With her debut CD, Roberts was country music’s Cinderella, a stunning blonde from Lancaster, S.C., who stole everyone’s heart with her honest music, cover-girl looks, exuberant personality and irresistible laughter. And now with her second album, Men & Mascara, Roberts proves she’s in it for the long run.
We chat with Julie as she makes her way through the Los Angeles Airport.
HIP: So are you on your way to a show or back home?
JULIE ROBERTS: No, we just finished up a big launch week. We played in Atlanta last night and Good Morning America this week. My next show we leave Monday night from Nashville so we have a couple days and then head back to Nashville.
How has it been getting attention?
It’s great, [Good Morning America], ABC has been a blessing in my life for the past few years [especially] coming out on the show as a break-out artist. But then they gave me a chance to sing the theme song and then they just renewed it for another year which is amazing. People are amazed at the GMA opportunity and I am too. They just treat me like family
How much has the last couple years changed you?
You know what, I get asked that often. I don’t feel like the people around me have changed that much. I don’t think I’ve changed that much. I just get to do what I love everyday. That’s what I’ve dreamed about since I was really little. I think people think that you’re life will be drastically changed and mine hasn’t. I’m waking up in a new city and new place on the bus. It’s what I’ve dreamed about. I just don’t think I’ve changed that much.
Was going in and recording the album different with one album under your belt?
It’s a little different. Byron Gallimore produced eleven tracks on this CD and then James Stroud produced the 12th. Working with a new producer is a little different. It’s been great. Both of these men have had Grammy’s and many music awards. I was a little nervous [wondering] “Am I doing the right things”. They’ve done it so many times. I was in awe watching Byron at the board, knowing he’d done every Faith Hill and Tim McGraw record, same with James with “Girl Next Door”—he’s done every Toby Keith record. But at the same time you’re nervous but they make you feel so comfortable and made me feel comfortable. It was a fun experience. I wrote, produced this record. I wrote four tracks on it so that was a bit different, too. I’m real excited about that part of it, people get a little bit more of me on this record. I’ve been writing for it since the first one came out so I’ve been working on it for a real long time and I’m really excited that it’s out now.
I was curious about picking the songs because the album seems more pained.
There’s a sadness to the songs.
I don’t know if you got a copy of the album credits—I wrote a note to the fans. People asked me if I’m sad, and I’m not. The first song is about real life. I grew up listening to Patsy Cline, and I felt like I could hear hurt in her voice. I believed every word she sang and she sang songs about life and songs that people could relate to. I look for and write songs about life and I just want to be able to sing each song and feel it. Regardless if I’ve lived these words or someone really close to me has. I want you to know that so I sing songs about life. But I have a very, very happy life. I don’t want to sing something that is safe to me because that’s just not who I am.
Why I ask is because if you listen to Sinatra songs some of them sound like that, too.
Yeah. Like I said Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton were amazing women in country music. They knew how to take songs and get in the lyric. I look for songs I can get in the lyric of. And you can when you or someone really close to you lived them. I can’t go out there and sing a song I can’t relate to.
You do a great job making me feel the songs.
Thanks. They should [feel real] because it’s real.
How do you pick and choose the songs in the end?
It’s really hard. I have an amazing team behind me. Brian and my AR department really know me and know what I love. He and I go to song meetings. Nashville has song nights where writers sit and play songs they’ve recently written and or something a long time ago that someone’s never heard or people have forgotten about. You just go and listen and I listen a lot. I try to listen to every song sent to me. I just pick the song that is right for me. You just have to take the time. You normally know right away. You’re looking for that real factor that you’ve lived or seen someone live it.
I think everybody has had experience they think about years and years later—so as with the song “Too Damn Young”.
Oh everyone has, I can just see that video in my head and that whole story. Regardless of your story you can relate to it some way.
When you look at something and you can hear a lot of melodies and they may be empty—and you avoid that.
It’s a combination of both lyrics but it also has to have a melody. You can have the best lyric in the world but if you don’t have melody you’d never be able to sing it in your life. I like soulful, bluesy melodies. You can change it around to fit you if the writer is okay with that and we’ve done that.
Working on songs now—is it easier to bring in your songs to the producers?
I think it’ll always be nerve-wracking because you’re close to your own ideas. It’s just like everything else when you think you’re going to get critiqued. Especially when it’s something you’re close to you, singing especially for me, and songwriting. Yeah I get nervous. You don’t’ want someone to say “that’s terrible—what were you thinking this morning?” (Laughs)
Were you more confident singing on this record?
Yeah, I’ve been singing, playing tons of shows for the past couple years and you just grow. I have an amazing vocal coach I found over the past year. You get confident in who you are vocally. The more you do it [the more] you learn your voice and I have because I’ve done it everyday.
Are you feeling more like an artist now than the awe period you were in when I met you during the first album release?
I think I’ll always be in that awe period. I feel very blessed. After all, I’m from a small town. I’m still very glad and I’m excited I have a new record out and I’m excited to go it in the stores myself. I’m going to get a copy as soon as I can. But yeah, I ‘m in awe, of course I am, it’s just amazing.
What happens when you hear your song on the radio?
Are you kidding? (Laughs)
People react to it in different ways.
I don’t think I’ll ever not be excited about that. To see my record in the store, my video, I still go look for my record in the store. Just to see it in every store I go in. (Excited) It’s amazing.
+ Charlie Craine