A look back at Spirit Trail – release day!

Members of the Bruce Hornsby “newsgroup” dutifully took time out of release day to record their thoughts, in case anyone called them out 25 year later. Also, a transcript from an online interview with Borders that day.

October 13 1998 – release day
“Hey gang!
I got Spirit Trail at 9:00 this morning. So far, the music is
everything I expected it to be after a long wait: f*ckin’ awesome! I
love the cover photo. I think I’m going to order the shirt from the AOL
web page. I have a question though: What is the excerpt from Chip on the second to last page in the booklet?”

October 13 – DMAN:
“Song C brings my mood into a strange and calm place. It is truly amazing what music can do for us.”

October 13 – Tony “Big Rumble” Merriman: 
“Just got the ST CD an hour ago but one song that hits me hard already is “Resting Place” Being a big guy myself I can really appreciate the lyrics and have been in many of those situations myself. “You ever feel like a street walker I get by being a funny talker All those funny jokes sting so just keep walkin” really feel like Bruce is singing to me in this one. Later, Tony.
P.S. Thanks Bruce :-)”

October 13 – RichKman:
“King of the Hill is still kicking my ass (keep in mind that I’m only up to Fortunate Son)……I also love the segue from Song C into Sad Moon.”

October 13 – Eric:
“I like FunHouse a whole lot. The album is awesome, my only complaint is that Song C and Song D are too short. Pete & Manny has a great Tango King feel, and it seems like it could have easily been on Hot House. The tempos on a few are different than I expected, and Debbie is just wonderful on King Of The Hill.
Thanks Bruce, this really makes my day…

October 13 – Jeremy:
“I really like Shadow Hand, Great Divide, and Fortuate Son, but SWAN SONG is one of Bruce’s most beautiful efforts ever. When he sings, “This is my swan song, I’m gone, gone” it made me realize how fleeting life, especially that of a performer, can be fleeting. Enjoy Spirit Trail—it will last forever.”

October 13 – Jean:
“It’s appropriate the record came out in
October because it has kind of a swampy backwoods
area on a Halloween night feeling…
does that make sense?’

October 13 –  SLAMM:
“Makes me want to get in the car and drive to Virginia and kiss the ground in front of the studio.”

October 13 – RTA:
The one song that hit me that I can’t stop thinking about because I LOVE it so much is “Line in the Dust.”

October 13 – Danielle:
“Song C has a somber tone to it that has brought me almost to the point of tears. Fortunate Son, Sunflower Cat, and Swan Song are not far behind. :-))”

October 13 – Mats:
“is Pete in “Pete & Manny” the same guy as
 The Tango King? To me it seems like it’s the same guy.”

Release day online interview with Borders 

Question: How did you come about the name “Spirit Trail” for your new 
Bruce: The musical influences on this record are gospel, R and B, and 
folk…making it to me more of a “southern” record. 
”Spirit Trail ” is a two CD set, first CD being more about 
longer looser song forms with a lot of soloing, a lot of 
streching out, and longer story songs. The first CD is also
 about a bunch of guys in a room playing together. The approach
 to the second CD is two guys in a room making music with loops
 and it deals with tighter and shorter song structures, not so
 many solos and not very much piano.

Question: I read somewhere that your a “true southern boy,” how does 
that relate to your music?
Bruce: There are two songs on the record that are story songs about
 the snake-handling congregations in Appalachia: Preacher in 
the Ring part one and two. In part one there is a line that 
goes… “There was bitin’ and a jumpin’ and moans and wails,
 believers out shakin’ on the Spirit Trail.” A lot of this 
record deals with issues of bigotry, tolerance, judgement, etc.
 and in a lot of cases my own personal struggles with these
issues. The term Spirit Trail seemed to resonate from me in a
 sense that it describes a personal journey, for being a better 
person. …. a personal journey towards being a better person.

I had a very interesting upbringing. My mother was a cultured
 society woman, whose parents were from New England, and my
 father is an old country boy from a little fishing village,
 Seaford in Virginia. I sort of had the best of both worlds, I’m
 a definite combination of the two elements in the sense that 
I’m pretty much a trash mouth that will tell a dirty joke and 
then listen to Tschatakovitch. On this record there’s lots of
 sardonic humor, or attempts at it , but at the same time,
very serious very dense musical moments. That reflects my

Question: Hi Bruce, hope you enjoy this. What musician would you like
 most to perform with?
Bruce: I’ve been saying the same answer to this question for so long 
that it’s time to change my answer. It’s always been Mark
 Knopfler, but now I guess I’ll change it just for the hell of 
it to John Scofield, a guitar player whose guitar playing I
 love. I never really pursued other playing relationships,
they’ve all just pretty much come to me over the years, and 
I’m not pursuing any now.

Bruce: (Eddie, I didn’t realize you still lived in Norfolk. I thought
 you’d moved. Eddie is definitely someone whowould know who
 John Scofield is, say hi to him, and hopefully I’ll run into 
him soon!)

Question: When did you know you really wanted to be a musician? How
 did your family influence you?
Bruce: My grandfather was a musician for a living in Richmond Va, and
 music was always in our house. My parents have tapes of me
singing Hound Dog and Zorro at age 4. I decided I cast my lot
 with the musicians my first year of college. I went to the
 University of Richmond, one year long enough to realize that 
real college and me were a bad match. I then went to music
 school and got my degree. Actually as I think about it, I
 realized that I knew I wanted to be a musician my senior year
 of high school, but I didn’t think I was good enough that I
 could tell anyone that I wanted to do this without them 
laughing in my face, so I waited until somewhere in the middle 
of my first year of college.

