The Situation I'm spending the evening with young folk singer Ben Fisher at Aster Coffee Lounge in Ballard, just blocks away from Fisher's most frequently played venue, the Sunday Ballard Farmers Market. Fisher's been busking there for six years, ever since he moved here from Atlanta as a high-school freshman. Fisher's voice is distinctly round, confident, and booming, just right for a street singer looking for attention. "Yeah, and the very wrong voice for the other buskers who have to stay way the hell away," he laughs.
BEN FISHER With Nick Drummond & Tyler Carson, Taylor Bolibol. Fremont Abbey Arts Center, 4272 Fremont Ave. N., 414-8325. $5-$7. All ages. 7 p.m. Thurs., Jan. 19.
How He Got Here Fisher's in his third year at UW, where he's studying Arabic. What's he hoping to do with a degree in Arabic? "Nothing, hopefully!" he says. "I want the music to work out." It did for Glen Hansard, the Academy Award–winning folksinger of The Swell Season, who got his start busking on the streets of Dublin as a teenager. And for now, the money's not bad: On a good day, Fisher can pull $150 an hour at the market.
Shop Talk At the market, Fisher plays mostly upbeat covers of Townes Van Zandt, Loretta Lynn, and his favorite, Bob Dylan, but his own songs are slower, easier-going. Last year he finished a full-length called Heavy Boots & Underwoods; Underwood refers to the typewriter brand, and "heavy boots" comes from the Jonathan Safran Foer novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. "The kid is supposedly autistic, and every time he's depressed about something he calls it 'heavy boots,' " Fisher explains. "I just love the ring of that!"
BTW: "Turns out I like to write about fish a lot," says Fisher. To wit, he's got a song called "Cast Your Line," and there's a salmon on the cover of Heavy Boots. "It's kind of weird because you always hear 'Write about what you know,' and I know nothing about fishing."