In the past couple of years, many indie rockers have recorded children’s albums. But you can’t accuse singer-songwriter Justin Roberts of jumping on the bandwagon. After playing in a Minneapolis-based indie-rock band during the early ’90s, Roberts made his solo debut with 1997’s Great Big Sun, his first album of tunes geared toward tykes. The former pre-school teacher was so successful, he ditched the indie-rock gig and moved to Chicago, where he spent a couple of years in graduate school and honing his G-rated songwriting craft. “The strange thing is that as I was writing the songs, I wasn’t thinking of being a children’s musician,” he says. “The reaction to the music was really strong. I didn’t even try to promote my children’s music, and it got written up in national magazines. It was something that clicked with me when I was working with the kids. I found it an interesting outlet to take on the perspective of a kid.” Roberts’ latest album, Pop Fly, which came out last year, opens with the jumpy, They Might Be Giants-like title track and then offers some power pop (“Big Field Trip”) and alt-country (“Henrietta’s Hair”). “This is a good way to turn kids on to different forms of music, though they could just listen to a Beatles record, which is what I did when I was a kid,” says Roberts. “I think it’s fun to have songs that speak to certain experiences that kids have, but that also make adults remember things about their childhood and then reflect on that and share that with their kids. I think that’s what sets [Pop Fly] apart from just listening to the new Spoon album.” Roberts and his band, the Not Ready for Naptime Players, perform at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Beachwood High School Auditorium (25100 Fairmount Blvd., 216.544.1231) as part of a benefit for the National Autism Association. Tickets are $20 advance, $22 day of show for adults, and $10 advance, $12 day of show for kids. Find more info at autismnortheastohio.org. — Jeff Niesel
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