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I had the pleasure last month of speaking with Julianna Zobrist, accomplished Christian singer and wife of Tampa Bay Rays Ben Zobrist. Julianna’s music career is taking off, keeping her increasingly busy, alongside being a mother of two young children and sticking close to her husband, both at home and on the road.
First, a little about her music. Julianna sings a different type of Christian music – not your typical contemporary, but more of a synth-pop dance-mix – what she calls “a fun new sound”. In her words, “I want to provide music that inspires a person to move and think. Music in which you will want to dance around the house, but, also music that will prompt you to sit down, think and wrestle with the lyrics”. Julianna’s second album “Say It Now” released early in 2012 and accomplished what she described. “The title song ‘Say It Now’ is a fist pumper that will get you moving, but it also addresses something about which I am passionate – PURPOSE – your purpose as a God created human being. We were created for the divine purpose of living our lives out loud. Live boldly where you are. You have something to say, so ‘Say It Now’!” Julianna is currently working on her third album. She releases a new album about every other year.
With an amazing and inspiring career underway, I asked Julianna a few questions about how she is able to balance it all successfully:
How do you work your career together with Ben’s baseball career?
Before we got into baseball, when we were first married and he was just drafted, Ben said “if I’m going to do this, we need to commit to keeping our family together.” We were thankfully not naive to how difficult the baseball life can be and how families can be torn apart – so we committed early on, before even having kids, that we were not going to spend more than six days apart from each other.
When it came to music, I knew when I married Ben that music was going to have to take a back seat but that was something I was happy to do because I just loved him a million times more than I could ever love music. The way that I keep working at my music then is by bringing my iPad and other equipment on the road so I can write music and record in the hotel room while he is busy. I can send music back and forth with producers. I do a lot of my mixes from afar. Then when I am home I can take care of things I am not able to do on the road like working on melody lines and production-type things…things I want to be really involved in. If I am ever not on the road with Ben then I come home to Nashville to work on music.
I feel very blessed to be able to do music as much as I do. I’ve worked really really hard at it. We have two kids and the one thing I would hate to do to my kids is tell them “you can be whatever you want, of course you can” and for them to say “well, you didn’t do it – you didn’t keep doing music, so why should I believe that?”. I want to be an example for them of #1- commitment to family and the things most important, and then also #2- being willing to work hard in your down time – not to turn on the TV, not to sit down and start texting, but to actually exercise your mind and exercise your abilities to work hard. I’m a huge fan of women that say “I like to paint, so I started painting during my kid’s naps” – just to use your gifts and talents, that is part of who you are.
I also try to coordinate my shows with Ben –I will do a show in New York when he is playing the Yankees or in Boston when he is playing the Red Sox. It works!
I noticed on your tour schedule that there are events where you will be performing and he will be speaking…tell me more about that.
Our favorite types of shows are the ones we get to do together. People are very interested in the baseball world, and I have my fans who are interested in music, and it’s kind of a cool combination.
Our primary market is schools or churches – and we have a show that we do together that is our testimony to what God has done in our lives the last few years – and it all revolves around baseball because when people come to a show they want to hear about that. The show consists of us telling stories about being called up to the big leagues for the first time and how we had $32.08 in our bank account – and that’s not a lie – because we had been traded and then called up to the big leagues so were on different pay rotations and had not been paid in about four weeks. We talk about that and other stories about the big leagues. We had a really tough year in 2007 when Ben was sent down for the first time. We learned a lot of things about ourselves and a lot of things about God. Our marriage was struggling at that time and God was so faithful to keep it intact. So that is another story we talk about. In between these stories I sing – my band is behind me – so we will tell a story and then I will sing a song based on what we went through. Most of my songs are about my life – so they relate to the stories. It is sort of an interactive time where I get to perform and rock out and Ben gets to speak – and he is a fantastic speaker. Our shows have gotten really popular.
Do you involve your kids? Do they watch you perform/come to shows?
Yes, they always come with me and I either have someone take care of them in the green room or they will be out in the audience dancing. Often times though, they will be konked out – for some reason my music puts them so sleep. Both of my records were recorded while I was pregnant so they were continuously lulled to sleep by my music.
I heard that Ben uses one of your songs for his “at-bat song”.
Yes, he does – he is so sweet. Last year he used “Behind Me”, which was a top song from my last record, and I think he will probably start this season with that. I am recording right now for my new album, so once those songs come out he will probably switch.
Learn more about Julianna’s music at JuliannaZobrist.com. Her music can be purchased on iTunes and in stores such as Lifeway or Family Christian.