Like the other 5 new songs on the Exile on Mainstream album, "These Hard Times" was written by all 4 members of the band. This was a fundamental alteration from their previous albums when frontman Rob Thomas had operated as Matchbox Twenty's songwriter and musical catalyst. Guitarist Paul Doucette told the Fairfax County Times how this was a refreshing change of approach: "We all feel like we listen to the 6 new songs that are on 'Exile' and we're like 'Yeah, I totally hear me. Whereas in the past, you're fighting so hard to get your ideas across. You're maybe fighting too hard because you just want to get your ideas heard, and it's not necessarily what's best for the song or what's best for the band. It's just about ego. And I think that we've kind of lost that. Our egos, we finally learned to check them at the door."