Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers make good on last year’s concert cancellation in Steamboat |

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers make good on last year’s concert cancellation in Steamboat

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers will headline the Free Summer Concert Series' Fourth of July show Saturday.

Last year, Bruce Hornsby had 65 concerts booked. He and his current band, the Noisemakers, played 64 of those. Steamboat was the only concert he missed.

Catching a bug somewhere between Sandpoint, Utah, and Missoula, Montana, Hornsby said he had no voice for the Steamboat gig.

On Saturday, Hornsby and The Noisemakers will make good on a promise to perform in Steamboat with a special appearance at the Free Summer Concert Series’ Fourth of July show at 7 p.m. at the Howelsen Hill amphitheater. Gates will open at 5 p.m., and Rob Drabkin is Hornsby’s opener.

"We're so glad to make it up," Hornsby said. "The audience can expect a free-wheeling, loose and spontaneous night of joyful music making from our band, with a wide stylistic range from old radio warhorses to more adventurous, modern songs and improvisations."

Displaying a creative array of musical aptitude throughout his three-decade recording career, Hornsby may be best recognized by his 1986 hit, "The Way It Is," recorded with The Range, which quickly became one of the most popular songs on American radio.

This sonic explorer has collaborated with musical greats from the Grateful Dead, Don Henley, Bob Dylan, Ricky Skaggs, Bonnie Raitt and many more.

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Nowadays, the three-time Grammy winner continues to push forward into new musical terrain with Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers.

Earlier this week, Explore Steamboat caught up with Hornsby to discuss changes within the music industry, musical inspirations and some of his fondest memories of life on the road.

Explore Steamboat: You've been in the music industry for many years now. How have things changed from when you first came on the scene with your hit "The Way It Is" to now?

Bruce Hornsby: There’s lots of fantastic music being made today, interesting and innovative, and for me, most of it resides in the margins, under the mainstream radar screen. It’s still about the same thing — finding your own individual, unique voice stylistically, as a writer, instrumentalist and singer, and creating something original that reaches and moves people deeply.

ES: You've toured with the Grateful Dead, you've won three Grammys and you've explored the world extensively. What are some of your most memorable moments?

BH: The ones that come to mind:

  • 2015's “Fare Thee Well” Grateful Dead concerts were amazing. What a buzz to be part of the engine driving that incredible Deadhead concert train, often transcendent.
  • Playing on some special records like Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me”
  • Bob Dylan’s “Under The Red Sky”
  • Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”
  • Co-writing Don Henley’s “End Of The Innocence”
  • Working for years — 1992 to 2017 — with Spike Lee on his films
  • Playing bluegrass with Ricky Skaggs for the last 10 years
  • The Dead in the early ’90s

ES: Throughout your career, you've had the chance to collaborate with many talented artists, either as a songwriter or musician. Who are some the most influential artists you've learned from and what did you learn?

BH: I’ve had lots of memorable studio experiences, a few include:

  • Recording with Sting, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Ornette Coleman, Pat Metheny, Jack DeJohnette and Christian McBride and working with Justin Vernon lately
  • Recording with Vernon Reid and a string quartet for my score in Spike Lee’s “Sweet Blood of Jesus” film
  • Recording with Justin Vernon and his old high school pals two years ago
  • Recording with an orchestra three years ago for the Disney film “Planes: Fire and Rescue”
  • Playing on a Bob Dylan record, with Bob, in 1990
  • Garcia recording on our third record
  • Playing on Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” record
  • Having Pat Metheny play on two mid-’90s records for me
  • Recording with Jack DeJohnette and Christian McBride
  • Bluegrass with the Dirt Band on their second “Circle Be Unbroken” record
  • Having Wayne Shorter play sax on Henley’s and my “End of the Innocence” song
  • Clapton playing on my “Halcyon Days” album
  • The Fare Thee Well concerts were an unforgettable experience for me. Such a great time playing with my old Dead cousins, and so much fun connecting with Trey Anastasio and Jeff Chimenti, my keyboard partner.

ES: Is there someone you haven't yet collaborated with eventually would like to?

BH: At this point, no one really. Paul Simon asked about my playing on his last record, and of course, I said an enthusiastic “yes,” but alas, it never came together.

ES: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

BH: When I was getting into the piano I was influenced primarily by these great men: Leon Russell, Elton John, Otis Spann, Professor Longhair and Chuck Leavell. I got interested in the piano at age 17 because of Elton John’s “Tumbleweed Connection” album and Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” record with all that great Leon Russell piano. So Elton and Leon, and then Keith Jarrett, who led me to Bill Evans, Dr. John, Professor Longhair, Bud Powell, Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, and now modern classical music composers like Elliott Carter, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Olivier Messiaen, Gyorgy Ligeti and more.

ES: Discuss the Noisemakers' role throughout a live show and on the most recent album "Rehab Reunion." What do they bring to the table that's new for you and your music?

BH: I’ve become more of a folkie than a jazzer, and accordingly, I changed two members of my band, replacing my great long-time sax player Bobby Read with fiddle-mandolin man Ross Holmes (formerly of Mumford and Sons) and Doug Derryberry with Gibb Droll on guitar, because I had been hearing a different sound in my head for some time.

The Noisemakers band is made up of players who bring something to the musical party that has a lot of depth, a lot of gravitas in several different musical areas, whether it’s a great groove and feel, great improvisational melodic sense, an ability to come up with musical parts on the spot that meld with the rest of the band, someone who is sensitive to the interstices, the spaces between other parts, and a good listener, because we just wing it a lot, and the players need to be aware what’s happening in the moment and react quickly and well to that.

ES: What's the songwriting/music making process like for you guys? Is it fairly collaborative or mainly your work?

BH: My style comes from a combination of disparate stylistic elements, and is often described as “Bill Evans meets the hymnal, with some blues thrown in.” It has moved in the last 10 years to a more modern, dissonant, chromatic place than before. I’m always in search of the chills, in search of that feeling of being deeply moved. It’s really hard to give yourself chills, at least it is for me, but that’s my aim. Or, I’m looking for something that makes me laugh. I’m always looking for inspiration for songs, lyrically and musically, and my songwriting partner Chip DeMatteo and I had an epiphanal month a couple Junes ago when we wrote four songs in that one month. That was a rare prolific month for me; I’m generally pretty slow.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

If you go:

What: Free Summer Concert Series: Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers

When: 7 p.m. (gates at 5 p.m.) on Saturday, July 1

Where: Howelsen Hill amphitheater, 845 Howelsen Pkwy