MAGPIE is a song Ben Leece has always wanted to write, but until now, he couldn't find the right words.
The single has so much emotional meaning for the ex-Quirindi singer-songwriter, that he's spent the past two years making sure the track is ready for the world to hear.
Magpie shines the light on a dark piece of local history, telling the story of 17-year-old Aboriginal boy Stephen "Whiff" Smith, who was mysteriously killed in 1995.
His body was found along the railway tracks between the small communities of Quirindi and Werris Creek.
Stephen and Leece were schoolmates a couple of years apart at Quirindi High School.
"I grew up a few years younger than Steve in Quirindi ... he was one of those older kids that would always look out for the younger kids, he was inclusive of people," Leece said.
The tragedy rocked the town at the time, but the true weight of what happened has really hit home for Leece in more recent years, "as much as any white person can understand these sorts of things", he said.
A coronial inquest found Stephen died of multiple injuries after being struck by a freight train rattling north in the early hours of October 5, 1995.
The case was reopened in 2018 and a fresh appeal for public information was launched.
Leece said as he's gotten older, he's come to believe things would have been very different if it was his body - a white man's - that was found.
"I guess you're always suspicious of something that isn't right but it's been more recently that I've been able to see it more clearly," he said.
Leece has gone back and forth consulting with the Smith family, to make sure Magpie was respectful and meaningful.
"I really want it to be about Whiff and his family ... it's not my story to tell," he said.
Leece said Magpie is not even close to justice, but it's a sign he won't forget about Steve, or give up on him.
"People just move to the next thing," he said.
"I guess my hope is to bring some attention to it and maybe inspire someone that knows something to come forward.
"At the same time it's nice to be able to pay tribute and honour someone as a friend."
Ben Leece's Magpie will be released on October 5.