Bruce Hornsby Breaks Down His Collaboration-Heavy LP “Non-Secure Connection” Track by Track

The pianist discusses themes on his latest solo record, which features Justin Vernon, Jamila Woods, and Leon Russell.

The rollout for the latest full-length from rock pianist and songwriter Bruce Hornsby has been fascinating to watch—the diversity of the guest list on the project (Jamila Woods, Leon Russell, The Shins’ James Mercer, Antony and the Johnsons’ Rob Moose, and Living Colour’s Vernon Reid all have guest spots, while Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon gets a production credit) has been matched only by the disparate set of themes the songs take on: civil rights, hackers, porn, retail culture, and AAU basketball.

Then again, what would you expect from someone who played with Grateful Dead for a few years while also dipping his toes into the realms of jazz, gospel, and Motown over the years? The new record, Non-Secure Connection, is yet another testament to the musician’s diverse set of musical interests, as well as his competence in performing them. With the project out today, you can stream the record in full below, and read on to see what was going through Hornsby’s head while he was penning each track. 

1. “Cleopatra Drones”

A rumination on the positive and negative aspects of drones, with a little apocalyptic Biblical prophecy thrown in for fun and contemplation/conversation.

2. “Time, the Thief” 

The physics of time; displacement; possibly an atheist hymn.

3. “Non-Secure Connection” 

A song about a hacker; alienation, chromaticism, and code. 

4. “The Rat King” 

A song about a mall achiever and his possible dissatisfaction, a requiem about the gradual disappearance of this retail culture.

5. “My Resolve” 

A Sisyphean song about the ups and downs of the creative life, sung with a fellow climber.

6. “Bright Star Cast” 

A civil rights song, an attempt at writing a civil rights anthem, sung with a kindred, soulful spirit.

7. “Shit’s Crazy Out There” 

A song about dysphoria, specifically here in the Darwinian world of summer AAU basketball; also a metaphor for our crazy world now. Arnold Schoenberg and Elliott Carter meet The Beatles at the Boo Williams Sportsplex.

8. “Anything Can Happen” 

A Barry White–esque love song, written with a true soul man, one of my early inspirations, Leon Russell.

9. “Porn Hour”

A song featuring the language of la musique des oiseaux about unlikely innovators in the early days of the internet; musically it could be described as Messiaen meets Diggler (referring to the French avant-garde classical composer Olivier Messiaen, creator of the “Catalogue d’Oiseaux,” or “music of the birds”).

10. “No Limits” 

A song about neurological aspects of the elusive, fleetingly euphoric nature of creativity, with Steve Reichian minimalist piano.

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