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
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
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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