Updated: Apr 20, 2021
To properly explain the lyrical theme of the Dragon release—which includes both the songs Dragon and Vanguard—first requires a little backstory.
The theme for my song, Oblivion (Panacea EP, 2019), was inspired by someone who struggled with self-doubt. This is something many of us will likely suffer through at some point, but unfortunately some do far more frequently. Despite regular evidence to the contrary, this individual often believed they were not good enough, incompetent, or would fail. That mindset was highly impactful even though it wasn’t a constant, everyday perspective. It was hard to watch that person struggle, but it was also rewarding to see them persevere. Watching them grow and overcome those challenges was amazing. Those experiences led to Oblivion being about overcoming self-doubt.
One weekend while experimenting with an early and rough version of Oblivion (I had only written music up to the first chorus at the time), I improvised most of the first few lines (That’s no way to be kind. Deny you in your mind. To love and to hope and conceive what I can never find.). I really liked both the lyrics and the melody. However, the use of “I” and “you” suggested two separate individuals, which didn’t really align with the idea I had. I pondered on that a while, attached to the lyrics, but uncertain as to how a second person might play a role, at least in the manner those lyrics indicated. As written, it almost sounds as though one person is telling another something specific about a situation. It could be a conversation between friends, perhaps. While that perspective could’ve worked, it didn’t align enough with what I envisioned, or what felt right for the song. It wasn’t until a while later I considered that we frequently refer to having a voice in our head. This is commonly used to describe intuition, but is also used to refer to the negativity one might have towards themselves. It was then I realized that both entities could be within one person, if the second were that fictitious voice of negativity. So, the lyrics evolved into being about an individual arguing with and overcoming a voice in their head that says they aren’t good enough.
After the radio success of Oblivion there was motivation and recommendations to release new music sooner than I had planned. I’d thought to wait two years before another release, but I’d generated momentum I didn’t want to fizzle. The recommendations given had been communicated in a way stating I should “follow-up” to Oblivion. That idea of a “follow-up” brings us to Dragon’s concept.
In addition to following-up with another musical release I thought it’d be neat to also follow-up lyrically. If Oblivion is about overcoming self-doubt, I considered what might come next. Well, generally after we get the courage to do something, we go do it. So, Dragon became about taking the inner strength found from overcoming the negative voice and doing whatever it held you back from.
My first idea was to find a specific thing to represent inner strength. I wanted a single word that invoked a clear, visual representation of strength and awesomeness. A couple weeks after writing the main guitar riffs I walked through my kitchen (it was one of those moments I went to check the fridge for a snack I knew wasn’t there, hoping it’d magically appeared since the last time I checked) humming a random melody as I considered the guitar parts. I’d just read a book about dragons (The Dragons of Nibiru) and, coincidentally, had just finished the last season of Game of Thrones (it wasn’t that bad!!). As I hummed the line, “I’m like a dragon inside”, came out. I found what I needed.
What surprised me around that time was suddenly how much more relatable Oblivion and Dragon became to me personally. I could see more parts of myself and my journey (including music, writing, and acting) within them as I’d taken more steps to put it all out into the world to be judged. Up until Oblivion I’d not really pushed my art. It’s always first and foremost been something I do because it makes me feel happy and fulfilled. But I was presented with the possibility that it could be that and more, and I had to consider what that meant. It forced me to consider my own fears and doubts. It made me think more about what I wanted to risk and achieve. I considered my own obstacles, both past and present, internal and external. I took time to recognize my successes, but also the times I fell, or the times I held myself back even though I might not have recognized it at the time. I had to confront my own little voice of self-doubt. In short, both Oblivion and Dragon unintentionally ended up being about some of what I experienced while writing Dragon and Vanguard.
When I started writing the lyrics for Vanguard I further considered the relationship between Oblivion and Dragon, and again asked myself what might come next. What could one do after they’ve overcome thier fears and doubts and tried what they wanted to try? What would I want or hope to achieve?
I’ve read a lot of material on personal growth, human behaviour, and culture over the last few years in an attempt to better understand myself and others, what leadership is, and to help find and create the path I want for myself. And while I obviously won’t find or know all the answers, I've come believe that one of the greatest gifts one person can give another is the encouragement and support to strive to become the best version of themselves. Such a thing can help us grow as individuals and as a society, and offer a chance to move beyond issues of the past and forward to better things. The people who do that for others can play many different roles, but they usually demonstrate real leadership (which is different than what is commonly referred to as leadership in many organizations these days) and have a desire to teach, amongst other admirable traits.
These thoughts on personal growth, leadership, and the future all fueled the lyrics for Vanguard. If the fears and objectives had been conquered in Dragon, Vanguard became about the evolution into someone who might lead and inspire others to overcome their own self-doubt. It is about a new path in the journey. A path with new fears and doubts to overcome. A path that touches and impacts the paths of others. So, in effect, the idea of all three songs is cyclical, branching out into the lives of others, repeating itself at each point of contact. Oblivion leads to Dragon, which leads to Vanguard, which leads back to Oblivion, then to Dragon, and so on. It comes back again full circle, presenting the individual with another opportunity to learn and grow, but also presents others with the same.
Even though I found my way through to completing Dragon, and overcame new doubts and challenges, new paths have opened creating new tests. I don’t have all the answers for these new tests yet, but I believe living with values and actions that might inspire others while I figure them out is a pretty good way to live.
We all have our own version of a Dragon within us. A gift we should feel comfortable giving ourselves and others is the opportunity to risk finding it and setting it free. I hope you find yours.
Thanks for reading.