Gotye revealed in an interview with Rolling Stone Australia that he initially battled with his demons while writing and recording Making Mirrors. He stated: "There were points that I thought I wouldn't be able to finish a record I was really into or that I'd give up at some stage." Gotye's struggles are the subject matter of this song, which was written during a time when he'd sunk into a deep depression.
Eddie Vedder often changes the words when he sings "Yellow Ledbetter." The basic story is about a guy whose brother dies in the first Gulf War. Apparently, bad news in the army is given in yellow envelopes.