Writing and recording

Verraros first began working on the album that would become Rollercoaster in June 2003 and finished it about a year and a half later. He and Lopez wrote around thirty-five to forty songs and selected eleven of those to include as tracks on the final album. Angela Peel, who placed in the top thirty of American Idol's first season, co-wrote four of the album's songs and provided backing vocals, while Lopez received writing credits on all of the tracks (Verraros is credited as a co-writer on seven tracks). Lopez played several instruments on the album and is credited as the producer. He also provided backing vocals. Rollercoaster was produced on a budget of $3,500.
Verraros explained that the title Rollercoaster is a reference to the emotional highs and lows that he had experienced throughout his life. He also attributed the title to the album's mixture of "dancey upbeat songs" and "romantic, soulful ballads". In several interviews, Verraros cited George Michael as his primary musical influence. He also drew inspiration while working on the album from Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, Prince, and Green Day. Rollercoaster is a pop rock album with a dance component. The Windy City Times described it as a blend of "smoldering rock and funky pop".
Verraros said that he wanted Rollercoaster to be "edgier and sexier" than most albums that had been released by other American Idol participants up to that point. Contrasting himself with Clay Aiken, Verraros said, " very much a cookie cutter image of what's very safe, vanilla and that's not really me." Verraros noted that while people who win American Idol tend to be "box" into recording music with mass commercial appeal, his own lower placement in the competition allowed him greater freedom with artistic risks.
Recognizing that his chance to record Rollercoaster had been granted, in large part, by his reality TV show fame, Verraros said that he "had a lot to prove" on the album. Rollercoaster's release strategy depended upon word of mouth, particularly within the LGBT community. Verraros said that the gay press "really carried" him, but also expressed regret that the album received niche marketing, saying in a 2006 interview, "It's just become very gay-focused...they were going to capitalize on the gay market and 'we're going to get you in the gay clubs and we're going to do it gay, gay, gay.' And I was like, 'My album isn't really all that gay and it's totally mainstream, top 40. A lot of girls will dig it too. So that's kind of stupid but just do it.'"
Lyrics were written without the use of pronouns, so as to appeal to both gay and straight listeners. Verraros called "Outside" the most personal song on Rollercoaster, as well as one of his favorites, and explained that the lyrics are about gay bashing. Another song on the album, "Welcome to Hollywood", was described by The Advocate as " post-Idol reality check". When asked about the song, Verraros described Hollywood as a "seedy" place, filled with people trying to "get ahead in life". In a separate interview, he said that he had "to constantly question other people's motives" while living in Los Angeles. "You're Getting Crazy" and "Hold On" were also singled out by Verraros as two of his favorite songs on the album, the former for its "beat" and the latter for its romantic tone.