This was the title track of the third studio album of Oregon-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Mat Kearney.
Kearney wrote this song while traveling in Turkey. He explained in publicity materials that this song "was born on a ferry as I crossed the Bosphorus River, which splits Istanbul in two as well as acting as an invisible dividing line between two continents. I was traveling with a friend celebrating what felt like victory after a five-year-long knife fight to establish myself as a new artist. I remember the water being dark and my friend turning to one side saying, 'Look! It's Europe,' then turning to the other and saying, 'Look! It's Asia,' then back again."
Kearney told CNN this "song is about worlds colliding, being that far away from home, and also longing to be with someone you love in that distant land. It seemed like a good cornerstone to build the record on."
Kearney told Relevant magazine that this track "fell down like a thunderstorm." He explained that it "was a song that seemed to exist before I wrote it. I was messing around with some minor chords with a friend and the song landed in our laps. I had been reading this Turkish author named Orhan Pamuck, and he was talking about a black and white city. I started messing around with that idea."
City of Black & White was co-produced by Kearney and Robert Marvin, who helmed the singer-songwriter's 2006 album, Nothing to Lose. It was recorded in 2008 at Blackbird Studios in Nashville. Jack White, Martina McBride and Nicole Kidman were working in neighboring rooms.