Over the last nine years, Julie Roberts’ fans may have felt the title track to her new record, Ain’t in No Hurry, was the mindset she brought into releasing new music. What they didn’t know, though, was the Roberts was hard at work behind the scenes creating an album that encapsulated the artist she truly is and the music she loves. Several trips to Los Angeles, writing rooms and a Nashville recording session later, Roberts zeroed in on the record she wanted to make: one chock full of story songs and dripping with steel guitar and fiddle. And though nine years have passed since her last full-length album and nearly two decades have flown by since she introduced herself with “Break Down Here,” Roberts’ voice sounds better than ever and she’s offered some of her strongest material to date.
The album’s title track is more than just track one, though; it’s a mantra Roberts is carrying forward in the newest chapter of her career. She credits her son, Jackson, for making her slow down and enjoy each moment she’s experiencing in her life. And if an Opry performance, hundreds of thousands of new-album streams and a top-10 charting position on the iTunes country albums chart on release day are any indication, Roberts is going to have plenty of moments to savor for years to come.
We took a deep dive into Ain’t in No Hurry with Roberts, chatting about the journey she took to make the record, her two heavy-hitting duet partners, what she hopes listeners take away from the record, as well as the staying power of “Break Down Here” and more!
Pro Country; The release of Ain’t in No Hurry comes almost nine years to the day of the release of your last full-length album, Good Wine & Bad Decisions. With that layoff in mind, how much have you been looking forward to releasing the album and offering new music to your fans?
Julie Roberts: Wow, you’re the first person that’s told me that it’s almost nine years to the day! Time flies, doesn’t it? I’m so excited about this record. I was so ready to get it out. I know my fans have been waiting so patiently. They’ve stood by me and been so loyal. They’re not just my fans; I feel like they’re my friends. We write to each other on socials: they know my life and I know some of theirs, and they’ve been my cheerleaders. I know they’ve been waiting for this, and I’m so excited. I know it’s been a long time, and I’ve said this a few times this week, but it’s the perfect time. I now have a son who is 14 and a half months old, and having him be able to see some of this, even though he won’t remember it, I have pictures of it and that means so much to me. He was with me on the Opry a couple weeks ago when I sang with Jamey Johnson. I brought him to the famous circle, because what Jackson listens to is what I listened to growing up. He listens to Merle Haggard, he listens to Patsy Cline; he listens to everything I love in this house, and he loves it! He loves the fiddle on my new record; every time the fiddle plays, he smiles! I asked the Opry last minute if I could take him into the circle, and they said yes, so I brought him right before we started “Break Down Here.” He’ll know and understand one day how much that meant to me.
Had this happened earlier without Jackson being in my life, I don’t think it would mean as much to me. I think the timing is perfect, and I also think that having Erin Enderlin add her production and songs to the project made it complete. It’s never our timing, because I wanted this record out as soon as we started it because I was so excited [laughs]. I think the time is right right now because of life. We had a pause with the pandemic, which allowed us to bring Erin in, and that made it complete. This whole record has been a journey, and it reflects my life over the last seven years that we took to make it.
PC: What is it like to have the freedom to make the music you want to make and that resonates with you, and also take the requisite time you and your team felt was necessary to make the album?
JR: Shooter Jennings emailed me in 2014, and he said that we had played a show together years ago in Columbia, South Carolina when we shared a record label. He said he didn’t know what I’d been doing since, but his sister was battling cancer, and an artist she was working with, Danny Dawson, wrote a song called “Why Can’t I Have You,” and he said all he could think about was me and he wondered where I was and if I’d want to do the song. He said he didn’t think I’d made my career record, and he wanted to help me do that. He said he believed in me and that he’s always loved me. Had he not said he got my email from a mutual contact, I would have thought it was a joke. It was such a weird time in my life; we had just gone through the flood and I had just told my fans that I was living with MS. That email was like a blessing. I replied to him and told him I had just put out two independent records and that I couldn’t pay for another record. He asked me if I could get out to LA, and we could just start with that song and see what happened. The song isn’t on the record, but it was in The Ranch TV series. It’s been a journey for a few years back and forth. The nine songs on the record that he recorded and produced took some time. I’m very proud of those songs. We completed the record in three months this year when I reached out to Erin Enderlin in Nashville, because I felt more confident. I didn’t know where I fit in at the time when Shooter reached out, but after we recorded together, I felt more confident in who I was. He challenged me in a lot of ways in the studio, with both recording and writing, which I am very grateful for. I reached out to Erin, who I’d written with years before around the time of my first record, and I love what she does. I only had one song left that I wanted to add to the project; I wanted it to be a 10-track album, and she said I was paying for a whole studio session, so we should record more than just one song, and that made sense to me [laughs]. She sent me some of her songs that hadn’t been recorded, and she is a genius singer/songwriter herself, and I said, “Erin, I know this is weird, but can I record this one, this one and this one?” And she said yes. Then I found a song I’d written years back called “The King and His Crown,” so that gave us the last five tracks. We didn’t have a time frame. In Nashville when you record, there’s session times. There’s 10-1 and the next might be 2-5, and the night session will be 6-8. We’d start late in the afternoon and go all night. We’d order food and keep playing, and we’d just do what we felt. I’d never experienced that before, and I loved it. Having that creative control and that challenge is something I’ll never forget.
