The writing and recording of "Miss You Again"

I was walking along the deathly quiet streets of Lancefield, Victoria in early hours of the morning, unable to sleep. I remember feeling totally engulfed by the darkness - street lamps and car headlights flickering like candles in the distance, the moonless sky showering me with the milky way, the chill, still air cramping my lungs, the gravel cracking underfoot like someone's knuckles.

It was September 2007 and I was staying in a local motel near James' place. Except it wasn't a motel. It was the town's former hospital, converted into an eerie "B 'n B". I remembered how, the previous morning, I'd sat having breakfast at the former nurses' station with a bemused Hege and Lucia (who were sharing a room down the corridor), our spoons clinking against the chipped porcelain bowls on a mottled-green vinyl bench top, the musty smell still hinting at sterility, old people, dying people, isolation. No amount of jarring '50s decor, fake pot plants and billiard room lampshades could disguise the fact that this had once been a place where people came not because they wanted to, but because they had to. And that often, they didn't get to leave.

And so, late that night, when I couldn't couldn't stand another moment of staring at the old red "panic button" above my bed, I took a walk (as I often do in such cases). I rugged up, tiptoed down the corridor over the rose-patterned carpet (surely laid straight over "follow the green line" hospital lineoleum), past the garish chandeliers and funeral-parlour floral arrangements and out into the inky darkness.

I headed over to the petrol station and bottle store, both of which were still open, but reconsidered buying anything. Walking away from those lights felt like I was stepping into an abyss - my little torch cast a pathetic, narrow, yellow circle onto the gravel in front, but otherwise I was groping my way through oblivion.

Then this tune came into my mind; a waltz-like rhythm with a gentle sway; wistful, happy and sad at the same time; poignant. It was a folk/roots/country tune. Some words came with it, inspired by my surrounds: "When that old town falls asleep, when the moon has gone to ground, when the quiet of this place fades the smile from my face..."

By the time I got back to my room, I had the full chorus. The words didn't mean anything - they were random products of my subconscious. Yet they seemed so very appropriate. I pulled out my trusty old dictaphone and recorded it. Then I put it back into my suitcase, had one last, uneasy look at the panic button, then switched off the light.

Two years later I was walking into my house after work and I heard a song being played in the lounge. As I entered, I saw it was coming from my dictaphone and the kids were dancing around it. It was the song I wrote in Lancefield. I sat down immediately and started to compose a verse and bridge. Then I wrote the lyrics. All in under an hour. I wrote about an middle-aged man, sitting on his porch in some country town, reminiscing about a girl who had left many years before - and how life might have been had he gone with her. Needless to say, the story is not autobiographical. But I'm happy to say that the response so far is that the theme is universal and manages to touch a nerve with most folks. As my doctor is fond of saying, when older people look back on their lives, they don't tend to regret things they did, so much as things they didn't do. I'd like to think that I've captured the essence of that sentiment, and "bottled it" in this song.

I recorded another vocal demo of the full song using my new mobile phone, and forgot about it.

A year later I was sitting in Bill's truck and he was playing me his last album of country music. He was about to head off to Tamworth and was recording material for his new album. I asked whether he would like to hear my own country song, and I played him the demo on my mobile phone. He loved it and asked me to do a full demo.

And now, another year later, I have finally done just that.

After a few false starts (wrong tempo, wrong chord progression, me revealing my "hidden ambition" to have - shock horror - a key change at the end), we finished the song just before midnight. The product comprises the final takes of Jed's guitar and my vocals (sans, I'm glad to say, any auto-tuning).

If I could re-record it, I would redo my attack on the "wolf howls", correct one or 2 stray notes, and I'd breathe a little easier on the refrain. But that's academic. Jed again revealed his unique ability to "hear inside my head", replicating the "train track" stifled strumming pattern and the grand open chords and picking on the chorus. He also added a perfectly atmospheric reverb to my "wolf howls".

As I listen to the song now, it strikes me as simply astounding that the song I first heard in my head on that cold night in Lancefield has finally been brought to life - in exactly the form I had envisaged. I am profoundly greatful to Jed for making this happen.

So, here it is.

One day I might turn it into a story. Who knows?

Copyright © 2011 Dejan Djurdjevic