Burnt out as a songwriter for the Grammy-nominated pop-rock band, The Presidents of the United States of America, Chris Ballew found a new spark a few years ago, firing up a new set of musical taste buds.
The Yarrow Point native began writing children’s songs and created the band Caspar Babypants — a nickname he earned when he was broke living back in Boston in the early 1990s. “I’m writing so many (kids’) songs,” he said. “It’s like a crazy volcano — songs just keep pouring out.”
Hundreds of toddlers, youngsters and adults converged at Redmond City Hall to see Ballew’s newest talents and hear his catchy, kiddie songs.
“I think my music helps families relax,” he said. “It helps a long car ride be more fun. … I like the live shows, but really the purpose of the music is to be used at home and in the car. Parents and kids can sing along. I really thinks it helps keep families connected.”
On Tuesday, Aug. 16, Ballew is set to release his latest album, “Sing Along” — his fourth since his debut CD came out in February of 2009. He said his songwriting is inspired by old public domain music and he takes songs everyone knows, like “Three Blind Mice” and “Ring Around the Rosie,” and adds a new twist. His new album will be available at www.babypantsmusic.com and at upcoming Caspar Babypants shows.
“Caspar Babypants is one of the few children’s recording artists I can listen to without wanting to stab myself in the eyes,” recording artist Weird Al Yankovic said on the website.
While Ballew has gone from writing splashy pop rock with The Presidents to kiddie-music king, Ballew said the music of Caspar Babypants is very similar to The Presidents.
“Just remove the loud guitars, drums and the irony and essentially it’s the same core thing, the same inspiration,” Ballew said. “I don’t feel I’m not a different person doing the kids’ music. It’s more like the end of a long search for my calling.”
The calling came after he met his second wife, Kate Endle, who produces simple, brightly colored art, based on folk tradition.
“I wanted to make music that sounds like her art looks,” he said. And from that, Caspar Babypants was born — or more like reborn.Ballew continues to practice and play with The Presidents, who will be performing at Bumbershoot next month, but his focus continues to be on kids’ music.
Ballew, 46 and the father of a 14-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter, said childrens’ music is “innocent, simple, it’s real straight forward, way more relaxing for me.”
Playing the guitar and directing hundreds of toddlers and youngsters to dance, Ballew sang about rabbits, bears, birds and dogs during the Tuesday lunchtime performance, which was part of the city’s Arts in the Parks concert series. Kids danced, clapped and laughed throughout the show as parents relaxed on blankets and chairs — and some adults even got up and danced themselves.
“I just want to bring integrity to kids’ music,” he said.
And what about the name, Caspar Babypants?
Well, when Ballew was a broke artist living in Boston in the early 1990s, he found a pair of hand-knitted baby pants at a flea market. He used it as a hat during the cold winter months. He said he also called himself Caspar, because Chris was just too boring of a name, so the neighborhood kids started calling him “Caspar Babypants.”
He resurrected the nickname, Caspar Babypants, when he reinvented his music — and his fan base.
“Children are sincere, they are not ironic,” he said. “They will tell you if you suck.”
City of Redmond Arts in the Parks schedule
• Aug. 12 at 7 p.m.: Anthony and Cleopatra
• Aug. 16 at noon: Brian Waite
• Aug. 19 at 7 p.m.: Open Mic Night Visit www.redmond.gov/arts for more information.