My Process – Doing it Wrong

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This song is a true story.

But hold on a second; before I tell that story I have to do the disclaimer: This is not an attempt to change the way you interpret the song, just an attempt to explain what I was thinking about when I wrote it.

This song is a true story. If you’ve seen me perform it then you’ve likely heard me tell the story of how, when I was kindergarten, I did my “what do you want to be when you grow up” project about how I wanted to be Batman. And how when the other kids in the class showed up with their projects they were all real-life careers that you can actually grow up and be. And how I got all embarrassed and threw away all the work I’d done that I was super proud of. And how I wrote “FIRE MAN” on a blank sheet of paper and turned it in instead. And how, when I got it back from the teacher it said “=( TRY HARDER NEXT TIME” in bright red. That’s true. All of that really happened.

Here are the lyrics to the song:

I’ve got no regrets no matter the outcome
loving it’s just one of the perks
and it goes like this…

A little kid with a dream to chase
innocent with a grin you could see from space
couldn’t have been any older than five when
the class got our very first homework assignment
“And what do you want to be when you grow up?”
I was fine til the other kids showed up
with doctors and astronauts even people cleaning out the trash cans
not me I wanted to be Batman
suddenly that plan didn’t seem quite so brilliant
so I changed it to be like those children
then it seemed like the right thing to do
now I don’t even remember what I changed it to
just that even then I thought that it was lame
20 years later and it’s not what I became
I wish I would’ve let them thought I was a weirdo
’cause I still want to be a hero
and it goes like this

I’m gonna do what I want
I will never put anything but the truth in a song
I choose the route that my future is on
and I don’t care if I’m doing it wrong
You can do what you want
and eventually you’ll get to where you truly belong
where the ugly duck grew into a beautiful swan
and who cares if you’re doing it wrong

A grown man with a dream to chase
and a chip on his shoulder you could see from space
every day they keep raising the stakes
so no more playing it safe
I spent a lifetime trying to be a regular guy
but there’s already an endless supply
if you ever put your head to the sky and dreamt you could fly
then you know you’re expected to set it aside
and forget it ’cause it’ll never lead you on a safe path
but I really did quit my job to make rap
and I’m terrified
but not as much as I would have been
sitting in the same place wondering what could have been
if it works it’s ’cause I’m good at it
I’m good at it ’cause I put in the work
and I’ve got no regrets no matter the outcome
loving it’s just one of the perks
and it goes like this

I’m gonna do what I want
I will never put anything but the truth in a song
I choose the route that my future is on
and I don’t care if I’m doing it wrong
You can do what you want
and eventually you’ll get to where you truly belong
where the ugly duck grew into a beautiful swan
and who cares if you’re doing it wrong

Do what you love do it because you love it
do it ’cause if you don’t then you feel it in your stomach
do it ’cause if you don’t then you feel like you’re being punished
even if you never see a cent from it
do it for the feeling of doing it like nobody’s ever done it
singing it from the mountains and yodel it from the summit
shout about it louder than blowing on heaven’s trumpet
with the speakers up over eleven hundred
and it goes like this

I’m gonna do what I want
I will never put anything but the truth in a song
I choose the route that my future is on
and I don’t care if I’m doing it wrong
You can do what you want
and eventually you’ll get to where you truly belong
where the ugly duck grew into a beautiful swan
and who cares if you’re doing it wrong

This was one of the last songs written for the album and it almost didn’t happen. It wasn’t even a Malibu Shark Attack beat to begin with. Rocky originally made it with Adam WarRock in mind for his album, The Middle of Nowhere. But WarRock wasn’t able to come up with anything for it. Meanwhile, Rocky had given me a beat that I had an idea for but was never able to put down any words to. So with just a couple of weeks left before the album had to be done we switched. I took this beat and WarRock took the beat that would eventually become his song “Sticks & Stones.”

The first words I wrote for this song ended up being the last verse. It was one of those things where I was listening to the beat and the first line just arrived in my brain unbidden. Then the rest of the verse slid in behind it and I was kind of just sitting there dazed, watching it happen. Picture it as a rap-writing version of those high school movies where the unsuspecting kid throws a party at his house for a few friends and then the whole school shows up.

After sitting on that verse for a day or two and thinking about where to put it in the song and what to do with the rest of the beat, the verses started to form. I really, really enjoy symmetry in songwriting and I was listening to a ton of Myka 9 at the time. There’s a song on his 2009 album, 1969, called “Soul Beat” in which he writes all three verses in such a way that the first line of the first verse rhymes with the first line of the second and third verses. Same with the second lines and third and ALL the lines of all the verses. It’s seriously one of the most incredibly technical and impressive rap songs I’ve ever heard, which is saying a lot since this is the same person who made this song. Anyways, I wanted to do something similar (though infinitely less technical), which is the reason the first and second verses mirror each other in the opening lines “a little kid with a dream to chase…” and “a grown man with a dream to chase…” as well as each verse sort of giving a snapshot of a specific moment in my life.

