Red Light Management

Bruce Hornsby

www.brucehornsby.com

Artist Bio

Bruce Hornsby, the creatively insatiable pianist and singer-songwriter from Williamsburg, Virginia, always has succeeded on his exceptional gifts, his training, and his work ethic. He became a global name in music by reimagining American roots forms as songs that moved with the atmospheric grace of jazz. “The Way It Is” defined sonic joy on the radio, however as a hit record it also evidenced a thrilling re-structuring, and during the years afterward Hornsby, in staggeringly diverse ways, has kept going.

He has returned to traditional American roots forms, collaborating with Ricky Skaggs. He has played with the Grateful Dead. He has fused the plunk and dazzle of twentieth-century modernist classical composition to singer-songwriter emotional inquiries. He has scored films. He has performed with symphony orchestras. If the sound of an arrogant air-conditioner or a stretch of rude playing caught his ear, he has entered the hallowed doors of the conservatories of punk. So when Hornsby describes Absolute Zero, his new album, as “a compendium of what I like and moves me,” don’t expect perhaps a thing or two new. Prepare for a multi-faceted ride.

A few years ago, Hornsby met Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. “I kept getting these Google Alerts where he shouted me out in the press,” Hornsby says. In time, other musicians praised Hornsby’s work — including Brandon Flowers, who asked him to play on his solo album. In the indie-rock zeitgeist, Bruce Hornsby became a thing.

After Hornsby began working with Vernon, the Wisconsinite invited Hornsby to perform at his Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival. “I’d played a thousand-and-one festivals over the years,” Hornsby says. “This one was by far the most beautiful experience for me. They had a modern classical stage where you could hear Frederic Rzewski pieces. Everything was artful and beautiful, so great.”

Before Hornsby played, The Staves and yMusic appeared. “So I’m listening to this British female vocal trio and Brooklyn chamber music group, going ‘Whoa, who is this?”” Hornsby says. “I loved the women, the chamber music group, the whole thing. What they were doing together was adventurous, a different sound.”

Hornsby’s discoveries that evening ultimately circled back to Williamsburg, where over the last years he has hosted his own festival. After Eaux Claires, Hornsby invited yMusic and The Staves to appear at the Williamsburg event. “That’s when I met them,” he says. “We hit it off and became friends. I asked them to play on what became Absolute Zero. We did a session with yMusic in New York. We worked on six pieces; five ended up on the record. It just went from there. yMusic’s leader Rob Moose started doing some things on his own on some new songs that I would write. Rob arranging on his own – where he puts down twenty different string parts (‘Give me another one! OK, there’s that. Another track! Another track!’) – is quite something to see, working his magic in the studio.”

The genesis of Absolute Zero, however, began within Hornsby’s work as a film composer for writer-director Spike Lee. Hornsby started collaborating with Lee in 1992; ultimately, in 2008, he began scoring for Lee. Since then Hornsby has written six full film scores and contributed incidental music to four others. What began to intrigue him were scoring components known as “cues,” those comparatively brief passages of music used in films to heighten certain narrative visuals and/or spoken developments.

“Over the past decade I’ve written fully 230 different cues,” Hornsby says, “ranging from one to five minutes in length. Through the last ten years of doing this there always were certain cues that sounded like they wanted to be songs, wanted to be developed into something more than just cues, more than just tiny instrumentals setting moods for conversations in a film over dinner, or whatever.” He asked his engineer to make a file of fourteen. Hornsby began working with these Lee cues — lengthening or shortening or repeating them. “You sculpt and shape the music accordingly,” Hornsby says, “ based on the new information you’ve created over top of these cues.”

Then there was the creation of the songs’ lyrics. “For many years, “Hornsby says, “I’ve been interested in literary fiction.” Even in 2019, when literary fiction exists alongside other types of novels and stories, it remains an extensively chronicled and robustly debated kind of writing. Although it was published centuries before rock and roll exploded, literary fiction shares certain values – constant critical scrutiny, for example, as well as absolute freedom on the part of practitioners, even when that sometimes yields some mighty uneasy reading — with indie-rock. Literary fiction can show up on best-seller lists, just like indie-rock occasionally storms charts.

