Seattle rocker Chris Ballew is retiring Caspar Babypants, moving on from kids’ music
Nov 9, 2021, 1:40 PM | Updated: Nov 10, 2021, 9:42 am
(Photo courtesy of Chris Ballew/Caspar Babypants)
After 13 years and 19 albums, Seattle’s beloved Caspar Babypants is retiring from children’s music.
“I have 320 songs out as Caspar, and I think I’ve pretty much covered everything I’ve needed to cover,” said Chris Ballew, the musician behind Caspar Babypants.
This isn’t the first time Ballew has made a big musical career shift. In 1995, Ballew started touring the world with his band, The Presidents of the United States, playing popular songs like Lump and Peaches to rooms full of grungy, flannel wearing crowds. Ten years later, he was ready to move on.
“It kind of started to wear me down by the time I got into my 50s, or even my 40s. And I just felt this little voice inside of me saying, ‘This is great, but this is not your final destination. You need to keep going!’ Then I met my second wife Kate, and her artwork really spoke to me. I thought, I want to make music that comes from the same world as that artwork,” Ballew said. “When I did that, it turned out to be kids’ music. So it kind of found me after a long search.”
Ballew’s goal has always been to play music that both kids and adults like, starting with his very first Caspar song.
“The first song was meaningful because it was a little song that my mom used to sing me when I was a kid. It was a funny song about how I came into existence; it was like a creation myth. She sang, ‘This is how I found my little elf,'” Ballew sings. “‘This is how I found my little elf. Found him underneath a tree, fed him num-num from my knee. This is how I found my little elf.’ That song scared me when I was a kid because I thought there was porridge coming out of her knees! So anyway, I started the first record with that melody, but I made up my own new words.”
He sings again, “This is how I found a small black ant!”
Ballew says people often assume that making music for children is easy.
“It’s actually very hard because being in a loud, alternative rock band, you can basically growl the phone book if you have the right look and charisma,” he said. “But with kids’ music, where I put the vocal way up front, it’s got to be well constructed and tell a story. I wanted to make something where the music is really well-crafted so parents can listen to it. It was very hard, and a lot of work.”
Caspar Babypants played countless shows, many of them free at libraries and community centers, and Ballew says his toddler fans are very similar to the inebriated crowds who thrashed around in mosh pits at his old rock shows.
“They’re like that 90s MTV based crowd, but if they were all on psychedelics. They’re just so random, so weird! They’ll come up to me in the middle of the show and be like, ‘scuse me, ‘scuse me, ‘scuse me, ‘scuse me, ‘scuse me, ‘scuse me! It’ll go on, and on, and on. I’ll finally have to stop the show and say to the crowd, ‘I have to see what this is about,'” Ballew said.
“Some of my top favorite things they’ve said to me are, ‘My coat is red.’ ‘I’m thirsty.’ One kid told me the entire plot of The Little Mermaid, right in the middle of the show. Another kid said, ‘Can I have a turn?’ and just wanted to sit down and play my guitar. So I let him,” Ballew said. “Those kinds of things are so punk rock. No adult would be that brave. I love the kids for that.”
Ballew is in no way finished with music: He’s simply shifting gears once again because of yet another calling.
“About two years ago, I got this new signal. I’ve been doing deep breathing, kind of Qigong meditation, every day for 15 years. The message that is coming in now is: Let’s explore that,” he said. “I have one record out already called I Am Not Me and I have a second record coming out in January called Soul Unfolded. That’s going to be my new, two records a year thing. The volcano has already erupted out probably four or five records, so I’m set for a while.”
As for the name of his new venture, he’s keeping it simple.
“Chris Ballew. I kind of wanted it all to come from one brain,” he said. “That brain is Chris Ballew’s brain, so I’m just going to call it Chris Ballew.”
Caspar Babypants’ new and final album is out now, called Easy Breezy.
For more fun conversation between Chris and Rachel, check out his episode on Rachel’s Your Last Meal podcast.