The title of this song comes from British poet Stevie Smith's 1957 poem Not Waving But Drowning
. The poem is about a man who drowns because bystanders mistake his distressed thrashing in the water for waving.
Loyle Carner explained to The Observer
that after re-reading the work while writing his second album, he found a strong personal resonance.
"I see myself in it," Carner said. "Because I've had some small success, moderate, tiny success on the grand scale of success, but enough that people think I'm going, 'Look at me in my new house with my beautiful girlfriend'. And, sometimes, especially when the album process was beginning, I was drowning! And everyone thought I was hanging out."