“Like many readers do,” Hornsby says, “I’d dog-ear a page or mark something I thought was well-said, some amazing description of a thimble, say. So I began to think about what for me were the most memorable passages I’d encountered from my reading, the good bits from two writers admire greatly, Don DeLillo and the late David Foster Wallace. On this record, those are my two literary inspirations and guides, Don and Dave.” Hornsby’s songs, both in spirit and memory, function collectively as an hommage to fiction writing that, while often poetic, takes no prisoners.

Ready for the results? Those would be pieces like the opening title track — which features drumming by the legendary Jack DeJohnette — inspired by DeLillo’s Zero K, a book Hornsby describes as about “the cryonic field – or, most baldly put, Ted Williams freezing in a vault somewhere outside Phoenix.” Or “Fractals,” wherein Hornsby compares a relationship with that “rough and fragmented geometrical shape,” as he puts it, “that can be subdivided into parts.” Or “Echolocation,” a stylistic cousin of “Fractals,” that Hornsby calls “one of my musical combines.” He’s remembering the American artist and pop art instigator Robert Rauschenberg, who during the 1950s made famous hybrids of tactile painting and sculpture, where almost anything, assembled just so rightly, goes.

“That aspect of found materials,” Hornsby says, “collages: That’s exactly what my new album is on a musical level. You go into my studio and there’s just crap everywhere – a vibraslap here, a train whistle there, a crappy old violin I’m playing badly. And then there’s my brother playing some dog-shitty violin that’s vibey as hell.”

Hornsby produced Absolute Zero, his pastiche of sounds” as it calls the album, with assists from Tony Berg, Vernon, and Brad Cook. Some songs, like “Never in This House,” expose traditional Hornsby songwriting semi-nakedly; others, like “Voyager One” – “sort of chamber art-pop meets Prince,” Hornsby says – and “The Blinding Light of Dreams” – with a groove that Hornsby points out dates back to “Serpentine Fire” by Earth, Wind & Fire – re-stage U.S. r&b as fluidly as the music elsewhere refers to an American modernist composer like Elliott Carter. “Meds,” for example, a particular tour de force of Hornsby/Moose featuring special guitar by Blake Mills, blossoms into gripping ‘60s soul choruses. “Cast Off” manages to animate a rare style – miserablist polyrhythms – without skimping on the funk itself.

“White Noise” Hornsby considers “the Wallace moment.” It offers a passionate singer with a string quartet backing him. “The narrative comes from Wallace’s The Pale King,” Hornsby says, “a novel about boredom, about IRS tax examiners as unlikely yet convincing American heroes.” And then “Take You There (Misty),” written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, concludes the sequence with romanticism as re-ordered by Hornsby via memories of Steve Reich’s and Philip Glass’s sonically floral minimalism.

A ride. There is precedent for musical artists moving from the mainstream of popular music to…somewhere else: Ohio-born Scott Walker, ruling the airwaves with The Walker Brothers in early-‘60s Britain, then concocting uniquely dark-toned symphonic solo albums followed by uncharted lands of vocal compositions even much bleaker. David Byrne, determined that the late-70s downtown Manhattan freedom of Talking Heads expand to include pop styles all over the known universe. Robbie Williams, absolutely dead-set on not letting his ‘90s boy-band years preclude pop and rock and swing styles done with uncommon erudition.

This stripe of music evolution over time clearly has another member to add to its small and restless club. It’s Bruce Hornsby, a great restructuralist from the beginning and onward. Absolute Zero constitutes absolute 2019 proof. And all you need to hear it is a set of open ears.

