Big Sky of Sapphire Blue

Big Sky of Sapphire Blue

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I remember a young, wide-eyed songwriter flying into Nashville for his first “real” demo session. He had never before set foot in a Music City recording studio. He didn’t know any of the musicians, or the singers, or the engineer involved. He had yet to even meet the man responsible for coordinating the entire event. Every face, every name, everything was new.

The man who took me under his wing when I landed here, who became my close friend and songwriting “guru”, was Jim Rushing. A few years ago, Jim decided to move away from Nashville. All the way up to The Bitterroot Valley of Montana. As he told me of his plans, where he was going and why he was moving, I jotted down bits and pieces of our telephone conversation in my notebook. It’s “between the Bitterroot Mountains and the Sapphire Mountains”, he said. Before we’d even said good-bye, I began writing this song.

There was no big idea or plan for the project it became. Just a song. One that had been writing itself over the past seventeen years, give or take a year or two. One I wish had waited a little while longer for a reason to be born. But after the song was written, I was glad for the opportunity to play it for Jim. It seemed the perfect way to let him know how much he had encouraged and inspired me through the years, and to thank him for his impact on my life and my career.

I knew there were others who would welcome the chance to tell him the same thing. So I called a few of our old friends and told them Jim was moving. Chris Leuzinger, Larry Paxton, Gary Smith, Steve Turner, Biff Watson, Melodie Crittenden, and Randy Best each donated their time and talent to record Big Sky of Sapphire Blue. Pat Higdon, Senior Vice-President of Universal Music Publishing, gave us a couple of days to “play” in Universal’s recording studio, and Alan Mayor dropped by to photograph the event.

The only people involved in the Big Sky project who are not directly connected to Jim Rushing are my good friend Mark Stacy, who graciously helped me “master” the recording, and Mark Gutow, who gave me permission to use his beautiful painting of the Bitterroot Valley on the cover of the cd I gave to Jim.

I hope you like the words, and I hope you enjoy the music. But above all, I hope you feel the admiration and respect everyone involved in this recording shares for our good friend who is greatly missed. It’s there within every line written, and every note we played and sang.


Chris Leuzinger – Electric Guitar
Larry Paxton – Bass
Gary Smith – Keyboards
Steve Turner – Drums & Tambourine
Biff Watson – Acoustic Guitar
Melodie Crittenden – Background Vocals
Wayland Patton – Lead Vocal

Recorded at Universal Music Publishing Studio
Randy Best – Recording Engineer

Mastered at Downstairs Sound
Mark Stacy – Mastering Engineer

Cover art from the painting Bitterroot Valley by Mark Gutow


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