Busker HoF 62 – Chris Ballew Interview


This Episode proudly sponsored by:

This episode is proudly sponsored by Dolphin Creative – a company who is proud to support street theatre and all of the incredible characters who make up this world. Where ever you perform: Dolphin Creative salutes you! For more information please visit DolphinCreative.org – Huge thanks to Stuart and his team for sponsoring this episode and five more to come!

Episode Notes:

Comments: What is your definition of success? Popular culture and society seem to put a lot of pressure on all of us and especially on entertainers to REACH FOR THE STARS, but success is a very personal thing and defining what your version of success is seems like a pretty great place especially as a busker.

The parameters for success that Chris Ballew created for himself when he first started performing in the Subways of Boston were pretty simple. Make money from making fun music – do that and your a success. The fact that he also ended up riding the roller coaster of the FAME Machine as lead singer of the Presidents of the United States of America was definitely cool, but that ride also came with certain trappings and distractions that put his original mission statement into question – music for the sake of FAME vs. music for the sake of fun.

Linsey Lindberg connected with Chris via Skype to talk about his adventures on the street and the journey that followed with The Presidents of the United States of America and beyond with his current project, Caspar Babypants – which, by all accounts feels a lot a return to busking.

Bonus Images from The Interwebs with commentary by Chris:


This is the band EGG. We were buskers that played in the subway and on the street in Boston in the late 80’s until Billy Ruane saw us one night and started booking us upstairs at the Middle East. This photo is from one of those performances at the Middle East. Quite the amazing fashion choices I am making in this one!


This is a rare shot of me wearing the original babypants on my head! Mark Sandman on the left is the mentor that showed me the two string guitar and let me be the freak I was thereby helping me discover my true voice. We are playing live at the Green Street Grill in Cambridge here. I think this was at Billy Ruanes birthday party. 

03-youngI think this is in College. I was eating pretty badly at this time. Lots of potatoes and pizza and beer which you would think would have made me FAT! Still had that pesky hair on my head. Sheesh…am I ever glad that stuff went away.


Playing at Pink Pop in the mid 90’s!! This might be our first time there. Pink Pop is one of the first times we ever looked out over a crowd and literally could not see the end. A far cry from busking in Harvard Square in Boston for a tiny crowd. But the cool thing was that this crowd of hundreds of thousands was cheering for some of the SAME songs that I had played in Boston on the street! A very satisfying and validating experience.


On the roof of a Pioneer Square building in 2008 taking promotional shots for the album These Are The Goodtimes People. Loved that record. That was the first record that we made with Andrew on guitar and featured a couple of songs from the way back in the day busking times like Flame Is Love and Warhead. That batch of music just kept on giving and giving. 


Ho hum. The cover of magazines. HA! Funny but I really did get a bit bored with being in magazines whereas before I “made it” I would have been thrilled at the slightest mention in the tiniest zine. The time they are a changin’. Now I am super happy for the privacy of obscurity.


Ill advised shot for Spin magazine story on us. WOW. Nobody needs to see my scrawny CHEST! and Dave POOPING??? Jason is the only one that comes off smooth here. I used a basement bathroom as the destination for all the awards. This was shot at my house. 


AH! The bliss of finding my voice as Caspar Babypants!! Like a welcoming hug from a batch of old memories and ideas. Although probably not the end of the road of musical experiences (in fact I am making ambient music now! chrisballew.org) but so far the most rewarding and happy. This is shot in my backyard in Seattle with all my little helpers scattered about.

Extra Bonus Image of Linsey’s New Mic Set-up:


As described at the beginning of the Episode, Linsey literally hung a Yeti mic from her ceiling and strapped a pop guard to it to capture this interview. 

And finally – here’s the trailer to Brian Nune’s Documentary on the street musicians who play at Pike Place Market –

And thanks again to: Dolphin Creative for sponsoring this episode!


Find out more about Sponsoring this Podcast by emailing cbg@BuskerHallofFame.com

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