In a new interview with The Wall Street Journal, Bruce Hornsby discussed the impending 50th anniversary shows that will see the surviving members of the Grateful Dead reunite with Trey Anastasio, Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti for three final shows in Chicago.
Hornsby admitted he wasn’t really “pitched” by any of the band members but said, “I heard that they were interested in me doing it and I was happy about that; I’ve had almost a life-long relationship to that music and that band, ever since I played in my brother’s Grateful Dead cover band my freshman year in college.”
On the preparations for the show, Hornsby said, “Hopefully Bobby, Trey [Anastasio] and I will get together and work on vocal parts and harmony sections. There’s so much great harmony in the Dead music. We’re going to rehearse, of course, before the shows. I’m sure there will be some preliminary work that we’re talking about. We’re probably going to be learning 60-plus songs or more.”
Hornsby also dished on his time with the Grateful Dead following the death of Brent Mydland, remarking that the music “felt really natural” to him and felt comfortable on stage despite the quick change. He credited a lot of his catch up work to bus rides with Jerry Garcia, saying, “Garcia and I would sit together and we’d just talk about music. He was really a walking encyclopedia of folk music. He knew the territory so intimately and deeply. He was basically giving me a music lesson every day. I thought I was fairly well versed in that music, but realized I wasn’t once I started hanging with him.”
The keyboardist also commented on the choice of Trey Anastasio for the lead guitar role, saying Trey brings “a great level of musicianship on the guitar.” He continued, “And also his having led one of the great bands of the last 25 years, Phish. He’s certainly a prime-time player. Whenever I see Trey, he has a joyful quality about his music making, a great exuberance – I think it’s infectious. That will be a huge plus with this band.”
Hornsby said he saw Phish at the Hampton Coliseum and called it a “transcendent” experience. “They have a really beautiful relationship with their audience, just like the Dead.”