Question: when do you plan to tour in Florida? We’ve missed you in 
Bruce: We’ll do a full tour in the springtime and come back then. I
 believe I’m going to do a piano concert in Tampa in December.

Question: What is the story behind “Sunlight Moon”?
Bruce: How do you know that song so quickly? Sunlight Moon is a song 
about my sons who hate for me to go away on all the trips I
take playing concerts at all. The title was suggested by one 
of my twin sons, Russell.

Question: What was playing with the Other Ones like on this year’s
 Further Festival Tour?
Bruce: I hope we do it again. StarDust…. if we had played Hogey 
Carmicals Stardust it would have been a lot better. We’re in 
the process of mixing a live album from that tour which should 
come out at the first of next year.

Question (from “pianoman”): Do you have a favorite song on the new 
Bruce: No… Pianoman… don’t request “Piano Man” at one of my concerts,
 because it’s one of the songs I won’t play…. along with the
 Peanuts theme…. won’t do it! Sorry!

Question: How has the band changed over time?
Bruce: Well, it’s a different band now. I’ve had the same band now 
for 5 years and in that time we’ve just gotten tighter in one 
sense and looser in another sense and able to jump from one
 musical area to another much more smoothly and easily.

Question: How did the deal with RCA come about?
Bruce: It’s a very simple story really. I finally made a tape that 
the record companies really liked that really moved them.
 It’s all about making a tape that the A&R guy can’t take out 
of his car tape player. After 7 years of trying I finally made 
that tape.

Question: Who has been your greatest musical influence?
Bruce: Pianistically… Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and Leon Russell .
Lyrically… Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson and Don Ho.

Question: Was a recording made when you played with the Atlanta
 Symphony Orchestra?
Bruce: Regrettably no.

Question: Regarding songs on the new cd, how will you pull them off 
live, considering the variety of instruments used on the cd?
Bruce: With great sleight of hand and sonic trickery and a great
 willing suspension of disbelief by the audience.

Question: What advice do you have for pianists just starting out? i’ve
 been playing for 2 years.
Bruce: Buy all my song books and practice them asiduously.
Bruce: Seriously, there’s no one good answer to that question. Every
 situation is unique. The one thing I can say as I’m thinking
 about it is always play music that you like. Keep it enjoyable 
and practice as much as you possibly can!

Question: When you write melodies, do you ever create them in your
 head first or do you always create them while playing the 
Bruce: I often come up with melodies away from the piano. I often 
write my songs lyrics first. I think it wouldn’t be that hard
 to figure out which songs I wrote on the piano, which songs I
 wrote away from the piano. The piano songs being more involved
 and difficult and more challenging technically.

Question: Bruce, what is your relationship with Tori Amos’ drummer
 Chamberlin who plays on the new album? Any chance you might 
tour with Tori Amos?
Bruce: I love the way he paints his fingernails. He played on five
 songs in the new record. He’s not just Tori Amos’ drummer, he
 plays for a lot of people. I think Tori Amos is truly great
 and in Night of 176 keys, sounds like a fine idea. I’m not
 sure we share the same audience, but again… I’m a fan.
I don’t think you’d find Stockbroker Stan or Dreadlock Dave
 at a Tori Amos concert generally (two standard components of my
audience) but maybe the two crowds could co-exist very well.

Question: Did you get to play HORSE with Phil Jackson in NY?
Bruce: No, Phil’s ducking me. He knows he’s in trouble if he plays 
me. I did play a game of pickup basketball at Omega and had a 
very good time doing it.

Question: Hey Bruce! I hear you’re doing a 10 gig stint at YOSHI’s in 
Oakland!! That’s a long stay there, what do you plan on 
playing? I definitely want to be there 😉
Bruce: I plan on playing everything from Bud Powell and Bill Evans jazz 
tunes to old time Appalachian fiddle tunes along with my own 
music and the hits of Bert Kaempfert.

Question: Bruce, How is LHS doing in football?
Bruce: LHS is dominating…. fyi.

Question: What was your inspiration for Fortunate Son?
Bruce: Fortunate Son is a song loosely based on the life of Lewis
 Puller Jr., the great marine Chester Fuller’s son, who wrote a
 very moving book called Fortunate Son that won the Pulitzer
 Prize. Thanks for asking, it’s a song that’s special to me.

Question: Was there a recording made of the Final Tour Date of Furthur
Fest 98 in Mountain View Ca?
Bruce: Yes there was, we taped something like the last 11 or 12
 concerts of our tour but we taped both nights at Shoreline… 
I personally mixed several songs from those last two nights.

Question: On your Hot House CD what incident happened that prompted
 the song Cruise Control, was it roller skating?
Bruce: (Bruce laughs!) I wonder where they came up with that!
 The song was prompted by a situation where my son Keith took a
 bad fall and I felt responsible for it and beat myself up
 mentally about it until I had to just give it up and get over 

Border’s: Bruce, it’s been a pleasure to have you with us! Are there
 any final thoughts you’d like to leave us with?
Bruce: I appreciate everyone listening all these years. We’ll be
 touring quite a bit next year, we still have a lot of shows 
this year. We’ll have a fairly extensive tour next year on 
this record..

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