"The song, out Feb. 22, is about "finding your way through that unsure ground as you grow up, and allowing your personality to mature with you," Vanderwaal explains.
The artist adds that the track is "special" to her because of how it was made. "I wrote the intro, chorus, and the second line, and then I stopped and gave up on it for a few days," she says. "Usually, if I'm going to write a song, I have to finish it then or I'll never be able to revisit it because I'm out of that moment and that momentum is lost. I thought I was leaving 'Stray' behind, and then the rest just popped in my mind later." (Bustle.com MARISSA DESANTIS Feb. 22, 2019)
“So, I was on tour, I filmed the movie and came back home and it was just weird, being in that world and like separate personality of myself for so long and then having to like really quickly go back to like high school normal stuff, and I feel like everyone, at that point of going up and going to school and stuff, it’s like everyone has a point where they feel like they almost like labelled their personality, you know. I found myself almost like wondering, what IS my personality? Who am I? I wrote Stray, kind of about that, and trying to sort of reconnect with myself, I guess. I hadn’t released anything for about a year, so it was a long time. My fans are really considerate for me, I feel it’s like different from other fans, because we are kind of like growing up together, so I feel like we are very close because we go through kind of the same things. But, everything that’s happened to me kind of perfectly let into Stray, and I think that’s why it’s so close to me, cause it’s kind of like about not anything specific, but about how I have been feeling for a while. Not just like a memory.” (Grace Vanderwaal Finds Herself in "Stray" Music Choice Feb. 25, 2019)
“Stray is kind of just about sort of finding yourself as you are growing up. Because obviously everyone evolves and changes and its just about staying in touch with yourself as you change and you know, not getting distracted. Most of the inspiration for this song wasn’t really about growing up in the industry but more about growing up in my personal life and balancing those two, ‘cause I think it was confusing for me, you know, with kind of like my “work”-personality and my “normal” personality, going back to school and kind of wondering where I fit in, you know? That sound like so cliché, but it’s how I felt. I am happy that it happened though, because I wrote Stray and it’s probably one of the closest songs to me that I have written in a while, which feels good.” (Grace Vanderwaal opens up about her struggles growing up on "Stray", Interview with Entercom, released Feb. 22, 2019)
VanderVault member Dennis Peloquin has tracked the production of the song: "Grace records in studio on or about August 25, 2018 ( https://www.instagram.com/p/Bm7QZsDg2_c/ ). The song is finished mixing and mastering on or about December 23, 2018 ( https://www.instagram.com/p/Bruo-LjFeAr/ ). The song is released on February 22, 2019 ( https://www.instagram.com/p/BuMLZ1HBwyR/ ). In this case the turn around time from studio recording to song release was six months." (Post by Dennis Peloquin on the Vandervault sep 22 2020)