"When I play music, I guess I'm what you'd call an ecstatic," says Bruce Hornsby. "I'm always pursuing those joyful, exuberant, transcendent moments that happen when everything is working. That's why I called this album Levitate, because that's what those moments feel like."
By any standard, Bruce Hornsby has built one of the most diverse and adventurous careers in contemporary music. Drawing from a vast wellspring of American musical traditions, the singer/pianist/composer/bandleader has created a large and remarkably accomplished body of work that's employed a vast array of stylistic approaches, while maintaining the integrity, virtuosity and artistic curiosity that have been hallmarks of his work from the start.
The 13-time Grammy nominee's multifarious talents and far-ranging musical interests are prominent on Levitate, which marks the artist's Verve debut. The album's 13 songs span an expansive sonic and emotional palette, encompassing heartfelt insights and absurdist humor, while incorporating a broad assortment of influences within compact song structures. The material ranges from the expansive, expressive songcraft of "Prairie Dog Town" and "In the Low Country" to the gently reflective introspection of "Invisible" and "Here We Are Again," with the album-opening "The Black Rats of London" offering a swaggering treatise on the influence of the rodents, insects and microbes upon key historical events. Such colorful moments help make Levitate a consistently compelling evocation of Hornsby's established abilities, as well as a substantial creative departure.
"I've always been about finding a place to express my interest in playing the piano within the pop song context," Hornsby explains. "But with this record, I felt like I'd done that enough, so this time I really wanted the focus to be on the songs. This record actually has a couple of songs that are under three minutes, which is kind of unprecedented for me.
"It's also my first record with no piano solos," he adds. "I tend to write long, lyric-intensive songs, and I also like to blow. But this time I thought, I've done that, and I really want to make this record more about the writing."
Beyond its distinctive musical approach, Levitate features the vibrant balance of sincerity and silliness that's long been a hallmark of Hornsby's songwriting. "As I get older, I tend to gravitate in my writing more and more toward the humorous," he says. "For years, I was sort of well known for writing love songs, but I stopped doing that a long time ago, because it's just not what I'm interested in now. But for Levitate, I actually wrote a love song, 'Here We Are Again'�"although it's a time-travel fantasy love song using the language of physics, it resonated for me as an interesting angle lyrically."