PC: As a new artist in the music business, it can feel like things are moving a million miles an hour. Though you didn’t have a hand in writing the song, how much do you relate to the song “Ain’t in No Hurry” with where you are in your career?
JR: The first time I heard “Ain’t in No Hurry,” it connected with me because of the first two lines: “Right now, I’m as young as I’ll ever be, all the life that I’ve got left is right in front of me.” It’s a song about living in the moment. When I was starting my career in 2004, life was moving fast. I was on Good Morning America and The Tonight Show; sometimes things were moving so fast that I really have to dig back in my memory to remember how I felt in those moments. When I heard that song, I told myself that’s how I wanted to live my life. I don’t want to be in a hurry. I have a son now, and I want to enjoy each moment that I have with him. At the start of my career, everyone was telling me to “just go” and to say yes to everything, and I did. Now I want to enjoy it, and I am. When I played the Opry, I enjoyed every song and every single second of rehearsing with the band and being on stage. I took in every moment because I wanted to, and “Ain’t in No Hurry” was the perfect title track, because even though I didn’t write it, I feel like Erin, Brent Cobb and Ben Chapman wrote it for me. And jokingly, I wanted to make it the title track because I bet my fans didn’t think I wasn’t in a hurry to make this record [laughs]. I promise you, I felt awful saying “it’s coming! It’s coming!” because we would have these songs recorded and I could never figure out how to get them out. When my husband, Matt, and I had first started dating, I was planning to release the songs I had recorded with Shooter. Unbeknownst to me, one day my husband said he wanted to play me something, and he played me a few of the songs. The first one was “I Think You Know,” and he had had it mixed and mastered. He said he’d been working on getting the tracks I recorded with Shooter done, because that was the last thing I had to do for it to be ready. He said I owed it to myself and to my fans to release those songs. I’d kind of gotten to the place where I thought the songs would never come out. I felt weird about it. I was playing the music live at my shows, and people would ask when it was coming out and I would say I didn’t know. He said we were going to make the record come out. Without telling me, he got those nine songs finished, which is when I reached out to Erin, and the rest is history!
PC: In just two months since its release, “Music City’s Killing Me” has already earned nearly 150,000 streams on Spotify alone. What does it mean to you to know that 18 years after your debut, so many people still want to hear your music and support you?
JR: It means so much to me. I’m so grateful that Jamey Johnson joined me on that song. When I was in the studio with Shooter one night, he asked what I’d been listening to, and I had been listening to Ray LaMontagne. I told Shooter that I loved Ray’s song called “New York City’s Killing Me,” and Shooter said we should cut it, and I suggested changing it to “Music City’s Killing Me,” because like I said, I didn’t know where I fit in here at the time. Thankfully, Ray LaMontagne liked it and said we could do it. I told Shooter that I felt like it should be a duet. I always loved Jamey, and I had done a few benefit shows with him. We’ve crossed paths before; we’ve even crossed paths in the gym [laughs]. Both of our labels back in the day were sending us to boot camp, and he and I were in the same boot camp. I’ll never forget my introduction to him: we were doing crunches and he said, “This’ll be the last time you see me in this gym,” [laughs], and that’s just Jamey, and that’s why I love him. So when I was talking to Shooter, I told him that I felt like Jamey and I get each other; he understands my music and my style, and I love his. Thankfully, Jamey loved it and agreed right away. I’m so grateful that my fans are now able to hear this music that they waited so patiently for.
PC: “Don’t Call Me Baby” is our favorite song on the record, and was a song written by Erin Enderlin, Waylon Payne and Mae Estes. Can you talk about hearing the demo for the first time and what struck you about it to record the song?
