Originally from Williamsburg, Bruce Hornsby has been tapping piano keys for audiences since the ‘80s, breaking out with his 1986 hit “The Way It Is.” Hornsby is known for playing music that blends pop, jazz, bluegrass and ‘60s soul, but he has also collaborated with bands like the Grateful Dead. The two-time Grammy winner has multiple stops in his home state for his upcoming summer tour with his band, The Noisemakers, including a visit to Wolf Trap on June 29.
How did growing up in Williamsburg impact you/your music?
There wasn’t really a “scene” in Williamsburg, but there were a lot of places to play if you were willing to be disco-lounge whores, and we were willing. Gradually we were able to start playing more and more of my songs at these places and were able to stop playing “Brick House” (great song) and do our own thing.
Was music something that your family but a large emphasis on?
There are reel-to-reel tapes of me singing “Hound Dog” at age 3 or 4, and music was always in our house. My first concert was Peter, Paul and Mary at the William & Mary football stadium, and we got to go to a live taping of the show Hootenanny featuring Trini Lopez in Adair Gym at the college around the same time. So I guess folk was an early influence. Then standard radio music, the Beatles, Stones, etc., and Elton [John] and Leon Russell later, which brought me into the piano and from then on I was all in.
Where did you come up with your signature “Virginia sound”?
My style, such as it is, was built very naturally from music that I loved, music that really got under my skin and moved me (often to chills) a great deal. I loved the piano voicing style of the great Bill Evans, so incorporated that into what I was doing. I loved the style and groove of the great Leon Russell, so took a bit of that. I loved the chordal movement of hymns, church music, so internalized that. I loved old-time traditional music, so that was an influence. So gradually these elements can get thrown into a pot, stirred and one can create something from the combination of influences, and this is what I did, fairly unwittingly. So my facile description of my style that I use when people ask is “Bill Evans meets the Hymn book”. It doesn’t say it all, but it’s close enough.
What do you still enjoy about touring?
Really, at this point, only the playing, the concerts. I love those as much and possibly even more than ever.
Is there anything that you have not done in your career as of yet that you are still hoping to do?
As far as a bucket list goes, I don’t have one; any list I may have had has been pretty much filled in at this point. My musical bucket list can be summed up easily with one wish: to keep the self-loathing at bay.