Sony Pixel Power calrec Sony

Bruce Hornsby Is Still Seeing What He Can Get Away With

07/03/2024

Bruce Hornsby Is Still Seeing What He Can Get Away With Since The Way It Is, the visionary songwriter has made his mark on so many genres. His latest, Deep Sea Vents, dives once again into something new.

By

John Mirisola

March 6, 2024

Bruce Hornsby '74

Image by Tristan Williams

Press play on Deep Sea Vents, the new collaboration from Bruce Hornsby '74 and the sought-after contemporary classical ensemble yMusic, and one thing quickly becomes obvious: This is not Hornsby resting on his past successes-many and multifaceted as they may be.

Over the past forty years Hornsby has amassed one of the most varied catalogs in modern music. Its not boring anyway, he joked in a phone interview last month.

The Music that Made Berklee

See how The Way It Is and so many other songs have shaped Berklees legacy.

To summarize, incompletely: Theres his deep well of thoughtful, slightly askew pop-rock songs, beginning with 1986s The Way It Is, whose title track helped launch Hornsbys career and then enjoyed a bank-shot second life as an iconic 2Pac sample. There are his contributions to the jam music world (most famously as a live keyboardist for the Grateful Dead for a number of years in the '80s and '90s); his bluegrass group with Ricky Skaggs; his jazz trio with Jack DeJohnette and Christian McBride; and his many screen scoring projects with director Spike Lee. Then theres his more recent emergence as a key collaborator in the modern indie music world, working with Bon Ivers Justin Vernon and Vampire Weekends Ezra Koenig, among others, and sharing the stage with indie-jam crossover act Goose. Also, should we mention he played the memorable piano part on Bonnie Raitts classic hit, I Cant Make You Love Me?

Watch Bruce Hornsby join Goose for their live cover of The Way It Is:

Yet the wry, experimental chamber pop of Deep Sea Vents, released under the collective moniker BrhyM, sounds like nothing else in that discography, and proves he still has more sonic territory to explore, even if he needs to survey the ocean floor to find it.

The Wild Whaling LifeIm just always looking for the new, and looking for inspiration in new places, and also looking not to repeat myself, said Hornsby, describing himself as a wandering minstrel, stylistically.

Something just presents itself emphatically, saying to me, This is where you should go. This will not be denied. Do this, dont f*** around. Deal with this right now. And so I try to listen to that loud voice.

The inspirational touch-points across these ten tracks are vast. He draws on a New York Times science story (Deep Sea Vents), web research on the platypus (Platypus Wow), a decades-old family joke (the song Barber Booty is a nod to how his sons used to pronounce their family barber shop, Barber/Beauty, as young children), and a couple Stephen Crane poems recalled from an eighth-grade English class (Deep Blue), among other sources.

Listen to The Wild Whaling Life by BrhyM

Hornsbys voracious curiosity has always been an engine for his creativity, and literature has played a particularly significant role in his compositions. My reading life has, for the last many years, completely influenced my songwriting life, he said. Prior to Deep Sea Vents, there have been songs referencing novels by Don DeLillo and David Foster Wallace, for instance. And then theres The Wild Whaling Life on this new album, which came together as Hornsby was reading Moby-Dick during the pandemic.

[yMusic] sent me this track around late November of 2020, he recalled. And their track just sounded like the book. A lot of the sounds they were making sounded sea-like. Seagulls and bushy ocean birds making sounds. And so it just led me to this place where I thought, Okay, let me go back through this book that Ive been reading. So Hornsby flipped through marked-up passages and margin notes, eventually shaping those ideas into a celebration of a life that sounds a lot like the one hes been lucky enough to lead-a wanderer, feeling pride in pushing forward, always in search of the big one. This is what I chose for my lifes work, he sings, Its the wild whaling life for me.

I Am the PlatypusWhile Hornsby has never shied away from weighty subjects in his songwriting (The Way It Is alone tackles issues of class, race, and social progress), hes also one of the only songwriters of his stature to follow that loud voice of inspiration into songs of humor and frivolity. For evidence, look no further than the skronky, honking Platypus Wow.

The song began as a yMusic demo with the word duck in its working title, and by a series of associative leaps from the horns quacking and the titles billing, Hornsby found his way into a deep dive on the egg-laying mammal and its ilk.

