After ending her California Dreams Tour, Perry stated that she intended to “live a little” before recording any new material that was “worth listening to”. When ex-husband Russell Brand left her on December 30, 2011, she felt devastated and contemplated suicide. Perry revealed to Vogue in June 2012 that she planned to record a “darker” album than her previous records. She stated: “It was inevitable, after what I went through. If I had a time machine and could go back in time, I would. But I can’t, so, you’ll discover another part of me.” To Interview, she admitted she aspired to include a more acoustic vibe to the record.
The development of Prism started when Perry was embarking on the California Dreams Tour. She began with a process she deemed “slow cooking”, which consisted of recording random “fragments of ideas” into her mobile phone’s dictaphone application. A member of Direct Management Group, Ngoc Hoang, then transcribed the audio files, which he inserted into what Perry described as a “treasure chest”; such object was consulted by Perry later on during the album’s recording sessions. While Perry started recording the album officially in November 2012, accompanied by Greg Wells and Greg Kurstin, she noted she was still in a “dark place”, and that she had not “let the light in”. The sessions began again in March 2013, following a trip to Africa which Perry credited as having “put [her] priorities in perspective”, thus leading her to “do more work on [her]self”. Perry also viewed a video made by Eckhart Tolle, which discusses loss. She commented: “When you lose something, all your foundations crumble—but that also leaves a big hole that’s open for something great to come through.”