Road to Kalispell
Updated: Jun 3, 2021
For our family, all roads have led to one place—Kalispell, Montana. It had a place in our hearts, and in this song, Road to Kalispell, long before we were privileged to call it home.
I wrote this song on my guitar back in 1998 while sitting cross-legged on the tile floor of our home in Orlando, Florida. I'd never been to Montana, but our fourth child had just arrived and we were longing for a quieter, simpler life.
As I fiddled with the melody, I asked my wife Conna what I should name it.
"How about 'Road to Kalispell?'" she said, barely looking up from a Google search on her laptop where she'd already discovered our future dream destination.
When we first arrived in Montana to visit six months later, it was love at first sight. We returned to Orlando, put our house up for sale, packed all our things into a U-Haul, and headed down what turned out to be a very long, detoured, bittersweet, and providential road to Kalispell.
For now, it's our endgame. If you've been here, you know why.
This original recording is almost 20 years old. We'd recently moved to a log cabin in Condon, Montana, about 70 miles southeast of Kalispell. A friend had helped me turn the shop in our barn into an office and recording studio.
I shared the barn with our seven goats and had to do numerous retakes because of all the noise in the background. I was still learning how to record, so this cut is a little rough around the edges.
I tried recently to re-record it, but we all agreed the new version lacked the freshness and joy of the original.
One of the highlights is the bass line, recorded by my good friend Juan Portela from his home in Tennessee. Juan has a rich background in studio recording and performance, touring with artists like Vince Gill and Amy Grant. There was no recreating the warm, friendly hues of that fretless bass we both wish he still had!
This happy-go-lucky original represents warm memories that go way back to a barn with goats bleating in the background and my four children bursting in just as I was finishing a decent take.
It was frustrating then, but now it just makes me smile. I'd go back to that barn and to hearing the happy squeals of my young children in my studio in a heartbeat.
I performed it live for the first time before we'd even left Florida—with a fantastic group of friends, some of whom I've played with since college (Kim Deardorff, Larry Culey, Donna Cunningham-Beauchamp, Joey Forbes, and of course, Juan).
The next performance was for the wedding of our friends Mike and Jesse on a mountainside overlooking Montana's beautiful Swan Valley. Mike and Jesse have kids of their own now.
Our good friend Josh Thomas, who was just a kid when we first met him in Condon and is now a Navy intelligence officer stationed in Japan, did a Facebook cover not long ago. It made my day! I miss picking guitar and banjo with him and his family way back when.