Man of the plains, why do you climb the mountain?
So I can see the plain better.
— Chinese saying
I began work on this, my fourth album, in late 2012 with the feeling that this would probably be my last one. The only idea I had about it to start was that I wanted to get as many of my friends to play, sing and record on it as I could. That felt right to me.
I found myself writing about things I was obsessing over at that time, particularly surfing and mountain climbing. I’d recently moved to the beach, so the first subject’s pull was understandable. But my deep dislike for both cold weather and heights made the other preoccupation kind of curious. I went with it, though, and both of those things turned out to have great influence on the album.
We started recording at historic Ocean Way Studios in Nashville in January 2013, and I returned again a few months later for another weekend session. I took a break in the summer to do some running for a charity I support, and to travel back to Wisconsin. During that downtime the album expanded, as “I’ll See You Again,” “Flowers Of The Sea,” “My Way Back To You,” and “That’s What Tomorrow Is For” were written and added to the pool of songs. When recording resumed in Los Angeles at Transcenders Studio with Mike Fratantuno, Southern Californian friends of all sorts dropped by to add their musical and sonic signatures. Work was completed not long after the new year with old friend Louie Stephens.
The name I chose for the collection comes from a particularly difficult route up Pakistan’s K2, the second-tallest mountain on earth. Mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner gave the route its name, reportedly remarking that it was a thing of great beauty, and also probably suicidal.
I painted the album’s front and back covers on 20” x 20” canvases. They hang next to my writing desk, in earshot of the breaking waves of the Pacific. And when I look at them, I think of the immense talents of my friends who so beautifully and vividly colored in The Magic Line — and I feel very lucky.
What’s next? Who knows. That’s the fun of it.
March 10, 2014
Huntington Beach, CA