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Hornsby pits Yuppies vs. Deadheads
By Andy Argyrakis
From the pages of the Daily Journal

For a guy once considered to be a fixture of adult contemporary music, three-time Grammy-award winning pianist Bruce Hornsby sure has added some surprises to his repertoire. After a train of singles in the 1980s (including "The Way It Is," "The Valley Road" and "Every Little Kiss") the singer/songwriter threw fans for a loop by becoming a part-time member of The Grateful Dead throughout the '90s, melding himself into an improvisational, psychedelically-inspired jam master. Even more out of character was Hornsby's techno-induced last album "Big Swing Face," introducing yet another previously-unattempted direction. Despite the project's innovation, it proved to be a double-edged sword for the star, who admits in a call to The Daily Journal from his Virginia home that "Face" divided his followers even more. But he also insists the forthcoming "Halcyon Days" (in stores Aug. 17 on Columbia) has a little something for every sector of his fan base, rounded out with guest appearances from Sting, Eric Clapton and Elton John.

TALKING ABOUT THE TITLE: "Halcyon Days" are often referred to as nostalgic days. Another meaning can be calm, peaceful or beautiful, which comes from me writing the title cut for my wife who is going through some health problems. The record is mostly inspired by family life and me being a parent.

FRIENDS BUT FANS OF EACH OTHER: I just called Sting (vocals "Gonna Be Some Changes Made"), Eric (vocals on "Candy Mountain Run") and Elton (vocals on "Dreamland") up, and they all said "yes." I like to hear them signing on the record and seeing what they'd like to jump into. They're all old friends of mine, and we've all expressed appreciation over each other's music.

PUSHING THE PIANO: This is the first record where every song is a piano song. There have always been two or three with accordion or electric keys, but this is all about the piano. I had a real interest in bringing back the piano and four songs are virtually solo piano performances.

STEPPING OUT WITH "SWING FACE": The idea on that record was to make a record without piano, which was unexpected and led "Big Swing Face" to earning a mixed reaction. In the music business prejudice abounds, so here's Bruce Hornsby making this record that's not adult contemporary or a non-WXRT record and more alternative stations wouldn't play it. "We won't play him or Sting or Bonnie Raitt," they'd say, so I was sort of damned from the beginning with that one!

CULLING IT TOGTHER IN CONCERT: We never know exactly what's going to come out, but we have a list of about 120 songs, and it's always a grab bag. For the past 10 years we've never catered to the soft-core fans or nostalgia. Instead it's the people who would still complain we didn't play one of their favorites even if we went five or six hours!

BRUCE ALLOWS BOOTLEGGING: That comes with my time playing with the Dead. Frankly, my approach is very loose and spontaneous and songs often evolve and change throughout a tour. One day we may do the original version of "The Valley Road," then break it out in bluegrass or all out blues. I'm fine with people taping so they can chronicle that evolution.

FAR-SPREAD FAN SPECTRUM: People don't really understand how it happens, but fights do break out, and they're not infrequent. I've had an odd sense of music history where I started with this big group of adult radio hits, which gives me my yuppie audience. Then I went out with the Dead and made a whole lot of younger fans. The conflict lies in the old businessman and his wife who want to sit down and enjoy the concert while the younger (ones) want to get up and dance. And there the altercation begins between Dreadlocked Dan and Stockbroker Stan! I would prefer if dancing took over as opposed to the sit down with wine and cheese, but I'm fine with both and I'm certainly not slagging the older audience. I'm a *#! dancer anyway!

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