I just started doing a little research about the platypus, and platypuses related cousins, which led me to some old cartoon characters that I knew from my sons early days-Crash Bandicoot and Knuckles the Echidna, Hornsby said. And so I just went from there, learning about this whole area and writing about it, with a light strain on a tone level, because the music had that.

The result is a track that manages to sashay along the boundary between absurdity and fascination, and that BrhyM successfully carry off on the strength and strangeness of their performance.

Part human, part bird / Part beaver, reptile nerd / Im weird just like you / Lets exult in greens and blues, he sings with a swagger, and its easy to imagine Hornsby identifying with the platypus here.

Because of the way Im singing, I call it Sugarfoot of [funk band] the Ohio Players meets [20th century avant-garde composer] Pierre Boulez, said Hornsby-a string of words only this artist could credibly utter. Its completely an odd match. Im sure Pierre Boulez has never heard of Sugarfoot and vice-versa. I feel pretty confident about that.

A Zappo ProductionWhi
LINK: https://www.berklee.edu/berklee-now/news/bruce-hornsby-is-still-seeing...
See more stories from berklee

More from Berklee

15/05/2024

Berklee Artists to Perform at Major US Music Festivals this Summer and Fall

Berklee Artists to Perform at Major US Music Festivals this Summer and Fall The Berklee Popular Music Institute arranged placements at top festivals including...

12/05/2024

Berklee Honors Ledisi, Q-Tip, and Gilberto Santa Rosa at Commencement

Berklee Honors Ledisi, Q-Tip, and Gilberto Santa Rosa at Commencement This years honorary doctorate recipients were recognized for their profound influence as...

10/05/2024

Berklee Announces 2024 Songs for Social Change Contest Winners

Berklee Announces 2024 Songs for Social Change Contest Winners Student songwriters shine in the annual contest that recognizes music with a socially conscious...

10/05/2024

Meet Graduates from Berklees Class of 2024

Meet Graduates from Berklees Class of 2024 Members of this years graduating class reflect on their proudest moments at Berklee and look ahead to whats next. ...

10/05/2024

Berklee and Audio Engineering Society to Host Symposium on AI in Music

Berklee and Audio Engineering Society to Host Symposium on AI in Music The inaugural AES International Symposium on AI and the Musician will highlight excitin...

08/05/2024

Q&A with Visiting Artist Lei Liang

Q&A with Visiting Artist Lei Liang The acclaimed composer discusses his collaboration with Boston Conservatory, his work as a research artist, and what it mea...

04/05/2024

Three Boston Conservatory at Berklee Alums Nominated for Tony Awards

Three Boston Conservatory at Berklee Alums Nominated for Tony Awards An additional eight alums and two current students performed in nominated productions. ...

02/05/2024

Two Boston Conservatory at Berklee Alums Nominated for Tony Awards

Two Boston Conservatory at Berklee Alums Nominated for Tony Awards An additional eight alums and two current students performed in nominated productions. By...

30/04/2024

Next Jazz Legacy Announces 2024 Cohort of Women and Nonbinary Awardees

Next Jazz Legacy Announces 2024 Cohort of Women and Nonbinary Awardees The program was created by New Music USA and the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender J...

27/04/2024

Berklee's Music and Health Institute Launches Community Health Musician Certificate

Berklee's Music and Health Institute Launches Community Health Musician Cert...

25/04/2024

Berklee Student Riko Sasaski Named 2024 Yamaha Young Performing Artist

Berklee Student Riko Sasaski Named 2024 Yamaha Young Performing Artist The accomplished saxophonist secured a spot among the elite winners of this year's ...

24/04/2024

Berklee Online to Hold 2024 Berklee Onsite Music Conference May 31-June 1

Berklee Online to Hold 2024 Berklee Onsite Music Conference May 31-June 1 The in-person conference is open to Berklee Online students and the music community ...

18/04/2024

Krisha Marcano Announced as Dean of Theater for Boston Conservatory at Berklee

Krisha Marcano Announced as Dean of Theater for Boston Conservatory at Berklee The theater educator, choreographer, and performer will join Boston Conservator...

