Interview: Hilary Roberts discusses victory over emotional battles in self-titled album

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Recording artist and philanthropist Hilary Roberts’ self-titled album takes listeners on a rollercoaster ride through her experiences with “success, redemption, heartbreak, frustration and a whole lot more.” Her new album showcases three tracks topping the Billboard dance club chart: “There For You” (charted #3),  “Good Man” (#16) and “Back To Life” (#1).

The idea of Roberts’ self-titled album emerged when she and producer Damon Sharpe (who has worked with Ariana Grande and Jennifer Lopez) thought it would be ideal to make it her first mainstream release. The artist wants listeners to feel empowered with certain songs that would make them get up and dance, other songs to make them think and a few tracks that will pull at their heartstrings.

Roberts’ newest release from the album, “Ringer,” is a very powerful anthem for her because she “lived through the hell of being with a narcissist or sociopath.”

“It was so psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and physically abusive that I almost didn’t survive it,” she revealed. “When I faced the trauma from childhood and the core belief system I had within myself, which allowed that kind of relationship to continue, I was able to heal and get away.”

Roberts continued, “They truly had no conscience, and I survived it. I’m stronger today, and I know that I will never have to endure that again because I can see the red flags so quickly.”

The artist can’t wait for people to see the music video for “Ringer,” which will portray the transformation of a narcissist.

“I wanted to reveal that there are people out there who have no conscience and who play mind games. They don’t care about how much they hurt you and are complete con artists,” Roberts expressed. “It is so important to do whatever internal work you need to do to get yourself in a place to recognize them and get away from them.”

Roberts mentioned that the most important song on the album was “Fight to the Other Side,” which was written for a friend who encouraged her to pursue a music career when she didn’t believe in herself.

“Once my career started taking off, she became ill with a very rare form of muscular dystrophy and it had progressed quickly. By the time I presented it to her, she had attempted suicide seven times, which was not in her nature, prior to being diagnosed,” Roberts said. 

She continued, “That song saved her life, as she has never tried to commit suicide again. Now, she is an advocate of helping others. It was a song that saved a life; there could be no other song more important than that.”

Roberts mentioned that this generation has so many pressures and difficult emotions to deal with. She believes her songs will be relatable to many listeners, letting people know that they’re not alone. 

“This generation is so smart, yet so hard on themselves. We can never rise above being human. It’s just about being there for one another and practicing to be kinder to ourselves too,” she said.

Growing up, Roberts’ parents had a great influence on her love for music. Her turning point was when she saw the musical “Annie” when she was 10 — she started singing every day and discovered that she could sing well. 

The songwriting process for Roberts typically begins by discussing the song’s vibe with Sharpe. Then, the award-winning producer will get the skeleton track pieced together with Eric Sancola or another co-writer. Afterward, they venture to the studio and begin to write.

“We start spitballing melody ideas in the microphone and putting together what we like the most. Then, we start writing the lyrics beginning with the hook, and the song comes together from there,” Roberts revealed.

The singer’s most unforgettable gig was when she visited her grandfather who was alive and living in a dementia unit at a retirement community years ago. 

“I ended up singing for the patients there. As I was singing, people that couldn’t speak began to sing the words to the standards that I was singing. Some of them that wouldn’t even smile or look at anybody lifted their heads up, smiled and started clapping their hands,” she said. 

Roberts continued, “It took everything in me to not start crying while I was singing. Every nurse and visitor was in tears, blown away by the patients’ responses.”

In five years, the artist hopes that she will still be creating music, making a difference in people’s lives and helping more people than ever through Red Songbird Foundation, which Roberts established a decade ago and made official in 2019. Its goal is to assist survivors of trauma caused by sexual, physical and verbal abuse by offering counseling, helping members enter treatment and placing members into support groups that specifically address their primary issues. 

Roberts finished with inspiring advice for musicians who are starting out: “Be patient with yourself in learning your craft. No one has a voice like yours, and you have a message from your heart and soul to give to the world. With your gifts, you can change lives and even save them. Sometimes, it’s even your own. Don’t ever forget that.”

Contact Ron Rocky Coloma at rcoloma ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Ron Rocky Coloma '24 is majoring in Communication. He has a knack for interviewing celebrities and writing about entertainment. Contact him at rcoloma 'at' stanford.edu.