The song was written by Danny Parker, Jason Evigan and Ammar Malik. At the time the trio had no idea that Nick Jonas was looking for material for his self-titled solo project. "When we started 'Chains,'" Parker recalled to Songwriter Universe
, "we had zero intention of writing anything for Nick, which means we weren't consciously thinking about going in any specific direction. We kind of let the song go where it needed to. We jammed on some chords and threw out this vague concept of a wallflower, an outcast on the sidelines at a dance."
"That didn't stick, but we kept pushing through until the new story took shape," he continued. "Ammar said something like 'You got me in chains' and that was the catalyst. The chords kept morphing, and Jason started building a track around them."