"You cannot sail for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore"
It's mostly everything but music that influences my songs.
I had been on a big COSMOS kick at the end of my touring with the Postal Service - the original series with Carl Sagan and all those amazing 70's animations and set designs. I decided I would write a record based on string theory and started jotting down notes about all the ties that bind us. In the mean time, the relationship I was in began to unravel. Literally like everything was tearing apart at the seams. It felt like a rip in the universe, and I felt entirely lost and unsure what I was supposed to do next, and even who I really was. I had stumbled on this quote from William Faulkner: "You cannot sail for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore." So I decided to have a little faith, to just let go and see what the road would bring me.
I put my dog, Charlie, in my car and we drove across the US twice. I started getting into Steinbeck's Travels with Charley, trying to find America if I couldn't find myself. And then I wound up in LA, writing away on the east side in Echo Park. I rented an apartment in a house with chickens in the back and felt like I might as well have been on the moon. Chickens in Los Angeles are more and more common these days, but still. It felt like an anachronism.
A friend of mine invited me to tour South Africa solo, so I said yes. I was in this whole mode of following the mantra, "If the Universe asks, say YES." And it somehow felt perfectly right that I flew down to Cape Town in July and it was winter, my whole world upside down and backwards. The stars in the sky were even unrecognizable. I had been to Australia once (on tour with Bright Eyes), but I don't remember the stars.
I decided to have a little faith, to just let go and see what the road would bring me.
Everything felt foreign. And also exactly right. I finally admitted that the ties that bind us aren't so cerebral. It's love that we're all trying and failing and occasionally succeeding at. And that's the thing we share, a secret language we speak with our eyes.
Working with producer Bradley Hanan Carter in studios in Nashville, LA, and even a makeshift recording rig in a dome home in the desert of Joshua Tree (back under more familiar constellations), the songs began to take shape. They were love songs, stretched wide as the cosmos. I let my On the Road adventure creep in, putting a little Kerouac into "Semantics" and even "Wildfire" as a tribute to everyone else as mad (and madder) than me.
When I woke up this past New Year's Day on a beach at the top of New Zealand where you can see two oceans meet, literally the day after we finished mixing the record, my journey felt complete. I can't say I solved anything or found any concrete answers. I just know that I'm not alone in my wandering around the desert, that all the lovers out there are doing it, too. Even if it's not a literal desert, but you're skimming your hometown lanes at night looking up at the same stars, asking the same questions. What are we looking for, someone might ask? Lovers Know...