The song was written by bluegrass singer-songwriter Gillian Welch and her musical partner David Rawlings. Welch recalled to Billboard
that Joel Coen reached out to the pair with specific instructions for the tune.
"He said they needed a duet between two singing cowboys, one the more established one and one the younger, faster, better-looking sweeter singer, and that the duet needed to be sung between them once one of them is dead," Welch recalled.
Welch added that she came up with the basic idea while driving across New Mexico on a cross-country trip. She ran it by Rawlings, it seemed to fit and they started working on it adding "a bunch of yodelling."