While Switchfoot were tracking songs for Fading West they were also trying to develop musical beds that could be useful for the accompanying documentary of the same title, which features a behind-the-scenes look at the band, and follows its members to their surfing destinations. Frontman Jon Foreman recalled on Land Of Broken Hearts: "After tracking the drums and bass for every potential song on the record, Tim (Foreman, bass) and Chad (Butler, drums) would spend a few minutes jamming, utilizing the tones that we had developed for the previous song. A few of these drum and bass grooves were useful for the movie- but one of them quickly became more important than just background music. 'Say It Like You Mean It' was directly inspired by one of these jam sessions. It felt like a perfect accompaniment to Rob Machado's surfing in Bali - aggressive and distinctly stylish with a bit of an exotic flair."
Chad Butler recalled on a Spotify track-by-track: "We were – we were sort of – Tim and I were sort of working out the rhythm for this in the studio and just sort of jamming on that idea – that main groove. The song sort of built from the ground up."
The song's lyrical element came from Jon Foreman's own inner dialogue. He explained: "I want to be the same person on and off-stage. I am drawn towards the people I meet who do what they say and say what they do. This type of living shows a purity of thought and action that is increasingly hard to find. I look at the talking heads and the politicians and I wonder whether their words in the spotlight and their lives behind closed doors match up. Talk is cheap- Life is hard. This is an indictment for me and everyone else in the spotlight: 'You say it like you mean it, but we still don't believe it.'"