Tedeschi told Billboard magazine that the Back to the River album was made quickly, though not necessarily by design. She recalled: "I did most of my tracks in two days. I had to 'cause I didn't have any time in July and the label wants it for fall, which is insane. I was free all those months - January, February, March, April I left open to make a record. The label kept putting it off and then finally they got behind it and everything started to flow, but I was already out touring." Despite being rushed the album debuted at #71 on The Billboard 200, the highest peak position of Tedeschi's career.
The lyrics to "Heartbreak Hotel" were written by a steel guitar player who was once a dishwasher repairman. He was inspired by a newspaper story about a man who killed himself and left behind a note saying only, "I walk a lonely street."