Local Music Monday: J. Tom Hnatow

Oct 24, 2016

This week on Local Music Monday DeBraun Thomas spends a few minutes getting to know J. Tom Hnatow, multi-instrumentalist  with Vandaveer.

J Tom Hnatow
Credit Andrew Brinkhorst

J. Tom Hnatow is a multi-instrumentalist and native of Northampton Pennsylvania who moved to Lexington in 2013. While music is what he does and who he is, it didn’t start out that way. Hnatow says his outlook on music changed when he was 16.

“I was forced to take piano lessons for 10 years and despised it with every ounce of my being, then when I turned 16, I got a guitar and that was the beginning of using music as a creative expression and did that pretty much since then, I studied it in college, it was not my major, but I was active in and never thought I would do it as a job, so I worked in theater for a couple years and then just sort of quit theatre for the lucrative world of rock n roll.”

Hnatow is known for his skills on guitar, bass, banjo, keyboard and organ. The instrument that he’s called for session work the most for is the pedal steel. Hnatow says pedal steel has not only helped him become a better musician, it has also gotten him plenty of work.

“I played banjo and I played lap steel and was very much into the bar slants and the pulls you can do with your finger, so basically making it sound like a pedal steel and finally was like ‘you know, I’m doing enough of this that, it’s going to look way cooler if I actually have a pedal steel instead of this tiny little slide thing on my lap’ and bought one and I thought ‘well how long will this gonna take’ and still learning it, it’s such a strange instrument and then also realizing that as soon I bought a pedal steel, the number of sessions I got quadrupled.”

When he’s not living the life of a touring musician, he also works as an engineer and session musician at Shangri-La Productions here in Lexington. Hnatow says, his role in the studio, whether it be as a session musician or as the engineer, is to give the most of himself to every project.

“I mean it’s always about finding that creative space and whatever it takes to get there, sometimes I feel like some projects it just takes a real methodical ‘I want to sit down and work out this part and go in the back room and work on this’ and then sometimes it’s just like finding that cool creative space where you’re like, someone hits record and you’re like ‘alright that was cool.’”

J. Tom Hnatow performs with Horse Feathers and Vandaveer. More information about Hnatow and his projects can be found at tom.hnatow.com.