Born in the U.S.A.: Top 50 Stars of the 50 States

Virginia: Bruce Hornsby. The singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist has serenaded his home state in such descriptive songs as "The Red Plains," "The Valley Road" and "The Road Not Taken" (in which he sings of falling in love "with an Appalachian girl").

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Bruce Hornsby will be launching his new album, "Levitate," with appearances on prime-time TV and in a feature film.

Hornsby and his band, the Noisemakers, will be one of the musical guests on the inaugural week of NBC's "The Jay Leno Show," performing "Space is the Place" on the Sept. 17 show with Eric Clapton, who plays on the track on "Levitate." "(Clapton)'s the only reason we're on it," Hornsby tells Billboard.com, with a laugh. "A serious B-teamer like myself would never have been asked to be on the first week of Leno They're getting Kanye West, probably trying to raise Ray Charles from the dead. We're the exception, because of EC. It pays to have legendary friends."

Hornsby says Clapton actually recorded his part during the making of 2004's "Halycon Days," when "Space is the Place" was still "a half-assed track we were working on. I knew Eric (who played on three songs on 'Halcyon Days') would play his ass off on it and we had some time, so I said, 'Hey, could I put this up and let you rip over it, two or three times and that would be it?' He was fine with that, and now it's on ('Levitate')." The track also features one of Hornsby's twin sons, Russell, then 12 and now 17, rapping.

Hornsby also plays himself for a cameo in "World's Greatest Dad," a dark comedy starring Robin Williams and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait which is currently in limited release. The film also makes use of several Hornsby songs, including "Levitate's" title track.

"I'm kind of a running joke in the movie, an undercurrent," Hornsby notes. "Robin Williams' character is a fan of mine, and his son...rags on everything his dad does, including his taste in music. 'Bruce Hornsby's gay!' is one of the best lines. And there's a great scene with two goth girls fighting over my 'Spirit Trail' record in the hallway of the high school...I make an appearance and sing the minor-key bluegrass version of 'Mandolin Rain.'"

But Hornsby, whose wife and sons were extras, isn't plotting a career change. "I had two lines, and I was 0 for two," he jokes. "I'm not waiting for the calls to start from Duvall and Deniro. I don't think that's gonna happen."

"Levitate" comes out Sept. 15. Hornsby and the Noisemakers kick off a tour on Sept. 12 in Hampton, Va.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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