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Kyle Hastings: The Great Escape

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By Nikki Hedrick

 

Kyle Hastings has called Navarre home for just over two years, although he grew up vacationing on our beaches. A recent transplant from Kentucky, he can be found several nights a week as a solo musician in Beachcomberland.

 

“I grew up in churches playing church music,” says Hastings. “My dad was a preacher. I grew up playing at church, but I originally picked up a guitar because I wanted to learn every Blink-182 song that was ever written. I learned a few of those, went to school, and I own an insurance agency—that’s my nine-to-five, and music is my second gig.”

 

In Kentucky, Hastings had regular standing gigs, something that he worked to continue once he landed in the greater Destin region. “When I came here, that was the plan. There’s tons of opportunities here. Since I’m just a solo acoustic guy, there’s opportunities galore. This is the first season that I’ve been able to keep a full schedule.”

 

With a little help from area musicians and referrals from friends, Hastings’ dance card continues to fill up. “Even people that have been in the game for a long time have been super helpful. Generous, which is great.”

 

Hastings’ recurring gigs at both Village Door locations, AJ’s Oyster Shanty, and Al’s Beach Club have a lot more to offer than an extensive catalog of Blink-182 tunes.

 

“The places I’m playing, there’s people from all different backgrounds, cultures, generations. My hope is that I’m not playing four hours of country music, I’m not playing four hours of oldies. My hope is that every person would hear a few songs that they love. Regardless of whether they’re a group of college students or a retired couple…in their 70s.

 

“I primarily play a resonator guitar. They have a little extra of that Kentucky twang on it, but it’s going to give an Imagine Dragons song a totally different feel. Not in an eastern Kentucky hills twang, a cool twang.” When asked if his family might take that personally, he quickly replies, “I’m not from eastern Kentucky, so they can be mad all they want.”

 

Hastings often talks about his life in seasons, including some when the guitar wasn’t his focus. “I had some seasons like that, where the guitar didn’t come out of the case for a while. And then, I think, you go to college and you’re super busy. You’re busy, but it’s not real life busy. You’re just doing whatever. Then life starts to happen and you’ve got to get a job, and then you meet somebody…real life begins.

 

“It’s like, ‘Oh, man. I love hanging out with friends and partying. But man, I met this girl that’s wow. That love is…different.’ Life becomes more colorful and vivid. As a creative person, that stirs up something inside of you, something that you want to explore. Having a kid makes…life is in all new colors at that point.

 

“It’s like, ‘Man, this is just insane that we were able to create this thing.’ As annoying as he is when he throws stuff out the car window and crap like that.” Hastings’ son is three, and one assumes it is a habit he will soon outgrow.

 

“A lot of the places I play, these people, these are families or groups of friends on vacation—they’re escaping real life for a week, really. I just really want to, I guess, enhance that mindset for them at shows. I want to play something that’s going to take them even deeper to this escape…”

 

Although Hastings has a few original songs up his sleeve, they are rarely performed unless special circumstances present themselves. “I have a three-year-old, he’ll come to a lot of gigs. If he’s at a gig, he’s going to wander up on the stage at some point and act like a clown. If the time is right, maybe I’ll play a song that I’ve written for him. I’m not doing that if everybody is having a good time. In the right setting, maybe.

 

“I’m at the point, honestly, where I’m not doing this to get famous for myself. I don’t necessarily care about that. I used to. At this point, it’s like, if I can help people have a great time, then that’s good for me.”

 

Hastings has performed in front of thousands of people. “In my 20s, I played in huge rooms and baseball stadiums,” he says. “That was great, and I enjoyed that. But at this point, where I’m at in life with family, that’s just not as important to me. And I have just as good of a time now setting up my tiny little Bose system in 10 minutes and yukking it up with a couple locals that come out to the shows every night, just helping set a great atmosphere. Give people a nice little escape for a couple of hours.”

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