During the year I spent in Sydney, Australia, as a student at Hillsong College, I had the privilege of learning directly from Peter King. Peter was a keyboardist and music director for Hillsong and was also a founding member of Hillsong United. He currently lives and works in Nashville, TN.
Recently, we connected via Skype to discuss his current roles in the Nashville scene, recall stories from his Hillsong experience, and developing the next generation. Below are a few highlights from the conversation.
On being in the music industry
“The funny about the music industry is there’s no one way to get into it. It’s not like, ‘Well, if you do this, then do that, then go and see this person, and get this degree, then you’ll get a job in the music industry.’ I studied for a little while, but (getting a degree) wasn’t really for me. I just chased all the stuff I was doing, playing in bands, doing sound and lighting. You basically have to have no Option B if you want to be in music full time. I just kept on choosing Option A.”
On his keyboard rig
“For one (Hillsong United) album, I had five or six keyboards, plus two racks under the stage, maybe a laptop as well, and there were Hammonds involved. Now, I do most of my stuff based around my Nord Stage, because I can do everything I used to need a whole rack for.
“I still swerve away from doing a lot of stuff on computers when I’m live. I don’t know why I don’t trust a computer when I trust a 1937 Hammond organ. It’s basically an antique. I’ll use that live, but I won’t use a laptop.”
On being a music director
“The role of the music director, as I see it, is to help the worship leader or lead singer communicate to the band and helping the band be tight; also to give some musical direction for the worship leader. They might not know why a song feels slow, for example, but if it’s not slow, what can we do to make it not feel slow without speeding it up? It might just need more rhythmic elements.”
On playing with conviction
“Musicians should always be very convicted about what they’re playing, never ‘Maybe I’ll play this, maybe I’ll play that.’ They have to know what’s going to work.
“When a drummer plays a straight rock beat with conviction, you feel it. You can feel where that snare hits and where the kick hits, even if it’s soft. It’s right there, and it’s basically about where he puts his heart into it.”