The Unbelievable Real-Life Stories Of NYC Subway Performers

Photographed by Meredith Hattam.
Buskers: Whether they brighten up your morning commute, or make you want to toss on headphones during rush hour, street performers are a huge part of life in New York. The city is a mecca for artists just starting out: Guitarist Kaki King cut her teeth shredding on the subway, and the late Robin Williams moonlighted as a mime outside of the Museum of Modern Art while studying at Julliard.

But, so many of these performers remain unknown to us. To put faces to the music, we coursed the subway to speak with 11 such artists. As expected, their stories were as diverse as their talent. Some were heartbreaking; some made us smile. They opened up about life as an artist in New York City — and how stiflingly difficult it can be, thanks to the city’s ever-increasing gentrification. They also described their complicated relationship with the police (as evidenced by this video of last month’s arrest of musician Andrew Kalleen, who we speak with here).

Busking may not be much like living inside the movie Once — but, if you follow the music, you're bound uncover a whole world of stories.