Rocker digs playing for pint-sized audiences and their parents
July 18, 2012
By Sebastian Moraga
Caspar Babypants will perform in Snoqualmie Aug. 4
The crowds are smaller and shorter. The music is sillier and the smile is bigger.
Once a constant visitor of the heights of rock-stardom, Chris Ballew now plays libraries, parks and community events, loving every minute of it.
The crowds of thousands are gone, and so are the politics of being in a band, said Ballew, lead singer of the Presidents of the United States of America, who now works as children’s entertainer Caspar Babypants.
“Having no ego involved in the recording is the greatest freedom in this new way of things. To be able to erase an entire guitar part without having to explain it to anybody,” he said.
Babypants performed July 12-14 at the Day Out With Thomas event in Snoqualmie and will return for two shows at Sounds of Snoqualmie at 1 and 2:15 p.m. Aug. 4 at Centennial Fields. Ballew’s band was known for its unusual themes and lyrics. He has taken that to a new level now as Babypants, with songs like “Butterfly Driving a Truck,” “My Flea Has Dogs,” and “Googly Eyes.”
Unlike the bulk of children’s entertainment, his songs are high-quality pieces, with great sound, and an energetic lively mix of melodies, from country to rock and jazzy tunes.
“Caspar Babypants is one of the few children’s recording artists I can listen to without wanting to stab myself in the eyes,” singer ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic is quoted as saying on Babypants’ website.
Ballew attributes the quality of his songs to his newfound freedom as a solo performer. He does everything from promoting to composing, recording and mastering.
“I am making albums all by myself and I let myself be very experimental and ruthless with my choices,” he said. “If I want to use just violins and bass, I can do it.”
With the Presidents, Ballew played a variety of music genres, but now he’s free to try out things like remaking folk songs from the 1800s and 1900s, prison songs, spirituals and early blues. It may not be the Stooges, the Beatles or Led Zeppelin, which influenced the Presidents, but it works for Caspar.
He first recorded as Caspar Babypants in Boston in the 1980s, making a couple of cassettes of what he called very experimental music.
After the Presidents peaked and he decided to turn to children’s music, he got the old alter-ego out of mothballs and began his new career.
“Probably some people out there think it’s ridiculous and stupid,” he said of his move from rock to kiddie pop. “I’m not serving them. I’m serving the parents who need good music to feel more connected to their children.”
Even when composing and recording for the Presidents, Ballew said, he had clues that he should be in children’s music instead.
“Some songs didn’t feel complete, didn’t feel fully realized.” He said. “Now, I’m cracking those songs back open with the new perspective of kids’ music and a lot of them are coming back to life.”
The Presidents still do a few shows every year, but Ballew said he believes that that’s as far as the band will go.
“We will never break up, but we will never make another record,” he said. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword. You never say never, but that’s kind of where my mind is right now.”
In the meantime, he will keep writing and singing for toddlers, all using a DIY approach that keeps him busy and delights him at the same time.
On the Web
Check out Ballew’s songs at www.babypantsmusic.com