Strict Joy was the first album released by Irish singer/guitarist Glen Hansard and Czech singer/pianist Markéta Irglová since they won an Oscar for their duet from the Once soundtrack, "Falling Slowly. This story of a troubled romance was the first single to be taken from the album.
The album title was named after a 1931 book of poems written by Irish poet James Stephens. The pair are no longer in a relationship so as an inevitable consequence of their romantic split, only one track is a co-write. Of the other eleven songs, ten were written by Hansard. He told The Scotsman: "It would be very easy to say this record is about my relationship with Mar and to a large extent it is, but it would also be untrue to say that it's exclusively about Mar," he said, describing it as an "audio diary."Hansard added: "What I find most interesting about diaries is that the happy day is always blank. There's an idea that happiness is quiet and sadness is loud because stuff is created out of sadness. I guess what I'm saying is that when you need it, your instrument is often medicinal. You pick up your diary or your guitar when you are feeling miserable or reflective or when you're in that half-mood which I guess has a melancholic atmosphere."
Kacey Musgraves originally offered "Follow Your Arrow" to her friend Katy Perry. However, Perry thought Musgraves should record the song herself as it seemed, "like something that you would totally say."