Full of energy, four-time GRAMMY-nominated Justin Roberts’ 16th album, Space Cadet, is a throwback to his power pop sound for all ages. Heavily inspired by his life as a new dad, the feel-good album features themes of inclusion and acceptance that run through emotionally intelligent songs. Roberts creates an inviting space for children to celebrate their uniqueness and dance their hearts out. Alongside his epic 5-piece rock band, The Not Ready for Naptime Players, Justin is joined by jazz horns, ’80s synthesizers, rising strings, a harp and plenty of applause.
Justin Roberts is well known for helping to create the modern family music scene and has been praised for his ability to take children seriously, see the world through their eyes, and write meaningful songs that recognize the emotional depth of children. while letting the pleasure shine through. Roberts released his first-ever children’s album, Great Big Sun, in 1997, and 25 years later is now making family music through the lens of a new father.
Roberts’ son Eli was born in 2018 and inspired Wild Life, Justin’s latest album of softer, quieter songs. With Space Cadet, Justin returns to the massive rock energy of his GRAMMY nominated albums Jungle Gym and Recess. While using her imagination and childhood memories, Roberts now weaves a first-hand parenting experience. Kitchen dance parties, thrilling fire trucks and playground life inspired these joyful and passionate new songs.
While writing this album, Roberts noticed recurring themes in his new songs about inclusion, the importance of being yourself, embracing differences, and self-discovery. From a very personal perspective, the experience of isolation during the pandemic, combined with the loss of her father in 2020, contributed to the songs about healing on the album. The opening song, “When February Comes”, sets the pace and takes the listener on an exciting journey through the changing seasons and the cycle of a year.
The high energy “I Have Been a Unicorn” is an anthem about being who you are and acknowledging that we are all ourselves. “Truman Was a Tornado” tells the story of a tornado boy who tries to fit in while discovering both his unique cyclone abilities and the quiet beauty within himself. Back when Justin was an easily distracted elementary student, his teacher called him the “distracted teacher.” Being a “space cadet” has been part of Justin’s identity ever since, and the giddy 15 parts of this song provide a great illustration of that. About “Space Cadet”, Justin says, “The good thing about having your head in the clouds is that you can get lost imagining stories and creating things.”
“Gimme a Fire Truck” was inspired by the day a grumpy Eli lit up immediately upon seeing and hearing a fire truck go by. Justin started thinking about all the fire trucks we have in our lives that help rescue us when we need it. “I’m Not Just An I” is about how our relationships with others transform who we are, and “Dance Party” is a page from Justin’s home life with his wife, cellist Anna Steinhoff, as ‘Eli asks them to leave. the coffee table and throw all the couch cushions on the floor for a late night dance party. “Seven Billion Billion Billion Atoms in Me” is an empowering song that reminds us of the wonder of being a human being.
Fun fact: every human being has about seven billion billion billion atoms inside them! “Whole Lotta Love in This World” was written towards the end of 2021 as a healing prayer about family and friends gone after two years of isolation. The album’s close is “Everybody Get on Board”, a song about everyone invited to the party, inspired in part by the divisive politics of recent years and by the opening lines of Curtis’ “People Get Ready”. Mayfield. Roberts dedicated this song to his father, Steve, a train enthusiast who died during the pandemic. Other songs on the album include “If You Should Dig”, about digging deep to find buried treasure and “Little Red Wagon”, a song about friendship.
The album features the Not Ready for Naptime Players: Jackie Schimmel (bass guitar, vocals), Gerald Dowd (drums, percussion, vocals), Liam Davis (electric guitar, organ, vocals) and David Winer (trumpet, vocals) as well as other friends: Christian Matthew Cullen (80s synthesizers), Michael Mahler (piano, electric guitar, vocals), John Abbey (double bass and additional bass guitar), Ben Melsky (harp), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), Meagan McNeal (vocals), Nora O’Connor (Vocals), Lisa Kaplan (Piano and Toy Piano), Anna Steinhoff, Liz Hagen, Pascal Innocenti, Marty Davids (Strings) and Chris Greene, Anna Jacobson & Nick Broste (Horns).
Space Cadet was produced by Justin Roberts and engineered by Matt Hennessy at VSOP Studios, Chicago, IL. The album was mixed by Liam Davis at Acrylic Audio, Evanston, IL and mastered by Emily Lazar and Chris Allgood at The Lodge, NY. Illustrations and design by Ned Wyss and photography by Todd Rosenberg.
Space Cadet will be available in physical and digital format on July 15, 2022 wherever families are looking for great music. More at justinrobertsmusic.com.
Four-time GRAMMY nominee Justin Roberts is truly one of the stars of the family music scene. For 25 years, Roberts has been creating the soundtrack to family life, helping children through the joys and sorrows of growing up, while inspiring parents to remember their own childhoods. His songs are the kind of pop nuggets stuck in your head that draw comparisons to Elvis Costello, Fountains of Wayne and Paul Simon rather than just nursery rhymes, prompting USA Today to call him “hands down the best songwriter in genre.”
With his band, The Not Ready for Naptime Players, Justin has traveled the world, from Hong Kong to New York, and from Miami to Seattle. In addition to her recordings, Roberts is also the author of two acclaimed picture books: The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade (illustrated by Christian Robinson) and The Great Henry Hopendower (illustrated by Deborah Hocking), both published by Penguin Random House.
Two more picture books are on the way, including I’ll Be Your Polar Bear (illustrated by Chuck Groenink) slated for October 2022. Justin is a former trustee and president of the Recording Academy’s Chicago chapter. He is very involved in the advocacy work of the organization and even testified before the Senate bench to help pass the important Music Modernization Act.
Listen to the new single here: