1970 in Des Moines, Iowa
Over the past ten years, Justin Roberts has made the transition from indie rocker to Montessori teacher to kids' music star, using personal life experiences to create his unique brand of powerpop music for children.
Rock and Roll Roots:
Roberts grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, worshiping the pop symphonies of The Beach Boys and The Beatles. While working on his master's degree in religious studies at the University of Chicago, Roberts led his Minneapolis-based band Pimentos for Gus by night and worked as a Montessori preschool teacher by day.
A Star is Born:
Roberts began writing and singing songs for his young students, and independently recorded his first set of songs in 1997. Producer and college friend Liam Davis persuaded Roberts to record the songs professionally, creating what became Great Big Sun, rereleased in 1998.
Kids' music was put on the back burner while Roberts finished his master's degree. But Great Big Sun became such an underground hit with parents and children, Roberts decided to give a career in kids' music a shot.
A New Career:
Over the next few years, Roberts gained the reputation as a top-notch children's music entertainer. Concerts were selling out through word of mouth, and Geat Big Sun was named "Best Music Gift of the Year" in 1998 by Sesame Street Parents Magazine. Roberts followed up with Yellow Bus in 2001, winning a Parent's Choice Gold Award and having that album listed as one of the Top 10 Children's CDs of the Year by Amazon.com.
And the Hits Just Keep On Comin':
Roberts' continued popularity and artistic growth resulted in his 2003 album, Not Naptime, being named a Parents' Choice Gold Award winner, and one of Parents' Choice "25 Best Children's CDs of the Past 25 Years." He was honored with yet another Parents' Choice Gold Award for his fourth CD, 2004's Way Out, which was also ranked as one of Amazon.com's Top 10 Children's CDs of the Year, and received NAPPA's Gold Award for Children's Recordings.
Why Not Sea Monsters?:
In 2005, Roberts recorded a duo of albums with Liam Davis as Why Not Sea Monsters? The two CDs, Songs from the Hebrew Scriptures, and Songs from the New Testament, drew their inspiration from Roberts' background in theological studies. The songs themselves are as witty and as poppy as any kids' music Roberts has recorded, although the instrumentation was a little more laid back this time around.
His Best Yet:
2006 saw the release of Meltdown!, Roberts' most accomplished kids' CD to date. The album won yet another Parents' Choice Gold Award, was listed in Amazon.com's Top 10 Children's CDs of the Year, received a Gold Award from NAPPA, and was named the #1 Children's CD of 2006 in the Fids and Kamily Poll. The follow-up, Pop Fly, was released in 2008 to great accolades from parents, kids, and reviewers alike.