Odell penned this song during a dark time in his life. He explained to Artist Direct
: "It wasn't long after I signed my deal, I had actually split up with my girlfriend. I had a lot of time on my hands because I was trying to finish up writing the album. I'd do this thing where I'd go to my flat in London and I'd lock myself up for a day. I'd buy enough food, drinks, and cigarettes. I'd write as many songs as I could. I'd try different things, see what happens, and experiment."
"One of those songs happened to be 'Can't Pretend,'" he continued. "It lived on my phone for a long time. I recorded it on my phone, and I didn't really do anything with it. When I got to the studio, I heard it again and thought, 'This sounds really cool. Why don't I try it with a band?' It locked in a little bit more and felt quite compelling. I never intended for that song to be on the album. It felt more like just one feeling than a song. It worked so well live though and in recording that it ended up on the album."