At the end of 2018, after a 12-year marathon scoring more than 250 episodes of prime-time television and a handful of films, I decided it was time for a breather—and a lot more cycling in the nearby Santa Monica mountains, which I’m very lucky to call home. But within a month the riding came to a grinding halt as I slipped and fell on a wet mountain road, breaking my collarbone and five ribs. Luckily, my head and hands were still intact.
Now what was I going to do? No longer able to escape on my bicycle, I decided it was time to finally work on my own music again, something I hadn’t done since my days in my band, Lazlo Bane. Soon I began writing music purely as a meditative exploration in inspiration and recuperation. Wake up, pour a cup of coffee, sit down at the small upright piano in my living room and just start playing. Like morning journal entries, the concept was to simply let the fingers and notes fall where they may and hope some happy accidents were captured on my little dictaphone. The only rule was to keep it simple and put it down before the inner critic in my head woke up. Then, if there was a simple melody, arpeggiation or motif that seemed to have a little special sauce to it, it was off to the basement studio to work out an arrangement and build a track. After finishing a few pieces I began to hear a common thread of new-day optimism emerging. It was as if I was literally scoring the sun rising up over the Santa Monica mountains. What would the new day bring? What possibilities lay around the corner with this new musical endeavor? My years of grinding away in the studio under intense deadlines and time constraints were slowly slipping away as a new-found energy and inspiration emerged and my bones slowly began to heal. Maybe I’ll call the album simply, Morning.
During this time I was also doing a fair amount of road tripping with my wife and young daughter. Living in Southern California means we’re only a day’s drive from some of the most beautiful parks in the world. While visiting Yosemite for the first time and slapping on the headphones to listen to my latest batch of musical ideas, it became apparent that what I was writing fit perfectly with the cascading waterfalls and spiraling stone cathedrals that framed the almost otherworldly beauty of the valley below. I began reading up on many of the parks, and I was amazed at their complex history of natural preservation and sometimes brutal culture displacement. I was disheartened by the effects of climate change and the government policies that now threaten the parks' very existence. The beauty and drama, triumph and melancholy all had a profound effect on me and went straight into the music I was writing. That's how an album that was originally going to be called Morning became National Parks.