In the middle 1960s a young boy lay on the floor of his dining room and listened to records on his family's new record player. The music of Mozart, Beethoven, The Kingston Trio, The Weavers, The Beatles, Benny Goodman, Little Richard, Aaron Copeland, Benjamin Britten, and more all intermingled and filled his head with dreams of being a musician. Now, 30 years later, Keith Hays is still listening to records. But now those records include music he has written, performed, produced, or engineered.
Keith started college at 16 and for the next two years he balanced school and work while he managed a retail music store that he co-owned with his brother, Mark and father, Guy Hays. He left both college and the business to perform in resorts and clubs after that. Better gigs followed and he found himself in studios singing and performing jingles. A brief marriage and partnership at JTO Studios in Little Rock left him with an impressive client list and a son to raise. As a single father he slowed down for a couple of years, waiting until his son was old enough to start school before he went back to performing. After a few more years of clubs and studio gigs, Hays went back to school to work on his orchestration skills. He then put his career plans on hold to finish college.
Hays graduated Cum Laude from Henderson State University where he earned a Bachelor of Music Composition. After finishing his Bachelor degree Keith went to Southern Methodist University where he earned a Master of Music Composition.
From 1990 to 2001, he held the position of Professor of Music at Collin College where he taught classes in MIDI, Synthesis, Business of Music, Music Theory, History of Rock’n’Roll,
Composition, Songwriting and Audio Engineering.
A member of The Recording Academy, the Audio Engineering Society and Nashville Songwriters Association, Hays has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Dallas Songwriters Association and hosted seminars for Guitar Player Publications' Music Expo. In 1995 Mr. Hays organized the first QuadC Music Industry Conference and served as host and organizer until 2001.
Hays has produced and/or engineered independent projects for artists like Jack'o'pierce, Akoustik Nerve, Densil Adams, Steven Mitchell, the Sutcliffes, Daniel Bailey, Linda Mantooth, the Howard and White Band and more. Hays has produced and/or engineered a number of recitals, concerts, and other educational projects. A personal favorite was recording the Keyboard Ensemble from the Booker T Washington High School in Dallas. The students members included more than one Down Beat Student Songwriting Award winner and multiple Grammy-winner, Norah Jones. Over the years he produced nine classical piano CDs for Warner Bros. Publishing.
Keith has composed scores and sound designs for television, film and a number of theatrical productions. Along the way Hays won an award for his work from the Kennedy Center's American College Theater Festival. Keith has also received awards from The National Federation of Music Clubs, The Texas Student Composer’s Forum, he was been selected to join the music fraternity, Pi Kappa Lambda. He listed in both Who’s Who of University Students and Who’s Who of University Professors.
Despite his accomplishments, Hays favorite topics are the accomplishments of his students. They've been nominated for Grammys, Emmys and Clio awards. He takes great pride in the way they've distinguished themselves in the industry.
His sketches, paintings and photos have graced the covers of recordings and walls of homes. Hays is reluctant to call himself an artist, despite his accomplishments in the field. During his break from performing in the late seventies he sold fifteen paintings in less than a year.
In the nineties he shifted his focus to photography, shooting portfolios for aspiring models, publicity shots for performers, architectural studies and candid street scenes for himself. Hays has a fine eye and is fascinated by the aesthetic appeal of everyday objects.
After making the transition to digital photography he began to delve into surrealism. His works including a set of forty 8x10 photos titled “Guitar Distortion.” For his series “A Room With A View”, Hays photographed his living room. Then he used the wall of windows along the front of the room to offer alternative views. Other works like his “Electric Guitar” and “Sunrise #2” show a more tongue-in-cheek approach to art.
Music is not the only writing that occupies Hays’ attention. Short stories, essays and writing about his family’s history are ongoing tasks. In 2009 one of his short stories won a Earth Day Story Competition. It follows the exploits of an eco-friendly photojournalist as he learns how an individual home can be modified to reduce it’s environmental impact.
While in Texas Keith worked and wrote with Kent Maxson, a writing partner of Garth Brooks. In Nashville, Keith has written music with incredible songwriters like David Scheibner who's credits include songs for The Little River Band, Juice Newton, Disney, Extreme Home Makeover, Entertainment Tonight and Hard Copy. And he has collaborated with Glenn Simmons who’s songs have been recorded and performed by Walt Wilkins and the late Buck Jones.
Keith has released five solo albums over the years. The first "An Anonymous Man" is an mix of instrumentals and songs. His name is not listed on the cover of the CD. The only pictures of him on it are either blended into the background or produced as a negative. Total anonymity was impossible, but he got as close as he could and even used that to help promote the project. He did that again with his second solo project "Anonymous Piano." It’s a set of piano solos recorded for use in meditation and massage therapy sessions. For his third CD, "Guitar Distortion," Hays went back to roots playing acoustic guitar. For it he recorded both solo and ensemble pieces employing extensive modifications and processing to create sonic landscapes for some pieces. It was the first time Keith's name appeared on the cover of a project. Hays' fourth release was another solo piano piece for meditation and relaxation. Titled, "Kiø" it plays with one’s perception in a different way. His name is on the front cover again. But it isn’t obvious. It’s hidden in plain sight because the title, kiø is the phonetic spelling of Keith. The newest release is an EP of latin influenced guitar instrumentals titled, "Six Strings for Five Saints". Each piece is dedicated to or inspired by a different patron saint. His solo releases are available online at keithhays.com and through CDBaby and iTunes.
Though he has an extensive resume as a producer, composer and songwriter, his performance skills are equally impressive. Live, he shows that his musical expertise is not limited to composition and his guitar, keyboard, and vocal talents are formidable. A sincere and honest performer, Hays gives a little of himself to his audience each time he steps on stage, and each time he steps off they ask for more.
Where to find Keith Hays online
Where to buy in print
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