JR: The demo that I heard was just a guitar/vocal with Waylon singing. I was pulled in right from the beginning. What’s funny about “Don’t Call Me Baby” is that it almost didn’t make the record. I wanted to record “The King and His Crown,” and we almost didn’t get to “Don’t Call Me Baby.” Erin came to me and said that I had told her I loved it right away, and we had time to cut it, and I’m glad we did, because it’s one of my favorite tracks on the record too. To me, if I were to have a part two for my first record, I feel like that one fits into what my fans know from me, and the way Erin produced it feels so “me.” I’ve heard a lot of stories at shows about how that song connects with people. The way I heard it right away was a girl that had been broken up with and goes out on the town and somebody calls her baby. After a show recently, a woman told me that she’d just lost her husband and she went out and someone had called her baby, and that song is what she wished she could have said back to him, because that’s what her husband used to say to her. I had never thought about the song that way, and that’s why I love music so much. In particular, country music and its stories connect and resonate with people in so many different ways.
PC: You had the unique opportunity to finish writing and record “Devil’s Pool,” which was started by Waylon Jennings. What did Shooter giving you that opportunity mean to you and how much did you enjoy putting yourself in Waylon’s headspace to finish the song?
JR: Shooter records at night, sometimes the middle of the night, and he’d ask what I felt like doing that day or that he’d seen a song at a show and he thought I could do it or that he was at his mom’s and she’d recorded a song that never came out. He would have recordings on his phone, and that’s how “Devil’s Pool” came out. He was going through his dad’s stuff and he said, “Hey, I found this chorus on a recorder, and all it had was [singing] ‘fool, fool, don’t be a fool, don’t go swimming in the devil’s pool. She’ll pull you down, mother nature’s rule, don’t go swimming in the devil’s pool.’ The rest of the song wasn’t written, and he asked if I could write it. He said he didn’t know what Waylon was thinking, but he challenged me and took me out of my comfort zone. I took it back to Nashville to keep writing it, and I kept sending lyrics back to him to see if he liked it. I wanted it to be a story song. When we got back together, we got what you hear on the record. I’m so grateful that he trusted me with his dad’s song.
PC: Randy Houser is in a similar place in his journey as an artist with releasing his music independently. Can you tell the story of how he became involved with “A Little Crazy’s Kinda Nice”?
JR: That song was pitched to me around the same time as my first record. Either my label wouldn’t let me do it or we didn’t have room on the record, but I held on to it after all these years. It was written by Jason Matthews and Rebecca Lynn Howard. Jason actually co-wrote “Break Down Here.” I’ve always loved Randy’s voice. I listen to his song “Anything Goes” all the time. After that came out, I wrote a note to his producer saying how amazing the song was and how much I loved it. I couldn’t get passed his voice. His voice is very much like Jamey’s to me: you know it’s them when they sing and they’re their own artist. I knew I wanted Randy to sing it with me. Like you said, we’re both independent these days and getting our own music out there, which he is doing a great job of. The way I got him on the song is funny: I didn’t know how to write a direct message on Instagram. I didn’t have his phone number, so I had my social media manager, Brian, DM Randy a message I had written in December of last year. I told Randy that I loved his voice and I’d love for him to join me on the song, and he wrote right back and gave me his email. I sent him the song and he said he loved it. That’s how we ended up getting Randy on the song, and now I know how to direct message! [laughs].
PC: “The King and His Crown” is a song you co-wrote with Arlis Albritton and Cliff Cody that you’ve mentioned was written many years ago. What was it about the song that stuck with you all these years and drew you to include it on Ain’t in No Hurry?
JR: My husband and I went to Jamey Johnson’s Opry induction, and there were a lot of music business people there. There was a party afterwards, and I saw people I hadn’t seen in years. Because they were there for Jamey, I feel like they “got” me too. I ran into Arlis, and he told me he wished I would record “The King and His Crown” because he couldn’t get the song out of his mind. I went back home the next day and went through all of my emails to find the song, and I found it. I sent it to Matt and told him it was the song Arlis was talking about. Matt said he thought I should record it, and I told him I couldn’t. I told him it was too close to home.
