What can you tell me about country singer Julie Roberts?
—Susan E., Florida
Roberts, who releases her first CD this month, began singing country music at an early age while growing up in Lancaster, S.C. (pop. 8,177). She performed in school plays and beauty pageants, including Little Miss Lancaster. As a teen, she toured regionally, performing at festivals in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. “We would pack coolers because we couldn’t eat out and we would stop at a rest stop,” she says. “It was so much fun. We’d say, ‘One day, we’re going to be on a bus doing this.'” She moved to Nashville, Tenn., in 1999 to attend Belmont University. After graduation, she landed a job at Mercury Records, but never mentioned to co-workers that she sang. “I needed to work and I was scared I was going to get fired if they knew,” she says. She spent her free time songwriting and playing at clubs, and her talent caught the ears of producer Brent Rowan, who took her into the studio to record a demonstration tape. Last year, while playing Universal Nashville chairman Luke Lewis some songs of other singers, Rowan played Roberts’ music. Lewis said, “I want to know who this is. I want to meet this girl.” Rowan said, “It’s the girl right down the hall. It’s your assistant.” A few months later, Roberts quit her day job and started living her dream.