Juliet Roberts has been making music since she can remember, and around four years ago decided to make her passion a full-time job.
In the time that has passed the soulful singer-songwriter has gone through her share of ups and downs, and always fought to land on her feet. “This is what I was meant to do,” she says. “My options are make music or make music.”
That persistence paid off, as the Los Angeles-based musician can now add “NBA Finals Placement” to her list of accomplishments, making her one of the first independent artists to do so. The promo spot debuts today (May 18) — two weeks before the Finals commence on May 31— and features Roberts’ retro-tinged “Finally Mine” playing over some of the most emotional responses from both current and former NBA players when the Larry O’Brien Trophy is finally in their arms.
Roberts also released her debut full-length album, Things Keep on Changing, today. Billboard chatted with the up-and-comer about the placement, the album and the importance of strong female voices.
Your song “Finally Mine” is featured in this year’s NBA Finals promo. What was your reaction when you got the news?
At first, I was really wary to get myself excited, because I don’t like to count my chickens before they hatch, but when I knew it was real, it was very exciting. I invited friends and family to view the promo [the NBA] sent over. It was pretty surreal to have my voice behind such powerful people. That’s what my music stands for as well, so it was extra special for me.
You’re now part of a strong lineage of artists like Coldplay, Timbaland and Linkin Park who’ve also contributed music to the NBA Playoffs. How does it feel to be in such prestigious company?
It feels right [laughs] just kidding. But I’ve worked really hard for this and to have this opportunity and hear these names next to it, it feels affirming. It feels validating, with all the work I’ve done, and to be one of the first independent artists to get an opportunity like this is spectacular.
What makes this even more special, especially in today’s cultural climate, is having the voice of the NBA Finals be female. That’s really important.
Oh yeah. Me more than anyone stands for being strong and being independent and being who you want to be. To have my voice behind such powerful men, that says a lot. To have my voice be so crystal clear with them, I think is even more special. I think it really brings out the vulnerability and the hard work and the realness they have to go through. Sometimes we put them on this pedestal, where we don’t think they’re human, but they are.
In what ways do you hope this placement helps inspire other up-and-coming female artists?
The biggest thing I hope it inspires—even if it’s not in music—is that you have something you know you’re supposed to give to the world, just keep doing it. With women especially, there’s a lot we put on ourselves that we think we need to be, or we look at other people who’ve made it.
I remember reading a book when I was probably 14 about successful women. I was reading their stories and trying to figure out how I could follow their story. I tried so hard to relate my life to it and make my life fit into that puzzle. But there is no fitting into a puzzle. You just do what you do and be exactly who you are. People say that all the time but I don’t think they know exactly what it means. It means if you feel normal and feel like you’re not special, you need to own whatever that is, because whoever you are there’s something in you that makes you a completely different color than every single other person.
The NBA Playoffs, and the Finals especially, is so much more than a sporting event — it’s a culture. How does it feel knowing the players, along with millions of fans, will be hearing your song and getting acquainted with your music?
To have people discover my music is the whole point of it, and whether it’s an NBA player or Joe that works at the grocery store, I want to make a difference. I want people to hear the music, I want them to feel empowered, I want them to feel something. So that’s amazing; however, I will say having some NBA players as fans would be pretty friggin’ amazing [laughs].
It’s really exciting and special to know people are going to be able to really find me and hear my story and here the music that I write and the message I speak through the music. Hopefully they’re going to connect with it, and I can continue what I do and have more ears. That’s really what I want.
You’ve mentioned your “message” a few times. What do you hope people gain from hearing your music?
Well, the theme of my music is motivation, at the core. It’s not giving up when you feel there’s a wall, which I find very appropriate for what I was placed with. There’s the athletic part of it, but there’s a whole other part of your psyche that you need to strengthen, and people forget about that sometimes. My songs — not all of them, but most of them — are about pushing through, not giving up, and things I’ve learned in life throughout my journey come out in songs as inspiration.
Upon first listen, “Finally Mine” might sound like a throwback love song, but it’s really about my passion and not giving up on my music. I was so excited about doing this first full-length album, and the song is really about finally getting to have the sound I want and getting to the place that I want. I’ve been waiting, I’ve been hoping, I’ve been trying so hard.
“Finally Mine” is featured on your just-released album Things Keep on Changing. What can fans of the song expect from this album?
“Finally Mine” is probably the most sensitive song on the album, and fans of the song should expect to hear a retro vibe with a touch of rock and inspiration [on the rest of the album]. If they’re fans of the NBA and they stumble across this song and love my voice, they’re going to get a lot more of my voice. They’re going to like people who really push for what they want, and that’s what the album’s going to say.
I hear you’re a Warriors fan, and a Steph Curry fan specifically. What about him do you love?
I love the way he plays. I feel like he plays unlike anybody else. He’s so fluid and plays with a lot of grace. The way he shoots is beautiful. I feel like when he’s on the court, the way he moves with the basketball is like a dance. He’s just so graceful.
The Warriors have their hands full with the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals. What are your hopes for the series?
I have a really good feeling! Steph’s better now, and they’re doing really well and are a force to be reckoned with right now. Unless something happens and they choke, I think it’s going to be good. But you never know. I think it would be so spectacular of the Warriors and the Cavs had to face off again. It seems like they both have been the ones to watch. They always seem to be the ones fighting until the end.