"Every time I think of you, I always catch my breath."
That opening lyric to John Waite's "Missing You" is burned into the brain of anyone who listened to the radio in the 1980s. Now it's a country hit too, thanks to a new version with Alison Krauss tackling those famous first words.
"When I play it at home, I stop what I'm doing," says Waite. "I listen to it like it's a new song and I think that's the marvel of the song. It's reinvented into something else. For me to find it interesting again and really have my attention, that's the mark of the song. It's a very good song. It's not only a good song, but it's sung very well."
Here, Waite and Krauss talk about the first phone call, their mutual nervousness in the studio and why the "Missing You" music video might remind you of Farrah Fawcett.
CMT: John, what was it about "Missing You" that made you call Alison?
Waite: I was making a greatest hits record, and I was recording some of the songs that I've gotten known for to get them on one record. I got halfway through it and got to "Missing You," and it was redundant just to do "Missing You" because it's set in stone. My favorite female singer is Alison, and it came time to make the phone call and she said yes. It happened so quickly it was breathtaking. It was nerve-wrecking. It happened on the fly.
Alison, what was going through your head when you got that phone call?
Krauss: "What's wrong with him? What is he thinking?" Yeah, I was so excited to get the call. I have been a fan of his for many years, and my brother and I have had many phone conversations about how great he is. I never figured I'd ever get the chance to meet him or work with him.
Waite: I never thought she'd do it, so it was mind-blowing that she said yes.
John, there is a line in the song that says, "You don't know how desperate I've become/And it looks I'm losing this fight." Did this song come from a sense of desperation?
Waite: It was about trying to get on with the record. I'd finished the record that that song was going to end up on but I felt I was a song short, so I was still writing songs. I was trying to get home to England and I couldn't leave L.A. It was driving me up the wall, being there. I was trying to be a tough guy and get through it, which is what guys do -- denial.
Alison, what do you remember the most about making the video?
Krauss: You're not going to like this but I'm just going to tell it anyway because it makes me laugh. You remember the poster of Farrah Fawcett that everybody loved so much? It's like Farrah Fawcett calling you and going, "I'm going to take another picture and do a pose just like the last one, but I want you to be in this poster with me this time and then people can get that poster." It was a little surreal, from loving his music and the history. Everybody has the same story about that song. It was such a huge deal to everybody. I tell my story and everybody that comes up to him tells him the same thing that I say. It's a little surreal. I was like, "What? Something's wrong here! I'm not supposed to be here right now."
Were you nervous that you would not be able to do the song justice?
Krauss: Absolutely! Absolutely!
Waite: I never had any doubts at all. You were nervous and we had only just met. It was like the same day we met. I was surprised that you were nervous, because I was nervous just being there. But in the end, after about 10 minutes looking at the song, we walked in and destroyed it. It was really powerful.
Krauss: I was supposed to call and we were going to talk about what keys (to sing in). I kept procrastinating because I didn't know what to say. I was like, "What I am going to say to him about it?" My manager's like, "You need to call. It's been too long now, you need to call." "I don't know what to say about it. I don't feel comfortable. I'm not going to be able to sing it." I think I walked in apologizing: "I'm really sorry about today."
Waite: I thought you were going to bolt. I thought you were not going to do it. I kept saying, "Now, don't leave. Give me a shot."
Krauss: When the equipment failed I was like, "Oh, yeah, we've got another day. Yeah!"
Waite: We were in the studio and the board blew up. I was waiting for Alison to show up and the board, for like the first time in 28 years, blew up and I'm having a nervous breakdown. I'm already nervous about Alison showing up and then the board blows. ... It made me so worried. She was anxious and I thought, "I'm just going to have to kidnap her or something. She's got to sing this song!" Then we finally got to sing it and it was that good. It was just undeniable.
John, what do you think of the music scene in Nashville?
Waite: I love country music, and I did as a kid. I liked Western country, like cowboy songs, when I was a little kid. Then I developed a taste for Hank Williams and those sort of songs as I got a little bit older. But the blues and country are very important to me and the British thing is that it's all blues and country. We live for that stuff. Rock seems a little bit redundant now because it really is what country is. It's the voice of America and rock 'n' roll used to be that. Country was always in the background, but now it's the voice of the people. That's what the people want to sing, you know? I'm really thrilled to be a part of it.