Picture credit: Angela Talley
Sun has been home to many a musical legend: Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis, amongst them. It has been decades since any new music has been released by Sun, and on the 29th of October, Good Wine and Bad Decisions, the new album by Julie Roberts, took pride of place as the newest release on the historic label. “Sun is sort of a rebellious label, they don’t follow any rules; the artists make the music that they want to make.” It seems a fitting home for Roberts, 32, whose blend of soulful country is the perfect addition to Sun’s “genre-less” sound.
Julie Roberts wanted to find an accepting home for her music, a place where “traditional (country) elements” would be embraced alongside her soulful influences- including Elvis’ gospel music, and Otis Redding. Recording began before Roberts signed to Sun records, so the label was able to hear the direction the project was taking. “I felt this (Sun Records) is where I belong musically- I think it’s the right place for me.” There is nothing arrogant about the statement. “I needed to find a label and just hand them my music and say ‘this is who I am- if it fits it fits’ and it did! So that’s why I feel like I fit. Because they accepted it- they liked what I do as an artist. They let me be who I am.” In fact Sun liked the project so much, a licensing arrangement was organised, and the album began to take shape.
Good Wine and Bad Decisions is the fourth full length studio album by Julie Roberts, and there is genuine excitement in her voice as she talks of the recording process. “Recently people ask me if I feel pressured and nervous, now honestly, I’m excited, because I put my heart and everything I have into this record. And I’m proud of it! When the people at Sun listened to it and really loved it, I felt like I was ready to get it out to the world and tell everybody about it. Sun thankfully decided that they wanted to release their first new artist in decades -and it was me!”
The album showcases some of country music’s finest musicians and songwriters. Willie Nelson’s harmonica player, Mickey Raphael, makes an appearance on the album. “I wanted him to keep playing. Not because he needed to- he got it right the first time- I just wanted him to keep playing.” There is a sense of sheer joy as Roberts talks of the legendary musicians who appear on the album. Vince Gill makes an appearance, as he did on her first self titled album, and not to forget Buddy Miller, a songwriter favoured by the artist, adds his vocal to ‘Gasoline and Matches.’
Julie Roberts wrote nine of the fourteen album tracks, and each song has a story. “A couple of those I wrote a few years back. ‘Keep Me Up All Night’ I wrote right around the time my first record came out. A few times we were thinking an artist was going to record it, but when it came around to make this record, no one had cut it yet- that means I was supposed to do it!” The title track, ‘Good Wine and Bad Decisions’, was written with Jason Collum, who is also the album’s producer. This record has been years in the making, and the bond between everyone involved is clear, and adds to the album’s charm.
It is clear that the artist has matured since the days of her first self titled album, and follow-up Men and Mascara. The sound is more country, more timeless, spanning genres- from a cover of Bobbie Gentry’s ‘He Made A Woman Out of Me,’ to Steve Earle’s ‘I’m Not Getting Any Better at Goodbyes.’ However, there are still elements that have carried throughout all of Julie Roberts’ albums, that ensure to please her long-time fans. “Chris Stapleton has been on all of my albums. I love how he is so visual with his lyrics.” In fact, ‘Daddy Doesn’t Pray,’ was discovered by Roberts on YouTube. “I wanted to see some of his live shows, and that was when I saw this one, and thought ‘I have to get this one on my record.'”
Not only was the music important for Julie Roberts, giving back was always part of the process. This project was fan-funded, using the Pledge Music website. It meant that fans could pre-order the album whilst it was being made, and could keep up to date with the recording process, hear the latest tracks, and have access to exclusive updates. To Julie, choosing Pledge was important for another reason. “Pledge is associated with your charity, so a percentage over your goal goes to your chosen charity. My charity is the MS society. I wanted to give back, because they help so many people like me.”
With regard what to expect next from Roberts, it looks like we can expect a video for “Good Wine and Bad Decisions. “We asked CMT which song would work best as a video.” It is early days, and the artist has difficulty in picking a favourite track. “I’m so close to it, and so connected to it that I can’t choose!” It seems an intelligent move to ask for outside opinion with regards the video. And a single? “We’ll probably ask radio stations, but I don’t see why it would be anything other than Good Wine and Bad Decisions.”
Julie Roberts seems to be a perfect fit for Sun. An enthusiastic, talented artist, and a label with such a great history of “true artists who didn’t change who they were.” This album will always have a special place in history as the first new music on Sun in decades, and Julie Roberts’ album provides the high standard of music one would expect from the legendary label.