 

Read More

Achievements

01

3-Time Grammy Award Winner with 13 Total Nominations

02

ASCAP “Song of the Year” Award Winner

03

2 RIAA Certified Platinum Records

04

2 RIAA Certified Gold Records

05

Virginia Legends Walk of Fame Inductee

Tour Dates

Jun 18 2019
Charleston Music Hall
Charleston, SC
Jun 19 2019
Blumenthal Performing Arts
Charlotte, NC
Jun 21 2019
Atlanta Symphony Hall
Atlanta, GA
View More
Jun 23 2019
Lime Kiln Theater
Lexington, VA
Jun 25 2019
Bijou Theatre
Knoxville, TN
Jun 26 2019
Salvage Station
Asheville, NC
Jun 28 2019
The Majestic Theatre
Gettysburg, PA
Jun 29 2019
Smith Opera House
Geneva, NY
Jun 30 2019
Tupelo Music Hall
Derry, NH
Jul 12 2019
The Event Center at Mount Airy Casino and Resort
Mount Pocono, PA
Jul 13 2019
Roxian Theatre
Mckees Rocks, PA
Jul 14 2019
Goodyear Theater
Akron, OH
Jul 16 2019
Rose Music Center at The Heights
Huber Heights, OH
Jul 18 2019
The Grand Casino Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino
Mashantucket, CT
Jul 20 2019
Maymont Park
Richmond, VA
Jul 21 2019
Sprint Pavilion
Charlottesville, VA
Jul 23 2019
North Carolina Museum Of Art
Raleigh, NC
Jul 24 2019
Filene Center at Wolf Trap
Vienna, VA
Aug 07 2019
Pabst Theater
Milwaukee, WI
Aug 09 2019
Pantages Theatre
Minneapolis, MN
Aug 10 2019
Okoboji Blue Water Festival
Arnolds Park, IA
Aug 11 2019
Canal Shores Golf Course
Evanston, IL
Aug 13 2019
Lied Center of Kansas
Lawrence, KS
Aug 16 2019
Dillon Amphitheater
Dillon, CO
Aug 17 2019
Chautauqua Auditorium
Boulder, CO
Aug 18 2019
Denver Botanic Gardens
Denver, CO
Oct 06 2019
Austin City Limits
Austin, TX
Oct 11 2019
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Scottsdale, AZ
Oct 13 2019
Austin City Limits
Austin, TX
Apr 14 2020
Cincinnati Music Hall
Cincinnati, OH

News

04/08/2019

BRUCE HORNSBY’S ABSOLUTE ZEROPREMIERES VIA NPR MUSIC’S FIRST LISTEN, OUT APRIL 12

FEATURING YMUSIC, JUSTIN VERNON, BLAKE MILLS, THE STAVES, JACK DEJOHNETTE AND MORE  EMBARKING ON U.S. TOUR APRIL 25   photo credit: Sarah Walor; album cover Pianist, singer and songwriter Bruce Hornsby’s highly anticipated…

Read More

03/22/2019

BRUCE HORNSBY’S NEW SONG “CAST-OFF” CO-WRITTEN WITH AND FEATURING JUSTIN VERNON PREMIERES ON PITCHFORK

ABSOLUTE ZERO FEATURING YMUSIC, BLAKE MILLS, THE STAVES, JACK DEJOHNETTE AND MORE OUT APRIL 12 ADDITIONAL U.S. TOUR DATES CONFIRMED WITH AMOS LEE Pianist, singer and songwriter Bruce Hornsby’s new…

Read More

02/22/2019

BRUCE HORNSBY RETURNS WITH ABSOLUTE ZERO OUT APRIL 12

FEATURING YMUSIC, JUSTIN VERNON, BLAKE MILLS, THE STAVES, JACK DEJOHNETTE, SEAN CAREY AND MORE LEAD SINGLE “VOYAGER ONE” DEBUTS TODAY   CONFIRMS RUN OF U.S. TOUR DATES  “Hornsby lets the…

Read More