Mick Jagger and Keith Richards collaborated extensively on writing and composing the song, which was recorded in late 1977. A bootleg version with Richards singing exists. The Stones, longtime country music fans, incorporated many aspects of Bakersfield-style country music into this song. These included in particular Ronnie Wood's use of a pedal steel guitar for a solo and highlights, an instrument used on other songs from the album like "Shattered" and "When the Whip Comes Down." Also of note is the plodding rhythm of Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman. Richards performed acoustic and electric guitars as well as sharing piano duties with Jagger.
In the lyrics, the lowliness of life and the possibilities in finding love are dealt with:
So if you're down on your luck and you can't harmonize/Find a girl with far away eyes/And if you're downright disgusted and life ain't worth a dime/Get a girl with far away eyes.
The verses of the song are half sung, half spoken, with Jagger using a parodic Southern American English accent:
I was driving home early Sunday morning through Bakersfield/Listening to gospel music on the coloured radio station/And the preacher said, 'You know, you always have the Lord by your side'/And I was so pleased to be informed of this, that I ran 20 red lights in His honor/Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord.
In a 1978 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Jagger said, "You know, when you drive through Bakersfield on a Sunday morning or Sunday evening - I did that about six months ago - all the country music radio stations start broadcasting black gospel services live from L.A. And that's what the song refers to. But the song's really about driving alone, listening to the radio." On influences, Jagger stated "I wouldn't say this song was influenced specifically by Gram (Parsons). That idea of country music played slightly tongue-in-cheek - Gram had that in 'Drugstore Truck Drivin' Man', and we have that sardonic quality, too." Asked by the interviewer if the girl in the song was a real one, Jagger replied, "Yeah, she's real, she's a real girl."
The Rolling Stones have performed "Far Away Eyes" sporadically since its introduction to their canon of work, most recently on the A Bigger Bang Tour in 2006. A captured performance appears on the 2008 live album Shine a Light. On May 20, 2013, it was performed in Los Angeles as part of their "50 & Counting Tour."
The official promotional video was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who directed several other videos for the band, including those for "Start Me Up," "Jumping Jack Flash," and "Fool To Cry." Lindsay-Hogg also directed promotional videos for The Beatles and The Who.