The song is about my dad. He was an abusive, alcoholic father. Towards the end of his life, we reconciled. He took his life one week before his only grandson, my son Jackson, was to be born. That’s why I didn’t know if I wanted to tell that story again. I had written it long before we had reconciled, and that’s not how I wanted to remember him. He was excited about me having Jackson, and him taking his life was a total shock. Matt said he understood, but he thought it was a good song and a song that would help other people going through the same thing. I thought about it and sent it to Erin, and she said it was a strong song and told me to do whatever I thought was best. What’s funny is I gave my mom a copy of the record, and I never mentioned to her that I recorded that song. The night before we’re doing this interview, she told me she liked “The King and His Crown.” She said she felt like she was listening to a lot of her life when she was listening to the record, and she said that was one she really liked. I told her I didn’t even want to mention it to her because I was afraid it would bring back memories, and she said she’s glad I did. I hope that song helps people. Everything happens for a reason: I’m glad we were at the party for Jamey and that Arlis mentioned it. You write so many songs that you almost forget about them. That one was way in the back of my mind. When I lost my dad, that wasn’t him. I want everybody to know that. He was so excited to have a grandson, and he was really trying to be a better person. People can come around, and he was. I’m not sure what happened and made him give up, but I know he’s looking down and that he’s so proud of his grandson and excited that this record is out. He was very proud of me; he didn’t always share that, but he was. My dad was in the Air Force, and we have his flag. Jackson doesn’t understand it right now, but I have it saved to show him one day. I’ve never told that story, so thank you for asking.
PC: You’ve mentioned several times about having songs that connected with you and listeners. What do you hope listeners take away from Ain’t in No Hurry after listening all the way through?
JR: There’s so much of my life on this record. I’m looking at the album booklet as I’m talking to you. I would love for people to get what I got from the title track: to take in each moment in life. You never know which moment will be your last. I was in a rush in my career, and having Jackson has taught me to take in each moment. I really hope people love hearing music that I love: real country music with fiddle and steel guitar. There’s some moments that are autobiographical. We covered “Do Ya” by KT Oslin, which is a song I listened to with Mama as a little girl when we’d leave the house when my dad would get violent. Shooter told me to write a song about my mom and how she works so hard and to have it be a woman’s anthem, and that’s how “All By My Damn Self” came about. There’s so many journeys on this record that I hope people can connect to and relate to. To me, that’s what country music is all about. It tells stories that either I or someone in my life can connect to. I hope it takes listeners on a journey. I was talking to someone the other day and he said that he was drinking whiskey and listening to the record, and I said, “Well good! Whatever it takes!” [laughs]. Truthfully, I feel like it’s an honest record. It’s been a long journey, but it was a fun one. I feel like I’m finally in charge of me, and I love it.
PC: “Break Down Here” continues to be one of the very popular songs from its era of country music. What do you think it is about “Break Down Here” that has stood the test of time?
JR: Even though I didn’t write it, that was a real song for me. I heard Jason Matthews play it at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville before I even had a record deal. I said that I would remember that song, because if and when I got a deal, I wanted to find him and find that song. It was about my mom when she moved to Nashville. She moved to town three years after I did to start her life over. She drove a Ford Escort and smoked cigarettes, and I thought of her. I think it still resonates because it’s a real song and lyric. It’s a story song, which has always drawn me to country music. It’s what Patsy Cline sang about. It’s what Merle Haggard sang about. It’s real life. So many people have said to me over all these years that had they not heard that song, they would have turned around, gone back and started over, but they kept on going and they wanted to thank me. To me, that’s what God put me on this Earth to do: to share music and help people. I’m grateful that people still ask for that song. Other artists in the business have said that I’ll get tired of singing it, but I’ve never, ever gotten tired of it. I’d sing it for the entire set if I could.
PC: Along with releasing Ain’t in No Hurry, what are your plans for the rest of 2022 and beyond?
JR: I want to get on the road and play this music live! I truly love being on stage. My mom is hopefully going to retire soon, and she can help me with my little man out on the road. We’re doing an album release show on November 12th in Livingston, Tennessee, and we’ll be posting more dates soon. I’ve been playing shows since I was a little girl in South Carolina, and it just gets in your blood. I love sharing the moments with Jackson. He’s getting to the point where he can come to some of them, and I can’t wait to share the moments with him.
We’re also going back into the studio soon again! I want to keep everything moving. I’m talking with Erin about recording a gospel song that I’ve always loved, and we’ll likely add it to the vinyl of this record. We want to do vinyl, but vinyl is backed up pretty far, so we have time to add some songs if we want. I’m looking forward to coming to everyone’s town and saying “hey” again!
*Images by Erin McCaffrey*
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