KIRO Radio's Josh Kerns talks local music
Seattle Sounds
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Chris Ballew (l) and The Presidents of the United States of America hit the road next month for a rare U.S. and Australian tour. (PUSA image)

From Presidents to Babypants, Seattle's Chris Ballew rocks all ages

Like a candidate who promises term limits but then jumps back into the race, The Presidents of the United States of America are running again, and their platform remains the same: kitties and peaches for all.

Seattle's favorite goofy post-grunge rock trio is back, gearing up for a tour around the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. And after focusing on other projects and parenting, front man Chris Ballew is looking forward to dedicating some time again to his first love.

The band has played infrequently over the past few years, highlighted by the annual two-day President's Day weekend PUSA Fest in Seattle.

While they'll break out all the hits like "Lump," "Peaches" and Kitty" from their chart topping debut album, they're leaving no stone unturned to keep it fresh for the fans.

"I'm digging through hard drives trying to find old unreleased stuff or weird live tracks or rare tracks and man I'm actually finding some good stuff," Chris said in a special appearance on Seattle Sounds.

While he insisted he still loves playing the Presidents music, Ballew has been keeping it fresh over the past four years by devoting himself almost entirely to his kid's music project as Caspar Babypants.

"There's a friction between innocence and innuendo with kitties and peaches," he said. "Frankly, writing that kind of song became harder and harder for me and I decided I'm just going to get rid of the innuendo and write innocent songs. And I did it. And when I listened back I went 'oh it's kid's music.'"

But he takes it very seriously. Ballew puts as much time and attention into his Caspar creations like his new release "I Found You" as he ever did with the Presidents, even if it seems simple and silly.

"I work super hard to make it sound really simple and effortless and minimal and easy," he said. "I kind of joke that I make parents music and that kids just happen to like it."

While he takes the music seriously, he's always taken himself and his so-called celebrity with a grain of salt. He credits Madonna, who courted the Presidents for her label during the band's heyday, with giving him some sage advice.

"Because you're funny you will never get respect for the craft of your songwriting so don't expect it and I immediately stopped expecting it," Madonna told him. "And I kind of put it all in perspective at that point and I went 'Yeah Madonna, you're right,'" he laughed.

That's why Ballew gets as much enjoyment out of playing for a handful of kids at a local farmer's market or the mall as Caspar Babypants as he does rocking out for thousands of fans in a big theater.

"I'm in service to people. I don't care if it's in a mall if it's 20 people or 2,000 people. My motto has always been play for who's there, not for who isn't there and it could be one child and I'll be like this is going to be the most cool show because this one child is going to get whatever song they want and I'm going to know their name and I'm going to be friends with them by the end of this," he said.

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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