Author / Musical Performer
Three-time GRAMMY-nominee Justin Roberts is one of the all-stars of the indie family music scene. He logs thousands of miles on the road each year, leading some to call him one of the hardest working men in children's show business.
Justin began his music career in the early 1990s with the Minneapolis-based indie rock band Pimentos for Gus, but his love for kid’s music grew from his day job as a Montessori preschool teacher. It wasn't long before he began writing and singing songs for a new generation of fans. His first album, Great Big Sun, was released in 1997 and he was soon being compared to everyone from Elvis Costello and Fountains of Wayne to Paul Simon, ELO and Nick Lowe.
He has played at renowned venues and festivals, including Lollapalooza, Chicago's Ravinia, L.A.'s Getty Museum, Symphony Space and D.C.'s National Geographic Live. He has performed on The Today Show, been featured on Nick Jr. television and his song "Get Me Some Glasses" was featured on a World Series broadcast. He recently wrote the score for a new musical, Hansel and Gretel, produced by Chicago’s Emerald City Theatre which premiered in November 2014.
Justin’s first picture book, The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, illustrated by Christian Robinson, was published in 2014. The story is based on Justin’s classic tune, “Billy the Bully.” His newest picture book is The Great Henry Hopendower.
Learn more about Justin Roberts on his website.
Q1: OUR THEME THIS YEAR IS HERE'S AN IDEA! WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE SPACE FOR PONDERING IDEAS?
Justin: I think I get my best ideas when I'm moving. Either driving in my car or even better on a long walk with my dog Mona. In fact, sometimes when I'm stuck writing, Mona will bump me with her nose so I'll take her out. On the walk, I'm usually able to make my way through the puzzle that I'm stuck in and am refreshed when I sit back down to work.
Q2: WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE SUBJECT IN SCHOOL?
Justin: In elementary school, it would be a toss up between music and language arts. I loved writing rhyming stories in LA class but singing and playing marimba is pretty hard to beat too!
Q3: WHAT ONE THING WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEARN TO DO?
Justin: There are a lot of things I'd like to learn to do better. Speak more fluently in French, play chess better, play piano better, and so on. But, if I was to choose something I've never tried then I guess I would say surfing as I was just in Hawaii recently and it looked like a lot of fun.
Q4: WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR?
Justin: When I was in 5th grade, my teacher Ms. Roberson inspired us to write rhyming poems after reading us Where the Sidewalk Ends. We made a book of the best poems from the class and she put the book in the library so that students could check it out. I thought that was pretty much the coolest thing in the world. So, years later when my first book arrived in a box from Putnam and it had my name next to an orange Penguin I was pretty blown away!