This short, largely instrumental song is the title track of Florence + the Machine's third album. Written by Florence Welch with her bandmate and longtime studio right-hand-woman Isa Summers, the tune conveys the splendor of both water and the air. "'How Big How Blue How Beautiful' was the first song I wrote for this record, literally as I just came off tour,' she explained, 'and then I went off and had this incredibly chaotic year, and that all went into the record. But in the end, the feeling of How Big How Blue is what I came back to."
"The trumpets at the end of that song-that's what love feels like to me," Welch added. "An endless brass section that goes off into space. And it takes you with it. You're so up there. And that's what music feels like to me. You want it just to pour out endlessly, and it's the most amazing feeling."
The song was produced by Markus Dravs, who also helmed much of the rest of the record. "Markus has done a few Arcade Fire albums," Welch said, "and he's done Björk's Homogenic, which is a huge record for me. And I felt he had that balance of organic and electronic capabilities, managing those two worlds."
"And, you know, he's good with big sounds," she added. "And l like big sounds. And he's good with trumpets, and I knew I wanted a brass section on this record."
Florence + the Machine debuted the song during their London concert on March 4, 2015. Florence Welch told the crowd that the track was recorded in LA, "on that day I got you [pointing to collaborator Isabella Summers] that outfit and we dressed up as Prince."
She added, "It was the first song that was written for How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful and it means a lot to me. It's incredible to be able to play it for you for the first time."
When Florence + the Machine performed the tune at Coachella, Florence Welch introduced it by saying that the song's title was inspired by the Los Angeles skyline.
Welch told Radio.com
the use of horns on How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
was influenced by hip-hop luminary Missy Elliott. "One of the first demos that we did for this record, the song didn't actually end up making it onto the record, but it was the first song that I made because I wanted to use horns," she said. "I was singing a trumpet part because I was listening to Missy Elliott's 'Sock It 2 Me' and that trumpet line was so important. I ended up singing that trumpet line under this crazy song I was making about witches, and then singing other trumpet parts. We were trying to figure out how play trumpets on keyboards and it's super hard, you can't do it. That song didn't make it, but the trumpets made it onto all kinds of other songs."
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart with 137,000 album units. It was the first US #1 longplayer for Florence + the Machine. (Lungs peaked at #14 in the US, while follow-up Ceremonials reached #6.)
The song's horn outro was scored by Will Gregory of Goldfrapp.
Florence Welch told The Observer that many of the songs on How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful were written while she was "exploring Laurel Canyon, listening to Neil Young in cars, staring at the Los Angeles sky."