Center Presents: Bruce Hornsby and yMusic present BrhyM

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The Palladium // Saturday, March 9, 8 p.m. ET

January/February 2024

Bruce Hornsby, the eclectic singer-songwriter and pianist, gained fame with his Grammy-winning debut album, “The Way It Is,” and its title track, the most-played song on U.S. radio in 1987. With 24 albums as a leader, this 3x GRAMMY winner and songwriting legend toured with the Grateful Dead and contributed to over 100 records for artists like Bob Dylan, Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, Sting, Mavis Staples and Willie Nelson. Currently, Hornsby is touring with the classical-pop ensemble yMusic, known for original compositions and collaborations with artists like Ben Folds, John Legend, Paul Simon and St. Vincent.

Center Presents Bruce Hornsby

The collaborative project BryhM, featuring Bruce Hornsby and yMusic, announced their album, “Deep Sea Vents,” set to release on March 1 via Zappo Productions/Thirty Tigers. To celebrate, they released the single “Deep Blue,” a funky, meditative strut featuring electric sitar.

yMusic, a prominent American chamber ensemble in its 16th year, consists of Rob Moose, CJ Camerieri, Nadia Sirota, Gabriel Cabezas, Hideaki Aomori and Alex Sopp. They explore both classical and popular music, contributing their recognizable sound to projects by various artists, including Andrew Norman, Anohni, Missy Mazzoli, John Legend, Paul Simon and Caroline Shaw.

Center Presents Bruce Hornsby

Bruce Hornsby remains an inspiration for young artists and a dedicated collaborator.

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Janelle Morrison: I think the ’80s was one of the greatest times in the history of [American] music because there is such a variety of genres and sounds that came out in that decade. How were you able to find your voice in all of that, with so many different genres hitting the charts?

Bruce Hornsby: Well, it was a singular personal pursuit for me. I was in pursuit of myself, of finding my voice that was unique to me. And so, in my case, it was about following the goosebumps…following the chills. It’s still about that, frankly.

JM: Who were some of your early influences, and how did they impact you as a singer/songwriter and pianist?

BH: Your influences become that because these people move you deeply, and they give you chills. People like everyone from Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, the [Grateful] Dead, and on and on. Those are some real luminaries for me. I just put all of those influences together into a pot and stirred them up and came out with this thing that was most instant and sort of quickly represented by the song “The Way It Is” in the sense that it was the only song on that first record that had improvised piano solos. That was something that I was really about then, and so it was just a wonderful accident that it broke in England, and that became our calling card.

JM: You said that the flagbearers of American music at that time were artists like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and John Mellencamp, and then there was you…an acoustic musician, topping the charts.

BH: I was just a piano version of that, lyrically and musically, although I didn’t have the power that they had because I was an acoustic musician. So, I couldn’t turn my amp up to 10 and reach the back of the arena with my sound. But I think I resided in that sort of Americana rootsy world—“Mandolin Rain,” for instance, using the accordion and the mandolin, having the great David Mansfield and the Range band originally playing all of this, and they are multi-instrumentalists in that way.

JM: All of your collaborations stand the test of time. I can go back and listen to any of your songs, including your most recent work, and they hit the same. You spoke about the chills, and I still get them—that’s a testament to you and the artists you work with. I read a while back an interview where you were talking about touring with the Grateful Dead. I imagine you could write a book on those experiences themselves.

BH: I could write a pretty good chapter, that’s for sure. I ended up getting my degree in jazz music from the University of Miami, so I was deeply involved in spontaneity, and so the Dead’s music, in that way, spoke to me. Then, as songwriters, I always felt that they were underrated. I think they have one of the greatest corpuses, bodies of work, in the history of popular music. I always said that those 40 to 50 Grateful Dead songs that make up the hymnal of the Grateful Dead are a religious experience for Dead Heads. It’s ecstatic. You talk about the chills…the chills abound in Grateful Dead music.

JM: The way that you command the keys and work the piano is pure brilliance. I can hear every single keystroke in my head. It’s amazing how you bring such life to it.

BH: Why, thank you. This gig that I’m going to do with yMusic will showcase that. yMusic is a chamber music group from NYC, and they are incredibly adept, very malleable. They have some of the greatest rhythmic precision of any classical musical group that I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with a bunch of orchestras through the years. They are top drawer, top of the heap, in that way.

JM: “Deep Sea Vents” is set to release on March 1. This collaborative project features you and yMusic. You shared that you first saw yMusic perform at Bon Iver’s Eaux Claires festival in 2016, then asked them to perform at your festival, Funhouse Fest, the next year. yMusic first appeared on your 2019 album, “Absolute Zero,” and then you toured together in late February and early March 2020.

You and Rob Moose [yMusic multi-instrumentalist] kept on writing throughout the shutdown, and your collaboration produced this latest album, “Deep Sea Vents.”

BH: We had all this time on our hands, and we used it wisely. About every six weeks, they would send me a new track, and I would write a song and send it back to them. That resulted in this record that’s coming out. We had nothing but time, so why not take that deep dive and try to be really creative? So, I feel that this music is very creative, and I feel like we carved out our own stylistic area that is unique to us. That is something I’ve always been interested in throughout my entire career.