Neal Morse

Blue Ocean is one of the songs that is derived from ideas that I wrote with Steve when I went to his house in Florida several years ago. Of course, there were many changes once we started working on it amongst the five of us. Steve and I were just jamming, I remember, in the room with a drum loop running and trying different things.

I recall Steve coming up with the chords for the B section; it just flew out of his hands in a second, and I was quite a ways behind, trying to figure out what those chords were! Casey sounds really good on it, and I’m happy with the way turned out.

Fan Questions

Andrei Aciobanitei: Who came up with the vocal melodies? Is it Casey and Neal? They just blow my mind. Melodic pop/rock/prog at its best!

We all worked on them together. I suppose Casey and I took a front seat in that department, but all the guys had melodic ideas as well. Glad you are enjoying them!

Max Byrne, Victor Onink: What are the lyrics about? They sound spiritual to me?

Casey and I are both Christians, and we wrote most of the lyrics so, most of the lyrics are about spiritual things. But, for myself, on the FC record, I also wrote from different conversations I’d had at the time on different topics…I’m thinking of “BETTER THAN WALKING AWAY.” I was thinking about a talk I’d had with my Mom…so all kinds of different things can factor in when you are writing. But, primarily, we were writing about our experiences with God.

Casey McPherson

I worked hard on the chorus, because the nature of this verse was so different for me. It has this kind of magical thing to it…like a journey to a castle while on a mighty steed (for all your larpers out there.)

Neal wrote most of this beautiful melody; Steve and Dave created the cool, almost metal country musical motif’s that float through it. Vocally, I drew from some 60’s vibrato for the chorus, some late 70’s early 80’s white soul, and tried to stay out of the way of the amazing musicianship that was happening in the song!

Fan Questions

Victor Onink: Where did the lyrics come from? I really like them and they fit well with the song but how did the ideas come about? Neal and i would riff alone, then tey and find a common theme…

Casey: The came primarily from Neal and I. Some were character pieces, some were esoteric descriptions of our own experience..

Max Byrne: What are the lyrics about, they sound spiritual to me?

Casey: They are, Neal and I both dig into that in our personal lives quite a bit.

Rocko Guerrero: Where does “The city made of glass” refer to?

Casey: For me, It refers to heaven.. an attempt to describe that moment of perfect bliss, perfect peace, and perfect belonging…

Mike Portnoy

I always knew Blue Ocean would be a great album opener, and because of that, I remember having the idea of establishing the sound of all 3 vocals at the start of the album in this first song. Casey and Neal switched lead vocals on the verses and pre-choruses (Casey on V1 & PC2 and Neal on V2 & PC1) and then all three of us sang on the choruses and bridges.

I also had the idea of using the studio chatter to open the song/album in order to establish right away that this wasn’t some fly-by-night project done through email, but rather a REAL BAND working together in the studio to create something special that could only truly happen by human interaction and collaboration. (And I wanted to get Peter Collins’ voice in there as well!! Haha…)

Dave LaRue

Fan Questions

Niek Van de Pas: Who came in with which parts, ideas or concepts for this song?

Dave LaRue: Hey Niek, it was a while ago, but there are a few things that stand out to me. First, Steve and Neal had written most of Infinite Fire before we started the band. much of what they had done remained in the final version, although there were some parts dropped and others added during the band writing process. Another thing I remember is Casey playing the 7/4 part (verse) of Kayla for us. That section provided the jumping off point for the rest of the tune. Neal had some nice progressions written, I believe they were the basis for “Better Than Walking Away” and “Fool In My Heart”.  Steve came up with the middle section of “Love” in his hotel room one night, and he also wrote the licks for All Falls Down on the last day we were in the studio. Those are just a few things off the top of my head, and I may not be totally accurate. We were working at a frantic pace, and ideas were flowing rapidly and being tried and thrown out just as fast.

Sebastián Luna: Do I hear some Queen’s “Breakthrough” influence on the bass track or just coincidence?

Dave LaRue: Hey Sebastian, we have all been influenced by Queen to some extent, and their presence can certainly be felt at times on the record. For me, however, Blue Ocean was not really one of those times. I must admit that, not being a huge Queen-ophile, I am not that familiar with the song Breakthrough.

Steve Morse

When Neal agreed to come down to my place for a day and a half to see if we could write together before going any further, I had no idea how fast everything was going to move. I normally can keep a fast pace, but I often had to say to Neal, “Hold on, let me try some different fingerings and develop this a little bit more…” He moved quicker than anybody I’ve ever worked with in a writing session.

We would have literally forgotten a lot of what we did, but luckily we made memo recordings as each idea was changed, or introduced. It turned out to be an hour and a half of recording, I think! Lots of song ideas…

On the tape, listening the next day, there was something very special about how we were working together. I remember stopping to try to make a more unusual voicing of the pre-chorus, with weird inversions that gave us a nice bass movement. Neal was so free and open that he would sing, talk, and make up lyrics as we were making the little musical memo recordings. His vocal melodies were so good that they remained for the verse and pre-chorus.

When Casey, Dave and Mike took on the tune, it came alive and of course, there were changes, etc. This was what I wanted from the beginning…people bringing in nothing more than just an idea, so that we could, as a band, change it to fit. I think the guitar and bass riffs were solidified then, and Mike, Casey and Neal started singing that ending part that is the title of the tune…it sounded so great!

They wanted me to stretch a little bit on the solo, and I tried to not sound too “Nashville” on it, but it was hard, since I love Nashville guitar players, and we were at Neal’s studio in Nashville with a great engineer! I later redid the solo in my studio…

I love that Mike wanted to keep the loose, live feel of the beginning on the record. It was a fun and exciting 9 days, and this song intro, with the guitar copying Neal’s ad lib on the piano, is the exact take that we made the day we finished writing and arranging it all together.

Fan Questions

Jon Kramme: Was Steve’s reference to Nashville guitar referring to Nashville tuning or the style/vibe of Nashville guitarists? Was the shift from the propelling feel of the verses and pre-choruses to the half-time feel of the choruses present from the beginning or did it develop as the song came together? It’s slightly reminiscent of Misson or Marathon from Rush and adds a nice twist to really set the sections apart from each other. 

Steve Morse: Jon, I was referring to the style and vibe of of the way that the pickers solo. I still love to hear those incredibly tasty Nashville solos. I can only slightly emulate them, but I was thinking that way for the very begining of the solo, then as usual, got sidetracked in something else! The feel change at the chorus may be more of Dave and Mike shifting it by removing the busy pattern at that point. I’m very comfortable with those kind of chord stabs with upbeat anticipations so it’s totally in my nature. Neal, too, since we both worked on that together.