Sound & Vision: Chris Ballew of Caspar Babypants on his Journey from '90s Alt Rock to Children's Musician

Sound and Vision
John Richards
photo by Carlos Cruz

KEXP's Sound & Vision airs every Saturday morning from 7-9 AM PT, featuring interviews, artistry, commentary, insight, and conversation to that tell broader stories through music, and illustrate why music and art matter. You can also hear more stories in the new Sound & Vision Podcast. New episodes are out every Tuesday. Subscribe now.


Chris Ballew made a name for himself for fronting the Seattle-based band, The Presidents of the United States of America. For the last 10 years however, Ballew has been a prolific children's musician – releasing 16 albums for kids under the pseudonym Caspar Babypants. Sound and Vision host John Richards caught up with Ballew after a performance during KEXP's Kids Day to talk about the move from 90s indie rocker to children's musician.

On transitioning his target audience from The Presidents of the United States fans to their children:

I'm lucky that it worked out, that I found the Casper thing when I did, because it was kind of right when those people were, or some of those people, were having children. It makes it seem like I'm in a war room, pushing battleships around like a-ha, I know exactly what I'll do – 15, 20 years later, I'll start making children's music and I'll take over the world. But no, it's just a happy accident. 

On finding his true calling: 

I've always had this drive to find out who I am authentically, musically. I always had this drive to make the music that is most honestly me. I don't want to put on an artifice. I don't want to put on a literal costume or a figurative metaphorical costume on stage. I wanted to just be who I am, and so part of that was it took me a long time to figure out who I am and what I really want. 

I only knew that The President's [of the United States of America] was almost it. It was like 92% percent perfect. But, that first record, it followed my 20s which were kind of a dark time. I had some sad times as a lot of people do in their 20s -- bad choices, weird relationships, family issues... So, I mixed who I really am, The Caspar Baby Pants, core with this dark detritus that was left over from all these dark songs. And that's why The President's, I think, work. It was this friction between innocence and innuendo, between innocent and grown up. The sparks from that friction, made it happen. 

On the benefits of children's music and keeping a low profile:

I felt like I was going to get a pass from the culture of cool -- from being flavor of the moment or from proving myself to be worthy of being in the top whatever echelon of charts. So, it was nice to feel free of that and to feel like I had finally shed the pressure of having to prove myself worthy of gathering the attention of the young and the hip 


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