“What I like about busking is that I am able to share a meaningful emotional experience with everyone, a lot of whom couldn’t afford a ticket or can’t take time off work. What I dislike about it, is some of the assumptions people make, and the way I get treated sometimes. I’ve had people asking if I have enough coin for my drugs tonight, and I think there is a stigma about some buskers who do it for that. Some people assume that I’m just begging, others walk by and spit at my feet.
But in conclusion, I know that if I can entertain someone who has treated me like bubble gum on the sidewalk and send them off smiling (which I have) I can entertain anyone. I don’t see it so much as a negative but more as a training ground if one is able to learn from such experiences.”Chooka Parker
Many will remember Chooka Parker as the talented 17 year old from Red Lion in Victoria who burst on to our TV screens as a contestant in the 2011 Reality TV show Australia’s Got Talent, infatuating the crowd and the judges and going all the way to the finals with his unique brand of piano improvisation.
Chooka’s background, being home-schooled in a tiny Victorian town without access to TV or the internet, left him plenty of time for creative pursuits, and his experiences as a roustabout and all-round knockabout country lad (who dreamt as a young boy of becoming a chook farmer) certainly added to his appeal.
Now 25, Chooka has continued his musical journey writing and producing EPs, travelling to Japan, Thailand and the United States and schooling himself in a variety of other instruments, including voicework and film scores.
Check out Chooka’s thoughtful answers to a few questions from Busker What’s Your Story? And don’t miss the video at the end of our post that shows him wow an unsuspecting crowd in Las Vegas with his incredible impromptu rendition of ‘Great Balls of Fire’.
What are some memorable moments you’ve experienced busking?
“I’ve had so many memorable moments busking that it’s hard to pick one. Seeing the faces of children light up and start dancing, often forcing their parents out of their seriousness and into the same state of wonder is such a beautiful thing; when everyone drops their guard for just a moment and connects.
I’ve had people crying, telling me their stories, others being really generous and some sit and listen for hours, but I think to top that list would be one particular time when a guy walked up (having seen me play on TV) and told me that he had completely given up on his music and his playing. When he found me on YouTube, he said he was inspired to pick up his instrument again. He then went to his car, pulled out a guitar and a portable speaker and played the most amazing blues music I’d ever heard.
I really related to him because somewhere along the marathon of any creative career, it gets to a point where it’s not fun or financially feasible anymore. Just like any marriage, the love can temporarily die leaving one feeling tied to a ball and chain.
Seeing him play with such joy reminded me of my own personal journey of falling in and out of music, while remaining committed to my mission.”
We’ve seen the TV interviews where you talk about your childhood on the farm. Can you tell us a little more about those days?
“Growing up on a farm doing home-schooling was the best lifestyle I could possibly have asked for. School was based on how much you got done and not on hours; so I would school at night time and have time to be creative during the day. My Mum, particularly, but all of my family, encouraged me to be brave and take risks. My Dad was a very resourceful handy man and farmer who told my brother and I we could do anything. We believed him and we did. We still do, and we still take the Mickey out of professionals.”
If you could choose a lyric from any song that is really special to you, what would that lyric be? Why does it mean so much to you?
“My favourite lyric is by Marilyn Manson. ‘I own myself”.
It’s strange, because none of his other lyrics ever stood out to me; in fact I find most songs to be a predictable case of stating the obvious in a poetic formula over four chords. The lyric stood out years after first hearing it, when I discovered the power of not giving myself over to an authority figure, (i.e the school system, political leaders, family members, a partner, religion, or some other system where you sell your soul to a kind of ‘boss’ figure).
I don’t like the idea of handing the responsibility of my life over to anyone else, and I have found great comfort in taking responsibility for my circumstances without handing it over to some obscure concept like ‘fate’.”
Given all your experiences what has it all taught you and what’s a piece of advice you’d offer to any young musicians?
“If you truly love what you do, know that love is an action more than a feeling, and just like raising any child, it’s not going to be fun sometimes, but very rewarding with dedication, care and commitment.
Don’t wait around for opportunities, jump on them like a lion. Don’t be lazy, answer your emails, know your worth, don’t under-sell yourself. If you don’t know how to do something or how something works, ask someone who does. When you’ve got the what ya know, it’s time for the who ya know.
The business side is important, because without money, we’re all dead, so keep a schedule of how much time you’re actually spending on your craft and last but not least, don’t be lazy.”
What’s next for Chooka Parker?
“I’m currently writing a symphony. I wrote the first movement in 4 days for the people who really care about me, but also because someone told me it wasn’t possible.
I’m writing music for movies at the moment and my dream is to write music scores for movies and tour with my orchestra around the world.
I am working on changing the musical era, this has been my dream since young.”
If you’d like to follow Chooka’s journey you can find him on his YouTube channel –