18/04/2024

Berklee's Yoon-Ji Lee Receives Guggenheim Fellowship

Berklee's Yoon-Ji Lee Receives Guggenheim Fellowship Lee, an assistant professor of composition, creates music based on unconventional and nonlinear struc...

17/04/2024

Simone Pilon Appointed Executive Director at Berklee Valencia

Simone Pilon Appointed Executive Director at Berklee Valencia Pilon, who has served as Berklee Valencia's interim executive director since March 2023, has a...

17/04/2024

FINNEAS and Ashe Talk Confidence and Collaboration in the Music Industry

FINNEAS and Ashe Talk Confidence and Collaboration in the Music Industry Days before his sister Billie Eilishs new album announcement, producer and songwriter...

12/04/2024

Youssou NDour to Receive Honorary Doctorate at Berklee Valencia's 2024 Commencement

Youssou NDour to Receive Honorary Doctorate at Berklee Valencia's 2024 Comme...

12/04/2024

Berklee and Electronic Arts Celebrate Annual EA Day

Berklee and Electronic Arts Celebrate Annual EA Day The second annual EA Berklee Day celebrated women in the screen scoring industry and presented the Electro...

11/04/2024

Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Honor LaChanze and Lar Lubovitch at Commencement Ceremony

Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Honor LaChanze and Lar Lubovitch at Commenceme...

11/04/2024

Berklee Hosts Leading Artists and Entertainment Pros at Annual Career Jam

Berklee Hosts Leading Artists and Entertainment Pros at Annual Career Jam Grammy-winning producer and singer-songwriter FINNEAS and hitmaker Ashe BM 15 headli...

10/04/2024

Ledisi, Q-Tip, and Gilberto Santa Rosa to Receive Honorary Doctorates at Berklee 2024 Commencement

Ledisi, Q-Tip, and Gilberto Santa Rosa to Receive Honorary Doctorates at Berklee...

05/04/2024

Berklee Honors Three Outstanding Artists at Alumni Achievement Awards

Berklee Honors Three Outstanding Artists at Alumni Achievement Awards Natalie Toro, Gustavo Borner, and Mark Kelley were recognized for their achievements in ...

05/04/2024

Berklee's Africana Studies Department to Host its First Annual Symposium

Berklee's Africana Studies Department to Host its First Annual Symposium The inaugural event will feature scholar, political commentator, and author Dr. E...

04/04/2024

Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Present Five Iconic Works at Spring Dance Concert: Limitless

Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Present Five Iconic Works at Spring Dance Conc...

04/04/2024

Morton Subotnick Named 2024 Herb Alpert Visiting Artist for Electronic Production and Design Department

Morton Subotnick Named 2024 Herb Alpert Visiting Artist for Electronic Productio...

03/04/2024

Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Present Four Iconic Works at Spring Dance Concert: Limitless

Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Present Four Iconic Works at Spring Dance Conc...

03/04/2024

Berklee's Signature Series Presents Gospel Extravaganza 2024

Berklee's Signature Series Presents Gospel Extravaganza 2024 Gospel singer and composer Bishop Hezekiah Walker will be among this year's inductees int...

30/03/2024

Celebrating Women's History Month with Berklee and Spelman College Students

Celebrating Women's History Month with Berklee and Spelman College Students Idriemeka Bailey and Madyson S. McSwain open up about their experiences in the...

29/03/2024

Student Spotlight: Bethanie Liu

Student Spotlight: Bethanie Liu The electronic musician shares how Berklee helped shape her desire to be a songwriter and arranger into something that incorpo...

28/03/2024

Boston Conservatory to Present Center Stage Production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Huntington

Boston Conservatory to Present Center Stage Production of A Midsummer Night'...

27/03/2024

15 Latin Artists Who Became Musical Idols

15 Latin Artists Who Became Musical Idols Listen to iconic Latin musicians across genres in this playlist and read about how they've influenced Berklee st...

22/03/2024

Berklee, A3 Communication, and the Gnaoua and World Music Festival Launch Berklee on the Road Program

Berklee, A3 Communication, and the Gnaoua and World Music Festival Launch Berkle...