The hook was the hardest part to write, because it had to tie everything together and I originally wanted it to be a simple sort of sing-along type of thing (which is why every verse ends with “…and it goes like this”). The problem with that is that I’m not very good at writing melodies OR singing. So I just wrote a rap hook, and I seriously think it’s accidentally one of the best I’ve ever written.

Ok, so. This rest of this one’s going to be a little different. The previous posts in this series have been about what I was thinking when I wrote the songs. This is going to be more of a retrospective on the last few months.

I’m going to be completely honest here. I started writing this post in August of 2014, which, had I completed it then, would have been right on the schedule I originally intended for doing these process posts. It was also just before I left to go on tour with my friends Mega Ran, K-Murdock and Doug Funnie to support my about-to-be-released EP, Crisis On Intimate Earths. That tour ended up being not quite a financial disaster, but brought me closer to it than I’d ever like to be again.

Here’s what happened: On the way to Dallas–and the last show with Ran, Murdock and Doug before going off to finish the tour solo– the timing belt in my car snapped. At 80 miles per hour on a rural Texas freeway. And since my car has a very specific type of engine, when the timing belt goes the whole engine goes with it. It was a rather extreme stroke of luck that I had three days off scheduled and an amazingly generous couple of friends that let me crash with them while I sorted out a mechanic to build me a new engine and a rental car in which to finish my tour. By the end of the whole ordeal, the expenses to tow the car, fix the engine and hire the rental came to about $3000. Fortunately, that was approximately EXACTLY how much money I made over the total course of my three weeks on tour. Unfortunately, that meant I was returning home basically empty handed.

Since that experience I’ve done several one-off engagements at cons and venues reasonably close to Atlanta, but I haven’t been back out on a tour. There are a lot of reasons for that–my wife and I just bought a house, winter is a slow season, among others–but I’d be lying if I said anxiety isn’t one. About the car. About turnouts. About being able to bring home money to help pay bills.

This winter was a particularly slow one and with all the extra expenses associated with buying a house, moving, the holidays, etc. I’ve had to start substitute teaching to bring in extra any income to supplement music. I’ve thought about going back to the library and asking for my old job. I’ve thought about going back to school and getting a master’s degree. I’ve entertained the idea that if I were to quit rapping forever right this second that I have pretty much accomplished everything I set out to do and would have very little to complain about or regret.

And so we get to the heart of it. That’s what I wrote the song about.

If I never perform another show, never write another song and give up music forever I will still have made some of the best friends I’ve ever had. Seen more of the world than I ever hoped to see. Met some of the nicest and most interesting people I could ever imagine meeting. And had the best two years of my entire life.

That’s obviously not going to happen any time soon. This is definitely not a retirement post. I’ve still got shows lined up and more in the works. Rocky and I just started working on the next Malibu Shark Attack album and I’ve got more ideas kicking around in my head than every before. And if I have to go back to working a full time day job to be able to keep doing music on the side I think I’m ok with that.

There’s another thing you’ve probably heard me say if you’ve seen me perform this song live: “There’s a line in the song where I say ‘I really did quit my job to make rap.’ And I really did quit my job to make rap. Which means the reason I’m up  here, the reason I get to do this at all is because of you. Thank you for that. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.” I mean it every time I say it. Thank you.

I’ve had several people tell me that this song is the reason they decided to more passionately pursue their dreams. For some that meant devoting more free time to it. For others that meant quitting a job. But for each of them it meant something. And that’s literally everything I’ve ever wanted. Thank you.

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About Tribe One

I am a professional independent rapper who writes songs about the important things in life: comics, video games and giant monsters.
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2 Responses to My Process – Doing it Wrong

  1. Tom G says:

    This song is awesome. I wish I had been a cool enough kid to want to be Batman when i grow up.

  2. Crystal says:

    Finally.. I heard this song a while back, maybe 3 years ago? Honestly I’ve been trying so Hard to search far and low all over the internet to find this song and the artist. I wanted to know more about it and I wanted to hear more songs from the artist. I love this song so much. It helps me with my dreams and I’m pursuing my dreams harder because of this. It means something. Something big to me. I’ve been waiting so long for this article/post. Thank you. Keep rapping!!! Make yourself known. You’ll make it big.

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