delivered the songs as mp3s and got 2 or 3 alternative takes back within a few days. Everything 100% usable, in fact it was hard to decide which part of which take to use as they were all tasteful, totally supportive and empathic of the song material, with a great tone and grasp of dynamics and the arrangement. no revisions required.
I hired McKay to record and produce six demos. He did a great job arranging and recording my guitar and vocals, adding drums, bass, electric and steel guitar, and mixing the songs. He is quick on ProTools. The guy is on point always and so nice to work with! He is not a smarmy musician. He is honest, hardworking, devoted.
I first contacted McKay to play bass for a number of live shows (Jack Gwydion). He is the kind of musician who showed up for our first rehearsal knowing the songs on my record better than me in a few places. On bass, he is always in the pocket and alive, he also produced super high quality demos for me, really went above and beyond. I wouldn't hesitate to hire him to engineer a studio project.
McKay is a master. I threw 12 unknown songs at him in one day and he crushed them all with one or two takes. Sly and hilarious, I have never enjoyed being with somebody in my entire life as I have with Mr. McKay Belk. He can riff on anything, music and otherwise. He is 100% pure sparkle dust fun, and he will explode any song that's lucky enough to have him accompany it.
McKay possesses in spades all my favorite qualities in a musician and collaborator: technical prowess, impeccable instincts, a willingness to approach arrangements from various angles, a generous spirit... It's an absolute delight working with him. His playing is expressive yet full of nuance and restraint; he gave such evocative and ethereal new layers to my music.
I've worked with McKay for nearly six years ranging on projects from country music to experimental rock and everything in-between. I always referred to McKay as 'the magic-maker', or 'honey fingers' because he adds so much to the songwriting process, or his ability to polish and bring to life a dull song is pure wizardry. In my opinion McKay's work is priceless, these rates are a steal.
It's a pleasure to work with McKay. He's a steady, calming presence, musically & otherwise. He's both filled with good ideas and able to take direction superbly. He's able to adjust on the fly. He has a great ear. He can lay down a classic steel lick w/ traditional charm, but he's just as much at home running through a Leslie speaker. He is an intangible asset.
" McKays playing is golden, smooth, comforting, delicate, moody, like syrup, like jelly, like nature, like he's inside of your heart. His playing has brought on tears, several times. His commitment to his instrument is inspiring and he is one of the nicest human beings I have ever met. He makes everything that much better.."
Travis Cyr / travis cyr
Having shared a bill with Mckay a few years back, and seeing what he has been up to lately, I reached out to him about adding pedal steel to a couple of recent tracks. His response was swift, his open ears and collaborative spirit during the overdubbing process were professional and comforting. Exactly what the tracks needed. Laid back and satisfying experience working with him! -Kevin Knight
I hired Hamilton for a studio album, he took the songs to a whole other level. His playing is expert, on point. He blends theory and emotion to give tracks just what they need. The way he approches runs is dynamic, creative, expressive, and then he tactfully resolves them into a splendor of sound. He can lead your track or give just that extra edge it needs. https://thejackreedband.bandcamp.co
Interview with Hamilton McKay Belk
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I recently did pedal steel on a song for Henry Jamison. He's a songwriter I admire, and I think it's my best work to date. I'm excited for its release.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: I have yet to come across anyone else that I know on here!
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I promise to work until you are stoked!
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: There is no finish line.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: I'm often asked how the steel should be processed. I typically send a dry track and a track with the effects that I think sound good.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: That I only play country music. I think there is a lot of exploring left to do for pedal steel guitarists, and I'm excited to be a part of that talented group of men and women.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I'm working on developing a sample library for pedal steel. I have some friends who are interested. I'm also trying to learn some works by Claude Debussy for steel guitar with the hopes of informing some bass and steel compositions.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: If you are operating with a limited budget, digital is clearly the right choice.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: Do you have reference tracks? What resolution do you need me to work with?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Do it!
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: A tarp, a solar still, a hatchet, fishing tackle, and Moby Dick.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I came into a very lucky job working for a sculptor who was adamant about giving me time to work on my art. I worked for him for 4 years and had the time practice, perform, and tour. That all started in 2012. My first tour was with Wesley Hartley and the Traveling Trees in 2013. I was playing bass and lap steel at the time.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: This really depends on what I'm working on. I once had a radio show on WBOR Brunswick, ME called Americana Overhaul. I think that's an apt description of what I often do.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I feel like I already have gotten to do this! I have deep respect and admiration for a lot of people I've been blessed to played with.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: I've heard it said that a composition is done when you can no longer remove things without destroying the song. I think this is important. In a lot of cases you start with a granite block and your job is to chip away.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: I like to experiment to see what could work. Sometimes unexpected things happen and you stumble onto something unique and exciting. So I'd say my open mind and my respect for negative space and breathing room.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I usually listen to a song all the way through to get a feel for what I can bring to the table. By the end I have a fairly good idea of how to approach it - which parts require space and which might want thicker harmonies or faster licks. I consider how the existing melodies might play into the ideas I have, and then I just start putting stuff down. After I get something that works, I take a break to give my ears and mind a rest and then I return and if I'm still stoked about what I did than I usually know its good to go. If I'm not, then I have more work to do. I also like to pay attention to the instrumentation. It helps inform what register I will play in. It's all about balance.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: My studio is fairly modern. I mostly work in the box. I built some enormous 7'x6' gobos for a makeshift isolation booth that I can use for drums and vocals. I work out of my living room and the acoustics are something I typically try to remove. I usually try to recreate the room I want via plugins.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: I am a huge fan of Tape Op magazine. I love the DIY work ethic and the artistic implications of using the tools that you have. I think limitations often beget creative action.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Most often, I do pedal steel guitar overdubs. I also play bass and guitar, and work as a sound engineer.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Country and experimental.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I have a good ear for developing a song or complementing a song's feeling.