Jackson Browne told Mojo magazine April 2008 about the album: "Late For The Sky was made very quickly, in about a month. I had moved back into the house that my grandfather had built when my father was just an adolescent (its name was Abbey San Encino; Browne's grandfather founded Abbey Press). I was newly a father, and I would look at my son playing in this house and remember being that age myself with my father. I wrote those songs, sitting in the miniature chapel my grandfather had built in this house, with a pipe organ in it and a choir loft. There was this kind of continuum, some kind of great metaphoric terrain there for me: I grew up there, moved away, but had come back to raise my family."
Browne says that this is one of his most personal songs. He told Mojo in 1997: "It's about a moment when you realize that something has changed, it's over, and you're late for wherever you're going to be next."
Browne recalled to Uncut magazine August 2010: "I had this one phrase, 'late for the sky,' and I wrote that whole song in order to say that one phrase at the end of it."
This song plays in the 1976 movie Taxi Driver during a scene when Robert De Niro's character, Travis Bickle, sinks into a dangerous depression.