The nearest Machine Head have come to a folk song, the band's frontman Robb Flynn wrote the track in 40 minutes the day after the US presidential election. Speaking to the That's Not Metal podcast, he said:
"It was based on a conversation that I had with my kids. And it was a very difficult, complicated conversation, and I was really affected by it. And I just sat down the next day and started writing. And, basically, the first half of it, at least, is based on that conversation. And then it just went on. And then I went into my own thing and it literally just vomited out of my brain in order and in sequence, and when it was done, I was, like, 'Woah! Holy s--t! I'm saying some s--t here.' And I put it up on YouTube a few days later, just as an acoustic folk version of it, basically - no band; just me and my acoustic guitar. And at the time, I felt that was it - that was gonna be the end of it. And I got it out, it's done. And I thought in my head, I always kind of heard a band way that we could do it, but it was just, like…
We had just started writing [for the new album], and I didn't wanna go into this. I wanted to just get some metal - kind of set the tone: 'Let's get some metal songs.' And we did, and then we got to a point where we started playing it as... you know, recorded it kind of separately, kind of pieced it together, 'cause it's a pretty big arrangement - there's a lot going on. And when I had my buddy come in and put on a Hammond organ, and when it got to that Hammond organ part, I got goosebumps. I was, like, 'Holy s--t! There's something special here. This is a game changer for us. And I know it's way out of our wheelhouse, but we've gotta f--king roll with this.'"
Rob Flynn told Metal Hammer how the song came to be the centerpiece of the Catharsis album.
"There was no plan to put it on the record," he said. "Machine Head has always had empowering songs, but that whole idea of stand your ground, don't let the bastards grind you down, kept on popping up in all these other songs - 'Catharsis', 'Hope Begets Hope', 'Eulogy' - and it became this tie-in [on] the record. Even though the band hadn't played a band version of that song, at that point, it started making me think we should try a band version, and I wanted to tune it to F because it sounds f---ing heavy, and in some weird way it became the centerpiece of the album."