Four-time Grammy nominee Justin Roberts is truly one of the all stars of the indie family music scene. For nearly 20 years, Roberts has been creating the soundtrack to families’ lives, helping kids navigate the joys and sorrows of growing up while allowing parents to remember their own childhoods. Along with his band, the Not Ready for Naptime Players, he has traveled the globe, from Hong Kong to New York, and Miami to Seattle.
His latest album, “Wild Life,” is his 14th album for families and his most personal project yet. Joined by an eclectic group of instrumentalists including pianist Lisa Kaplan (Eighth Blackbird), cellist Anna Steinhoff, percussionist Gerald Dowd (Robbie Fulks), and vocalist Nora O’Connor (The Decemberists), it was inspired by the birth of Roberts’ first child. It features songs about anticipation, uncertainty, unconditional love and advice for a life well-lived. The album evokes the wonder of what poet Mary Oliver called this “one wild and precious life.”
Roberts began his musical career in the 1990s, performing in the Minneapolis-based indie-rock band Pimentos for Gus. He decided to moonlight as a Montessori pre-school teacher, and it wasn’t long before he started writing and singing songs for a new generation of fans: his students. The kids immediately responded and inspired him to record some of his new songs and send them out to friends for Christmas. One of the recipients was Liam Davis, a college pal and music producer, who suggested that they record the songs professionally.
In 1997, he released his first album for families, “Great Big Sun,” and the critics took note. His music was soon being compared to the works of everyone from Elvis Costello and Fountains of Wayne to Paul Simon, Electric Light Orchestra and Nick Lowe. Roberts then hit the road full time to do what he loves most: playing music for appreciative crowds. Kiddie mosh pits broke out, word spread and shows started selling out.
Roberts has been featured on Nick Jr. TV, and his song “Get Me Some Glasses” was on a World Series broadcast. Recent appearances include concerts at the New Victory Theater, Wolf Trap, Getty Museum, Seattle’s Moore Theater, Lollapalooza, “Austin City Limits” and the Ravinia Festival.