For those of you who might have missed it on Armadillo & Sands I used to be in a hard rock/metal band called Social Fallout. I was the lead singer and lyricist for the band. Typically, the way our songwriting would work is that the guitarists, Robb and Tim, would come in with riff and as a band we would form that riff into a song. Sometimes I would write my lyrics as the rest of the band was crafting the song, other times we’d make a rough recording of the song that I would take home.
In the case of “How Happy Am I?” the song was actually crafted around a bass riff. Our original bassist, Jim Massey (who went by Jim Nasty because he swore that he couldn’t have his real name out there because I mobster-type was after him for sleeping with his girl), brought in the riff and we went right to building the song around it. The entire song was written in one practice session. It was the first song we ever wrote together. Jim wasn’t too happy with the finished product; he envisioned the song that would spring from the riff would be much heavier.
The melody to the song came to me almost immediately when I heard the bass riff, as well as the lyrics, “How happy am I.” I then crafted the lyrics around the idea of what people perceive when they see people in need. I felt, and still feel, that we put too much focus on what people will do with the help that we offer, than we do on the fact that we at least did something right.
The line, “How happy am I/ To feel dead inside/ When I give you life” deals with the idea that there must be something wrong in my life that prevents me from being able to find the joy in helping another human being. There is a certain duality to the speaker of the song. In the verse the speaker refuses to help, in the chorus they question their own willingness to not help someone who appears to be in need, and in the bridge (“Why does it matter/ As long as I do what’s right”) they realize the error of their decision.
This isn’t my favorite song that we wrote together, but I do think it was one of the most commercially viable. Being our first song, we didn’t write it with the concept of making something that was “radio friendly” or anything like that; we never had that in mind throughout our short “career” as a band together. This did feel to me like it could have been a single though. You can hear the originally recording of the song from our album Chapter 1: Peaceful Aggression below.