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3 Decades In, Bruce Hornsby's Style Is Constantly Evolving

Bruce Hornsby's latest album <em>Absolute Zero</em> is out now.
Sarah Walor
Courtesy of the artist
Bruce Hornsby's latest album Absolute Zero is out now.

In 1986, Bruce Hornsbybecame famous for his single "The Way It Is." But since then, he has embraced the constant evolution of his musical style throughout his career, experimenting with jazz, classical and even country. Never the same kind of musician, Hornsby has jammed on the accordion with the Grateful Dead and composed movie soundtracks for Spike Lee. His latest album, Absolute Zero, out now, is an embodiment of this constant motion, spiraling into whatever creative vision Hornsby has next.

Throughout his ambitious exploration of genre and sound, Hornsby says he always follows his own instinct. "I'm just interested in my older age and trying to make a sound that I haven't quite heard before," Hornsby says. "This record shows different ways that I'm trying to do that."

The album features skitter-y piano, doleful strings, bubbling percussion, and inspiration drawn from other fields Hornsby admires like science and literature fiction. One track, "White Noise" is specifically based on his favorite work by David Foster Wallace, The Pale King. "It's kind of a book about boredom. It's a book about IRS regional examination centers and the workers there," Hornsby explains. "So this song is about tax return examiners and CPAs is as American heroes."

Hornsby's latest exploration, Absolute Zero, is out now via Zappo Productions. Hornsby joined NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer to talk about searching for inspiration in unlikely places and how Absolute Zero came together. Hear their conversation in the audio link.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sacha Pfeiffer is a correspondent for NPR's Investigations team and an occasional guest host for some of NPR's national shows.
Ned Wharton is a senior producer and music director for Weekend Edition.