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Asher Roth on finding a way to win

4/23/2014
Amanda Edwards/WireImage

Rap artist Asher Roth still remembers clearly what it was like to stand on the pitchers' mound in a win-or-go-home Little League tournament game and find a way to retire batters without an overpowering fastball.

In a similar way, Roth made the sophomore album he wanted to make -- "RetroHash," which dropped on Tuesday -- without playing the record industry game by the old rules. He's releasing the album independently, having cut ties with his former label.

He calls the new album "very similar to getting traded to a new team that fits your skill sets a little better." That fits with how he characterized the record in an interview with CBS -- "genuine to who I am and a very real expression of self."

Roth is a fan of sports of all kinds, especially the San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers -- allegiances he inherited from his dad. "I was born with a Jerry Rice jersey and a Willie Mays rookie card," he says. But when it comes down to it, baseball is his game. And what he likes about the game is that success doesn't automatically fall to the strongest or fastest person on the field.

"What baseball allows is for the David Freeses of the world to be MVPs," he said. "These guys who are relatively no-names, the Marco Scutaros of the world, they're the ones that drive in the winning runs to win the World Series."

Roth had his own Marco Scutaro moment in Little League, when he was called out of center field as an emergency starting pitcher to start a tournament elimination game for his hometown team from Morrisville, Penn. It might as well have been yesterday, given the details he recalls about the experience.

"They brought me in because our pitcher's elbow was hurt," Roth recalled. "I'm kind of like a fifth starter, a sixth starter. And I was a little guy, man, I was 4-foot-7, 90-something pounds -- and I got called on in a game against Franklin (Penn.) and threw five and two-thirds innings."

How does a kid without imposing size or a blazing fastball pitch his team to victory? In this case, he empties the kitchen sink and throws breaking balls. Probably, too many breaking balls.

"I was just throwing junk," he said. "I threw a lot of curveballs -- and that's why I don't play baseball anymore, I was way too early throwing curveballs. I highly suggest young kids do not get into throwing junk."

Looking back on Little League, Roth calls it "easily the best time in my life. Easily. Not only that, it was the best relationships of my life. I was carefree, traveling around, playing the game with my friends."

Little League was a long time ago. But Roth says the lessons he learned playing the game -- confidence and focus chief among them -- have helped him forge his way in his chosen field.

"That's how I go about my business in the entertainment world. It's a lot of stuff coming at you at all times and it really is all about honing in and focusing and handling one thing at a time," he said.

In this case, it's taking control of his work and making the Internet a key aspect of the strategy, rather than something to fear. "(The major labels) are trying to find their place in the whole thing because obviously the freedom and the power is more with the artists and the musicians than it's ever been," Roth said.

"The first time I launched a song was on MySpace," he said. "I was a freshman in college when Facebook was introduced ... it's kind of cool to be cognizant with all these advances in technology ... that allow us to make a record and put it out that same day instead of putting out recordings that are two years old.

"If I have an idea, I can act on that idea and release that idea right away. Not only that, we don't have to commit millions of dollars just to do one idea at a time. You can do it like 'Hey, check this out, what do you guys think?' You get immediate feedback from your fans and that, to me, is a real luxury."