[Editor's note: Throughout their week of blogging, Caspar and Kate have invited questions from their readers and fans. To close out the week, we're presenting a few of the questions, along with Caspar and Kate's answers.]
Jeffrey B.: What's it like when you're not working? What do you do and think about?
Caspar: That is an interesting question! In some ways I am never not working. I am always hearing things in the world that make my musical song machine turn on in my brain. A little hum from a distant lawnmower or the click-click of a turn signal in a rented truck can get the songs flowing!
I just finished reading a book by Eckhart Tolle called The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. The take-away from the book is that life gets really really rich when you slow down. So I do. If I have to do something that has nothing to do with songwriting I just slow down and get deep into the moment and find some joy in doing a really good thorough job at whatever it is I am doing. If I am taking out the trash I might be tempted to just blast my way through it, thinking, This is a waste of my precious time! I should be writing songs! But, if I take my time and observe every step of the process with a clear mind, then I might see a crazy bug pop out of a sardine can in the trash and a whole song about a flop house for crazy bugs inside of a sardine can might emerge.
But, all of that aside, I am happiest out in the woods. I just feel my internal pressure drop when I get on a path through the wilderness or out on the water in our little inflatable kayak (we call her Puffy!). All of the stress that comes with making a living and keeping the record label humming along and stuff just falls away, and I feel connected to the whole vast Thingness all at once.
On a more practical level, I love love to spend time with my kids and Kate just eating food! Oh, my goodness, do I love food. I kind of think that eating well and eating clean is the best expression of living. Well, that and breathing! I do qigong every day and get an amazing amount of balance and energy for performing from that practice. It is basically just light movement and breathing but it can produce a floating sensation where you lose a sense of where your body ends and the world begins. I think that is the place where good music happens, too.
So I like to breathe and eat and sit and think and observe. I just like to be.
Kate: Like Caspar I, too, feel like I'm never not working. I love to be outside. I love staring into space. I love looking at all the crazy textures in nature. And, like Caspar, I love to eat. So I feel really fortunate that I also enjoy going to the gym. I like to space out on the treadmill while reading junky magazines like Us Weekly and People. I swim and practice yoga and Nia. I start off each day with a fair amount of exercise, and that helps me organize my thoughts. Exercise also channels any anxiety I might have and helps turns the weird energy into something productive. Sometimes, if I don't exercise in the morning, I will pace and I won't be able to start or finish a project.
Cameron O.: Your music and art mesh so well. How do you feel about fans encroaching on that relationship/vision with our videos to accompany the songs?
Kate: Thanks, Cameron! That's an interesting question. I really get a kick out of the fan videos. It's just so nice that people feel inspired to create their vision of a Caspar song. On a similar topic, and I almost hate to admit this, but sometimes I don't like it when people copy my art from the Caspar albums. I don't know why that is, it feels irrational, but it just rubs me the wrong way. Then, I feel like a big fat jerk for feeling that way. When I was a kid, I copied everything I could get my hands on! So, just ignore my curmudgeonly attitude on that specific topic. Redrawing someone else's art is a great way to develop hand/eye coordination skills. Just don't sell it or claim that it's yours.
Caspar: I absolutely love love love the fan videos! I feel that flow of creative energy back to me from a listener that has taken the time to make their own video for a song, and I am supremely flattered. It is no small feat to make even the simplest video, and all of them are great. I actually just watched a new one moments ago for "Butterfly Driving a Truck," and it was so amazing! It made me very happy. So I do not feel like fans are encroaching on our vision at all. I feel like the whole thing is plastic and stretchable and open to interpretation.
Sarah A.: Does the process start with the story, the song (or tune), or the art? Do you have brainstorming sessions to make the books sound lyrical?
Kate: Each story is different. My Woodland Wish just flowed right out of me — almost from start to finish. Caspar and I were working on separate projects one night, and I just started singing this funny little song. Caspar looked at me and said, "Do that again!" He recorded me, and we both knew right away that it would make a great children's book to be accompanied by a song. The other books, Augie to Zebra and Bunny Rabbit in the Sunlight, were songs and ideas that Caspar had in rough form. Once My Woodland Wish was published we knew we had a good thing and wanted to keep making books. I listened to a bunch of songs and tried to find ones that conjured up juicy visuals that could be formatted into a book.
Caspar: Kate really is key in this process. She has the ability to hear the song and see the book take shape as she listens. I rely on her to be inspired by the songs I present her with because she is the one that has to make the entire book, so she better be pretty darn inspired or no book!
Kate: Sometimes we have an idea about a book and we think we know how it will end up. However, our idea does not always turn out the way we had initially planned it. When we started working on Augie to Zebra, we just thought it would be an alphabet book based on an old fashioned car game. Once I started on the sketches, I realized I was adding elements to the illustration that began with the letter I was working on. For example, when working on the page for "Augie Awards an Ape" I decided the award should be an apple. Hey! Apple begins with the letter "A", too! Once I discovered that, I added a seek and find element to the illustrations. I also wanted to have fun with the names. Augie is the name of Chris's son, and Josie is the name of Chris's daughter — we knew those were going into the book. When it came time to figure out the other names for everybody else, I started to research baby name blogs. There are tons of names that are really unique, with multicultural flare, that I wanted to capture. Those two aspects of the book were a complete surprise to both Caspar and I. And that's what's so fun about creating books for kids!
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Caspar Babypants is also known as Chris Ballew, twice Grammy-nominated lead singer and songwriter for the rock-and-roll band the Presidents of the United States of America. For music, info, and more, go to BabypantsMusic.com.
Kate Endle is a collector of beautiful and unusual printed papers, which she uses to compose vibrant images for children’s books and original artwork. Original art and Kate Endle collage prints can be found at her online shop at KateEndle.com.
Books mentioned in this post
Caspar Babypants and Kate Endle is the author of Augie to Zebra: An Alphabet Book!