The Fresh Prince 

Williamsburg’s favorite pianist, Bruce Hornsby, reflects on how he’s kept from getting bored all these years.

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Bruce Hornsby is a restless guy, who admittedly bores easily.

Sure, the Williamsburg native has more than a few roots planted across the Old Dominion, but he never stays in one place for long.

His insanely successful recording career kicked off with his band, the Range, and his biggest hit to date "The Way It Is" back in the 80s -- and it hasn't slowed its roll yet, going on to include more hits as well as guest shows with the Grateful Dead.

Heck, when Style tried to snag him for a quick call, he suggested an email interview. We managed to get the scoop on his wildly original new album, "Absolute Zero," and what keeps the creative fuel flowing once you've dabbled in just about everything.

"Thirty years into this career I'm just interested in staying inspired and moving to new musical places," Hornsby says.

Called "untrendy" by The New York Times, "Absolute Zero" is a 10-track journey across textured soundscapes often jazzy, sometimes pop and frantic, and hushed at all the right times. It's evidence that these days the pianist been listening to a lot of modern classical music.

"An area a lot of my devotees wish I wasn't into!" he says.

The song "Cast-Off " features Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, proving Hornsby even has some indie rock cred and prompting Pitchfork to call him hip. More than half the tracks feature guests or producers, not surprising given Hornsby's affinity for collaboration.

Creators from across genres and art forms have sought out the performer or his musical chops. No less than a dozen Spike Lee ventures have featured scores by Hornsby, including "Blackkklansman" and the Broadway musical, "SCKBSTD." He's also been sampled by a handful of hip-hop artists, the most notable being Tupac Shakur's on "Changes" and Bonnie Raitt crooned the tear-jerker "I Can't Make You Love Me" with Hornsby on keys.

Then of course, there are those hundred some shows with the Dead, an experience Hornsby can't entirely forget: "What a buzz to be part of the engine driving that incredible Deadhead concert train, often transcendent," he says.

How do you top that? Hornsby isn't trying.

"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. Paul Simon asked about my playing on his last record, and of course, I said an enthusiastic, 'yes,' but alas, it never came together," Hornsby says.

Trendy or not, Hornsby won't deliver a greatest hits package when he hits the Maymont stage in Richmond.

"We will wing it, but I will do that keeping certain goals and desires in mind: finding a balance between the new music, true fan and band favorites, and placating the soft-core fan who only knows six songs from 1986-'90," he says. "I'm bored quickly. Playing a song the same way at all times is a bit of a prison for me, and I'm always looking to keep my band interested, so I'm always looking for new musical moments that keep the music fresh."

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers perform with Amos Lee at Maymont on Saturday, July 20. 7 p.m. $41-$66. Tickets are available at ticketfly.com.



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