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Passenger Recalls the Joys of Singing in the Street for Money -- and Muffins

Nettwerk Music GroupMusicians have been performing on the streets, or "busking," pretty much since forever, but not every musician who continues to play on the street after they've experienced international fame.  Passenger -- the stage name of British singer/songwriter Mike Rosenberg -- still hits the streets to perform free for fans, even though his song "Let Her Go" is a huge global smash.

Mike says that aside from the fact that he just loves to play for people -- earlier this month, he played for enormous crowds in Australia, for example -- he finds that busking gives him great material for songs.  "The fact that I'd be playing these songs in the street without any kind of smoke or mirrors, you know, is just very honest and vulnerable. And that action seemed to kind of really drop the guard of people," he tells ABC News Radio.

"The amount of people that would come up to me and tell me stuff...you get into these amazing chats because they've listened to you play for half an hour," he adds. "You've poured yourself out to them and they almost -- subconsciously, I reckon -- just come over and do the same to you. A number of songs have come about from that stuff."

Before he became famous, Mike was just like every other street performer, desperately trying to attract people's attention and entice them to throw some money in his guitar case, which he did by having some "go-to" songs that were always sure to please.

"Simon & Garfunkel and Springsteen" were his tunes of choice, he tells ABC News Radio, adding that his plan of attack was, "Sing some classic songs and that kind of gets people interested, and then you start playing your awful originals." He laughs, "It's a bit like, you tempt them in with the sugar, and then the medicine comes, you know?"

Of course, sometimes his music attracted the wrong kind of attention.  Passenger recalls one day, when he was busking in Cambridge, England, he got something unexpected in his guitar case.

"It was a wet day and no one was really listening," he tells ABC News Radio. "And this old woman stopped and she listened for a song, and she was eating this muffin.  And halfway through the next song, she just kind of rolled the muffin into my guitar case!"

He laughs, "To this day, I have no idea if what she was saying was, 'I really like what you're doing: here, have a muffin,' or she was saying ''I hate you and I'd throw this at you if I, if I could!'" 

Passenger will be playing for paying crowds this summer when he does a headlining North American tour in support of his new album, Whispers, which is due out June 10. The tour gets underway August 2 in Atlanta and wraps up September 14 in San Diego.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio