Spitting fire and juggling has helped Bushwalla get 6 European tours and some 15 U.S. tours. The singer-songwriter-guitarist says mixing magic, comedy, and circus tricks has allowed him to take his “freestyle-funk-acoustic-hip-hop-vaudeville” act on the road.
“The biggest thing I ever balanced was an eight-foot surfboard on my chin. I once balanced five chairs at once.”
Bushwalla, who lives on Jason Mraz’s five-acre rural expanse in North County, has toured with his more-famous roommate and cowrote some of the music on Mraz’s CDs. Bushwalla (born Billy Galewood) met Mraz 14 years ago when they both attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. “We both ended up out here. We played at Java Joe’s in O.B. [in 2001]. When he took off to make his first album, I took over his Thursdays.”
Bushwalla’s third album, Old Street, was recorded at Mraz’s home-based studio and released last month. Bushwalla spent October through December playing 14 shows in four European countries.
“This will be my first trip to Australia,” he says of his upcoming tour in April. “I have seven shows in 20 days. There was a community of friends there who wanted to host a Bushwalla show. They knew they had to fly me out, which is a couple thousand dollars.”
Bushwalla says his fans often hire him to perform for private house parties. He says once he has secured the initial commitment for air travel, he then books himself for other private shows or public gigs. “I played at an art gallery in Amsterdam and at an ad agency in east London. In the U.S. I’ve played everything from golf courses to trailer parks.”
He says he now just relies on referrals and return bookings in more than 20 U.S. states. He won’t say how much he gets, but he says all his expenses on his last European tour were covered. “The fact that I can go to Europe regularly says something. The last time I went I came back with a little extra [cash].”
Bushwalla, 33, started in musical theater at age 9. “I started clowning at 17. Then I taught myself magic. I can pull 15 feet of colored paper out of my mouth while I’m performing. I have swallowed a 3-foot balloon animal. I’ve juggled swords, fire, clubs, balls, and any three objects I can find. I have blown a 6-foot fireball out of my mouth, but that can get risky.
“I think everybody should juggle. It’s an ability that everybody has but they don’t know it. The other day I saw a kid on the side of the road with his girlfriend, his dog, and his cat. He was totally broken out in poison ivy. I gave him some oranges, $10, and a set of juggling balls. I told him if he could juggle while he’s panhandling, he could become a master juggler.”
Bushwalla says he will bring his juggling clubs with him to South by Southwest, where he appears March 18 at the Hilton Garden Inn.