The popular social creator — the fiddle player hugging the blowup doll — will lead the There I Ruined It octet’s fourth-ever concert Sunday in Fort Worth. Photo by Jessica Waffles.

The meta of music is forever changing — that’s the beauty of artistry. One can never quite predict which direction things will turn. Beyoncé is a country star, Luke Combs is a talented Black woman, and Taylor Swift is a Super Bowl MVP. In reality, all these people represent the dinosaurs of the industry, artists who create music. The next wave comprises those who seek to destroy it.

Enter: Dustin Ballard. Current Dallas resident and native Dentonite, he’s a creative director by day and an AI-wielding, homicidal music murderer by night. You might not know Dustin personally, but there’s a good chance that — if you’re active on the socials — you’ve been exposed to his work. The first time is an emotional experience. It was for me, when a friend recently shared dual scrolling screens, and the lyrics to “Baby Got Back” wafted over the music to “The Sound of Silence.”

And this is just one of Ballard’s myriad sonic Frankensteins. “Surfin’ USA” over “Hurt” by Johnny Cash and “Gangsta’s Paradise” with Elsa from Frozen showing all her thuggin’ origins are a couple of his other gems.


The name through which Ballard releases his mashups is There I Ruined It. A fiddler who performed a lot of Western Swing before the lockdown, Ballard also loves to tinker. His idea to mix popular songs in melodic hell has grown his profile to almost 1 million YouTube followers, and his Instagram and TikTok accounts boast 2 and 3 million followers, respectively.

Ballard said the initial remix run was just as simple as muting a music video and replacing the audio with his own instrumentals and singing but making the lips and actions match what the viewer heard but obviously in the wrong genre. He then took a Lady Gaga number, turned it into a polka song, and stuck it on YouTube. Then the rise of shortform media like TikTok opened avenues for the project to expand and for him to produce content more rapidly, as it was less demanding to put out an entire swapped or blended creation. “Instead of spending more than four weeks on a song, I could just play around with it.”

This led Ballard to experimenting with autotune, artificial intelligence, and other “fun ways to ruin music.” Since he ultimately wanted to play live again, bringing There I Ruined It to the stage seemed like the logical next step. Ballard noted the exceptional difficulty in finding musicians proficient in all of the different genres required to execute a show of this nature. “We jump between polka to Disney tunes to country to rock.”

The group’s performance Sunday at Tulips FTW will be their fourth total. What can we expect?

“People come to laugh,” Ballard said, “but they also don’t really know what to expect.”

He also said most people evidently think they’ll just be watching a person on stage mixing things. “In the first few songs, there’s kind of hesitant laughter, and then people get in the groove of trying to figure out what the joke is. It’s kind of like a puzzle to solve, and it’s been really fun so far.”

Making a 20-second TikTok and arranging songs for a live show are, clearly, two very different beasts. Ballard and his band rehearsed for over half a year before they were ready to perform their first concert, in Dallas in late January. They rehearsed for so long because Ballard said every single arrangement was a song that had never existed in that form before. In most genre-based bands, there are groups of standard songs that most musicians know, but that isn’t the case for the Ruined It octet. “It was quite an undertaking.”

Despite the “mostly traditional” form of the band, Ballard cryptically foreshadowed that concerts include a song with an AI special guest. “We play behind him or her. I don’t want to say much else and spoil it.”

Still primarily known for his social presence, Ballard said his posts are mostly based on trial and error and that he has a running list of songs and genres he’d like to try. “Nine out of 10 ideas don’t go anywhere. I also use the channel to test. If a clip really goes viral, then I’ll consider that as a full version.”

Local radio stations have grabbed ahold of Ballard’s blends as well and play them regularly, but the mixologist seemed especially perplexed and humored by the targeting of There I Ruined It in a congressional hearing on the dangers of AI. “They opened the hearing by playing my Johnny Cash/‘Barbie Girl’ mashup.”

There I Ruined It
7pm Sun at Tulips FTW,
112 St. Louis Av, FW. $15.