Jonathan Hamby: Carrie Underwood’s Key Player

Nashville keyboard ringer Jonathan Hamby is no stranger to the big time.
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Hamby onstage with Yamaha Motif XS6 workstation and CP5 stage piano. Behind him is a chopped Hammond B-3, atop which sits a Nord Electro 2.

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Nashville keyboard ringer Jonathan Hamby is no stranger to the big time. He’s logged many musical miles with renowned artists such as Amy Grant and Peter Cetera. Most recently, he’s held fierce keyboard fort with country singing sensation Carrie Underwood, and he’s having the time of his life.

“We’ve been on tour most of this year,” Hamby tells me backstage at a recent Underwood arena show. “I’ve been in Carrie’s band for nearly four years. I’ve been extremely fortunate.”

Hamby’s keyboard palette in Underwood’s band revolves around the musical meat ’n’ potatoes of piano and Hammond organ. “This gig is piano-centric,” he tells me. “It’s still country music, so there’s a lot of acoustic piano and Hammond organ. I love playing the Hammond, so it’s great to have a real one out here.” Other Hamby mainstays include the Yamaha CP5 stage piano (reviewed on page 36 of this issue) and Motif XS6 synth workstation. “I started using the CP5 this year and have been really pleased with it,” he says. “It’s the closest thing I’ve found as far as playing the way I would on a real piano. The Motif is incredibly versatile. I use it day in and day out.”

When he’s not on tour, Hamby remains just as active as a session musician. “I have a studio at home where I do a lot of overdubs for other producers and musicians,” Hamby says. “I also just produced a new album for the jazz singer Sylvia Thompson. I’ll be doing additional producing projects in the near future as well.”

When asked how aspiring keyboardists might also join the ranks of the touring elite, Hamby stresses the basics. “Play with other good musicians,” he says. “Learn your instrument. With resources like YouTube and the latest software out there, it’s easier today than it ever was before. Be passionate about your music.”

Video: Jonathan live with Carrie Underwood.