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In 1986 Bruce Hornsby was at the top of his game with a No. 1 song on the charts and with that the type of instant fame he could only have dreamed of.

Now, three decades and a trio of Grammy Awards later, Hornsby continues to perform an array of music including rock, bluegrass, folk, jazz and country. He and his band, the Noisemakers, will be bringing their style to the Sedona Performing Arts Center to kick off the 23rd annual Sedona International Film Festival. They will be performing at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18.  

“We are honored and excited to have Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers open our festival,” SIFF Executive Director Patrick Schweiss said. “He is the soundtrack of a generation, and he has produced the soundtrack for several films, which is a great Film Festival tie-in. With Bruce’s local connection — childhood friend Larry Lineberry — here in Sedona, it was a natural fit for us to bring him here for a concert and incredible kick off to our festival.”

In 1987, Hornsby and his band, The Range, won the Grammy for best new artist after the success of their album “The Way It Is,” which spawned hits by the same title as well as “Mandolin Rain” and “Every Little Kiss.”

In addition to writing Top 10 songs for himself and his band, Hornsby has found success writing [or co-writing] songs for others including Huey Lewis and the News’ “Jacob’s Ladder,” Don Henley’s “End of the Innocence” and Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

In an interview with the Sedona Red Rock News, Horsnby talked about the early days as well as his work with others.

Q: How do you feel about performing here in Sedona?

My wife and I came to Sedona several years ago in search of vortices. We were unsuccessful. Maybe this time will be different. Maybe we need to hit the Airport Mesa site.

Q: You’ve found success over the years in a variety of styles of music. What can people expect at a Bruce Hornsby concert?

They should expect to witness a group of musicians that have a great time playing together. They should expect some unexpected moments where we are moving into uncharted territory. They should expect virtuosic musicianship and they should expect good songs — and some classic songs — hopefully played and sung well.

Q: “The Way It Is” was a huge hit, as was the album. What was that type of success like for you and the band, especially considering you’d formed a year or two earlier? That had to have been a pretty crazy time for you.

I really wasn’t prepared for it — how could anyone be? It was the full adult dose of pop stardom and I was pretty bad at it.

Q: What was the inspiration for “The Way It Is?”

It was certainly inspired by my having grown up in Williamsburg, Va., a comparatively progressive southern small town where narrow-minded attitudes were a prominent part of the environment. [He noted that the city was “progressive-ish” possibly because of the presence of the College of William and Mary and the professor crowd, plus the executives at Colonial Williamsburg, who often were from the Midwest and northeast.]

Q: Because you had so much success early on, was there pressure to try and duplicate that success?

“The Way It Is” was a real fluke, a wonderful accident commercially. Most of the execs at RCA thought it was a B-side. It broke in England, on BBC Radio One, then spread internationally and then became a hit in the U.S. So the label pretty much left me alone, and allowed me to do what I wanted to do musically for 18 years. They were very supportive, through eight presidents [of RCA].

Q: In addition to your own music, you’re written many hits for others. When doing so, do you write a song tailored for a specific artist or do you write it and then go from there?

Every situation has been different. I’ve had solid success writing songs with other artists who then recorded our song, for instance Don Henley, Chaka Khan and Robbie Robertson among others. Other times I’ve already written the song, a musician friend heard it and asked to record it. So there’s no one formula.

Q: Where do you keep your Grammy Awards?

On the bottom shelf of a piece of furniture, next to some old family picture books. The Grammys are fairly much obscured by these books right now.

Q: You performed more than 100 shows with the Grateful Dead. What was that experience like, especially considering how loyal their fan base was.

I think any time you spend that much time intimately involved in something so deep as the Grateful Dead musical experience, it can’t help but have an effect on your own approach. My approach before my time with the Dead was already becoming more free and loose, but my 100-plus shows with them pushed me farther along in the freedom and spontaneity departments.

For more information on the concert and festival, visit


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