The album's earliest idea spawned when children were running across the singer's rooftop in order to access the trains and spray paint graffiti on one of them. With 40 unfinished song ideas, the band composed 30 of these to be released as an album trilogy but decided against the idea, instead releasing a follow up (intended to be the second part) on 11 September 2015. Also planned that year is the go-ahead on production for a screenplay of the same name Jones is developing. British film composer David Arnold worked alongside the producers to compose three of the song's orchestral arrangements; the record is seen as a shift in the group's musical style as it incorporates cinematic-style music. Recording sessions were primarily performed at ICP Studios in Brussels, Belgium in order to concentrate more on the record.
The album was released to a critical success, being called one of their best albums to date; commercial performance contrasted however when compared with previous albums, selling over 300,000 copies in the UK and peaking at number three in the country's albums chart. It produced the band's best performing single since 2007, "Indian Summer", and was nominated for the World's Best Album in 2014. Graffiti on the Train was supported by a world tour named after the album from 2012–2013 and became the tenth most popular tour of 2013.
In November 2009, Stereophonics released their seventh studio album which attracted a mixed response from critics and became a commercial failure. Lead-singer Kelly Jones has blamed the low sales on Universal Music Group's choice to release the record during the time The X-Factor and other artists were releasing albums. After completing their world tour to support the album in 2010, Stereophonics took a break from recording and releasing an album every two years, resulting in the longest time gap in between two album release dates. Around this time their contract with Mercury Records ended, giving the band a chance to make a fresh start. During Christmas 2010, Jones had concerns that he wouldn't be able to write new songs. Jone explained to Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph that his writing references and influences are different from what they were in the past.
Writing for Graffiti on the Train started when Jones thought children were trying to break into his house via the roof. When he caught them one time they told him they were trying to get to the railway behind his house to spray graffiti on a train. The idea that they were trying to spray a love message on the train for a girl who gets the train every morning stuck with Jones and subsequently appeared in the title track. "Violins and Tambourines" was written as a narration of a troubled man who is struggling with his inner demons. "Been Caught Cheating" is a blues song inspired by the late Amy Winehouse. Winehouse was interested for Jones to send the song to her but he never did. "In a Moment" is about finding hope in life "when you feel a bit lost and stuck and you don't know how to get out of it and then there's a glimmer of hope that helps you pull through it," Jones told NME. With the exception of the second verse, the song is written in third person view. When being interviewed by Clayton Moore of The Marquee, Jones explained themes featured in the album are: fear, fearlessness and hope. He also stated the overall theme is "going over some very difficult obstacles and coming out on the other side a better man."