19/03/2024

What Is Dembow? Tracing the Roots of a Global Phenomenon

What Is Dembow? Tracing the Roots of a Global Phenomenon The story of the dembow beat, which can be found in reggaeton, hip-hop, pop, and far beyond, speaks t...

19/03/2024

Berklee's Roger H. Brown Jr. Building Honored by Boston Society for Architecture

Berklee's Roger H. Brown Jr. Building Honored by Boston Society for Architec...

19/03/2024

Applications Open for 2024 Berklee at Umbria Jazz Clinics

Applications Open for 2024 Berklee at Umbria Jazz Clinics The 39th edition of the program will be held from July 9-21. By Callista Chan March 21, 2024 Ima...

14/03/2024

Berklee Career Jam Concert Showcases Student Artists for Music and Entertainment Industry

Berklee Career Jam Concert Showcases Student Artists for Music and Entertainment...

14/03/2024

BPMI to Host 22nd Annual Showcase at Brighton Music Hall on April 17

BPMI to Host 22nd Annual Showcase at Brighton Music Hall on April 17 The Berklee Popular Music Institute will showcase performances from six rising stars who ...

08/03/2024

Berklee Presents the Michael Jackson Ensemble: Human Nature

Berklee Presents the Michael Jackson Ensemble: Human Nature The Signature Series concert honors the King of Pop, surveying the entirety of his iconic career. ...

07/03/2024

Bruce Hornsby Is Still Seeing What He Can Get Away With

Bruce Hornsby Is Still Seeing What He Can Get Away With Since The Way It Is, the visionary songwriter has made his mark on so many genres. His latest, Deep Se...

06/03/2024

Student Spotlight: Mehrpouya Daneshvar

Student Spotlight: Mehrpouya Daneshvar The clarinetist from Iran talks about discovering a love for Iranian classical music and how coming to Berklee has allo...

02/03/2024

Applications Open for Berklee in Puerto Rico 2024

Applications Open for Berklee in Puerto Rico 2024 Registration is open now through April 11. By Colette Greenstein March 1, 2024 Students perform at Berklee...

01/03/2024

Student Spotlight: Shivaraj Natraj

Student Spotlight: Shivaraj Natraj The vocalist, konnakol beatboxer, and percussionist reflects on his musical journey from Oman to India and beyond, and how ...

01/03/2024

Berklee to Present American Master Award to Arturo Sandoval

Berklee to Present American Master Award to Arturo Sandoval Berklee will recognize the Cuban-American legend's legacy and impact on jazz and Latin music. ...

28/02/2024

Announcing the 2024 Issue of STAGES Magazine: Future Proof

Announcing the 2024 Issue of STAGES Magazine: Future Proof This issue takes a deep dive into how a Boston Conservatory education lays the foundation for futu...

28/02/2024

40 Years Later, Thriller's Grammy Sweep Still Resonates

40 Years Later, Thriller's Grammy Sweep Still Resonates Professors Lil John Roberts and Mimi Jones, part of the team leading the upcoming Michael Jackson ...

27/02/2024

The Rubin Brothers Bring Circus Spectacle to American Idol

The Rubin Brothers Bring Circus Spectacle to American Idol Berklee alum Colescott Rubin and his brother, current student A.J., rode unicycles and sang about lov...

24/02/2024

Berklee International Hip-Hop Symposium Spotlights Local Artists, Entrepreneurs

Berklee International Hip-Hop Symposium Spotlights Local Artists, Entrepreneurs SAMMUS, DJ Troy Frost, and DJ WhySham are among featured guest speakers for th...

22/02/2024

Berklee's Signature Series Celebrates Vibraphone Master, Composer, and Educator Joel Ross

Berklee's Signature Series Celebrates Vibraphone Master, Composer, and Educa...

17/02/2024

Boston Conservatory Dance Students Perform in New Music Video by Pop Artist Piao

Boston Conservatory Dance Students Perform in New Music Video by Pop Artist Piao The video for Neopet features choreography by commercial dance major Sofia ...

17/02/2024

Berklee Awards Fenway Neighborhood Improvement Grant to Five Organizations

Berklee Awards Fenway Neighborhood Improvement Grant to Five Organizations A total of $25,000 will be distributed amongst the Boston-based nonprofits. By Co...