Julie Roberts Is Ready to Let Fans Know That She’s ‘Alive’
Julie Roberts broke onto the country music scene in 2004 with her Top 20 hit 'Break Down Here.' The world fell in love with her silky, soulful voice and her movie-star good looks. After several other hit singles and another album, 'Men and Mascara,' the singer laid low before the devastating floods hit Nashville in May of 2010, destroying her home. Roberts, her mother and her dogs all survived the flood, but had to rebuild their home and their lives from the ground up.
Now, the singer is back with 'Alive,' her first collection of new music in five years. Taste of Country recently caught up with the singer to discuss the time spent between albums, and how strength and determination has kept her head held high through personal and professional struggles.
Since the release of the 'Men and Mascara' album in 2006, you have been through quite a bit. Can you fill us in on it all?
The last five years have been different. I released my second record and played shows for a couple of years after that. Then I moved to L.A. for a year to study acting and work on a movie for Lifetime about my life. I was supposed to go out there for six weeks and work with the script writer -- the guy who wrote the screenplay for 'Coal Miner’s Daughter.' I ended up loving it and loving the acting classes I was taking. I wanted to continue with those because I was still working with the writer, so I ended up staying almost a year. I came back so I could work on my music. The movie kept being put on hold -- it’s still on hold -- and so I realized I needed to go back and work on my record. I came back at the end of 2009, and then I worked on my record from January to the end of April.
Then early May of last year was when the flood came, and we lost our house. It took us a good six months to get our life back together, so that was six months I had to take away from working on the record. I still did as much as I could, but Mama works full time, so I just kind of had to be around. That takes us up to now. As we were getting back in [the studio] in November or December [of last year], we really started honing in on my album. There have been some assembly blocks that have gotten in my way over the past five years, but I’ve just had to find my way around them. I know that singing is what I’m supposed to be doing. You sometimes don’t know why things happen the way they happen, but they do make you stronger.
Is that where the song inspiration for the album cut 'Stronger' came from?
Absolutely. I just feel like I’m a lot stronger now. I think I’m a totally different person than I was five years ago. I think I’ve grown creatively, musically and as a person. I’ve always known what’s important in life, but when things happen like the flood or when things are taken from you, you realize those are things; I’m still here ... I still have my dogs, I still have my family, and that’s what’s important. I just think I’m a different person, and you can hear it on this record. I put everything that I had into this record.
Did you do a lot of songwriting on this new record?
I wrote half of the record. I had five years that I had been writing, and I have more where I’m ready to start another one. I have been writing, but I had to grow with it and be confident in what I wanted to say, too, on this one. Some of the songs I wrote a couple of years ago, but a lot of them on there were written more recently because I felt like I’m in a different place. ‘Stronger’ was written at the end of last year, after the flood.
The album has only been available for a short period of time, but have you been getting much feedback from your fans on the new music?
The ones who have it have been writing to me and saying they love the songs. I’m just good and ready to get new music to my fans. They’ve stuck by me. That’s what I live for every day, is opening up my computer and reading the messages from them because sometimes you have days where you’re like, is this what I’m supposed to be doing? I know it is, but it’s hard. Then I read their messages and it’s like, yup … this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m helping their lives in some way, and they’re helping mine, and they don’t even know it -- just by telling me which songs they like.
Obviously the big difference with the new record is the fact that you had everything on your shoulders.
I did every part of this record. The week of the flood, Mercury [Records] and I decided to part ways. Learning all of the stuff that I never thought about before has been good for me. I know that I can help my friends who want to put out an independent record now! I can show them how to do it! I had to find people to show me how to do that. It was a huge learning curve, but I wouldn’t change it. I never really knew what mastering was. I learned what it was, and I was there every hour. I worked really hard on it.
Compare the new music on 'Alive' to the previous two albums you recorded on Mercury Records.
I wrote a lot more on this one. The story of the songs are probably are from being in a different place. Still, lyrically, they’re not much different from the other albums. I like songs that mean something to me. All of these songs are just lyrically real to me. I’ve always done songs that are real to me. Production wise, I think it’s probably more similar to my first record. I had a couple of different producers on this new record. I think we made a really great record that represents who I am musically. I think that sonically it sounds like my first record. I didn’t want any auto-tuners or anything messing with my voice. We wanted to make it as organic as we could because I don’t want to hide anything in my life, lyrically or just at all. I’ve been very open this past year about everything.
One of the things you've opened up to recently is your ongoing battle with MS. What made you decide to share that part of your life with your fans?
Right around the time that I was recording my second record, I was diagnosed with MS. I had never told anybody about that. That was in about 2005. On one of my drives back and forth to Charlotte, I had put in that record. I had stopped listening to that record because I felt like it was a time in my life that I wanted to forget. I wanted to forget having the spinal taps and the cat scans and everything that I was having to do that I didn’t tell anybody about. I even stopped singing those songs from that record. People would ask me to sing those songs in my shows, and I just wouldn’t get to them. I would play ‘Men and Mascara,’ but I wouldn’t play anything else. I thought I’d listen to that record on that drive. It was an eight hour drive. I started listening to it, and I’m going, "I love this record! I’m going to start playing it again." When I got back to Nashville, I wrote a blog to my fans … I said, "I know that y’all have asked me to play these songs, and this is why I haven’t." It was just a really weird time in my life, but I’m past it now. I’m just more open now. I don’t want to hide who I am and who God made me to be and the kind of music that I want to sing. That was just another one of those obstacles I had to get past. I’ve learned how to take care of myself with that. I’m excited about where I am in life now. I think I’m where God wants me to be. It took a long time, but I think it was as long as it should have taken. I think I had to live through some things so that I could give everyone this album.
Watch the Julie Roberts 'Break Down Here' Video