Hornsby Eschews Trademark Sound For 'Big Swing Face'

Excerpted from the magazine for

With his first studio album since last year's live "Bring on the Noisemakers," Bruce Hornsby recognizes that he's taken a dramatic stylistic turn. "They certainly won't accuse us of standing still," says Hornsby, whose trademark acoustic piano sound is largely absent on "Big Swing Face," which RCA Records released on June 25. He points his finger at his A&R rep (and album producer), David Bendeth.

"He threw down the gauntlet and sort of issued a challenge," Hornsby continues. "He said, 'Can you step outside your usual piano-based musical orientation and go to a new place?' So I decided to try and make a record where if there was a familiar sound, we couldn't use it."

This involved "taking traditional electric instruments and manipulating them sonically in the studio to come up with new sounds where you couldn't instantly go, 'That's what that is,'" Hornsby says, though he hastily adds that even with the techno-filtered "sonics," he purposely stayed away from "what I call 'fashion music'" -- his focus being on songwriting.

"I've never thought that the lyrical content of fashion music had that much to it -- with some great exceptions," notes Hornsby. "So I thought if I was going to be moved over to this stylistic area by my producer/A&R guy, I wanted to take it to a place that was interesting for me lyrically -- that couldn't be less about electronica or trendy musical consciousness. I took it to the country, basically."

The athletic Williamsburg, Va., native says that he "dug back" to his days as both "the only white boy on the basketball team" and the only white player in local bands like the Dark Shadows of Funk. "No Home Training," which features jive-talk by his 70-year-old family friend Floyd Hill, especially reflects this, while lead track "Sticks and Stones" is full of "very regional words" like "gousy," which Hornsby defines as "sleazy, nasty, funky."

Hornsby adds, "This is all stuff that people who know me well will listen to and go, 'That's Bruce.'"

Hornsby is on the road and with plans to stay there into early August.

Here are Bruce Hornsby's upcoming tour dates:

July 9: Redmond, Ore. (Deschutes Event Center)
July 11: Salt Lake City (Red Butte Garden)
July 12: Denver (CityLights Pavilion)
July 14: Santa Fe, N.M. (Paolo Soleri Amphitheatre)
July 17: Chicago (Orchestra Hall @ Symphony Center)
July 18: Cleveland Heights, Ohio (Cain Park)
July 19: Kettering, Ohio (Fraze Pavilion)
July 21: Kalamazoo, Mich. (Kalamazoo State Theatre)
July 23: Verona, N.Y. (Turning Stone Casino)
July 24: Westbury, N.Y. (Westbury Music Fair)
July 25: Cohasset, Mass. (South Shore Music Circus)
July 27: Hyannis, Mass. (Cape Cod Melody Tent)
July 29: Vienna, Va. (Wolf Trap Filene Center)
Aug. 1: Portsmouth, Va. (NTELOS Pavilion @ Harbor Center)
Aug. 2: Asheville, N.C (Biltmore Estates)
Aug. 3: Atlanta (Chastain Park Amphitheatre)

Excerpted from the July 13, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

For information on ordering a copy of the issue, click here.


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.