SPOTLIGHT ON: INGA ROBERTS & THE PARLOUR SUITE
Inga Roberts is an extraordinary person. She is incredibly gifted creatively, sensibly grounded and unfailingly kind to everyone she meets. Inga and her husband Joel make up the musical duo The Parlour Suite, an LA-based alternative pop synth band. When I asked for this interview, she was graciously enthusiastic. As I received her responses, I was even more impressed and inspired by not only her dedication to her work, but her discipline to live a balanced, healthy lifestyle and one that continues to develop her both personally and professionally. She inspires me on a personal level to wring more out of my days and to keep a healthy perspective on pursuing the more alternative callings in life.
(Q) What do you do?
(A) I am a songwriter and musician.
(Q) How did you start?
(A) I started taking piano lessons when I was 5, and began writing my own music when I was in Jr. High. I sang in choir and performed in plays.
After I turned 21, I married a musician, my husband Joel Roberts. When he was between bands, we began writing together, in the living room of our loft in St. Paul, MN. I loved playing as a band. When I dedicate myself to doing something, I am all in. So, my mind was already thinking of how we could make this a career. We wrote some music and had some placements in commercials and TV and life just went from there. We toured the U.S. for a few years... and now we are based in LA where the majority of our work comes from.
I collaborate with other artists, co-write songs, and write music for various Rilm productions.
(Q) How long have you been doing this?
(A) I guess since I was 5, but really as a career for the past few years.
Q) Biggest thing you've learned through this lifestyle decision and/or advice you would share?
(A) Advice I have would be to stay genuine. Be kind to people, and invest time in relationships.
Things I've learned—to be prepared for opportunities that I want to receive. I study and challenge myself everyday. I take online tutorials on recording programs and do vocal exercises to stay sharp. By purposely putting myself in challenging situations, I can continue to get stronger.
I am a huge advocate of writing down goals. I start my New Year and Birthday off with a list of things I want to do or get better at. That way when I feel lost I go back to the journal entries, and I am able to refocus. When something has been accomplished, I put the date next to the entry. It's really motivating to see, as the year goes on, how many things I am able to tick off the list.
In other things I've learned: don’t compare yourself to others. Even when it looks like someone has had it handed to them, they’ve probably been preparing for years, learning and honing in their skill set.
(Q) What was the process like of going against the norm?
(A) I think the process is exciting. I don't purposely go against the norm, I just try to be true to my own goals. I have learned a lot from "normal" jobs that I've taken on: accounting, planning, and taking control of my own education. Those have really helped me be successful, on the business side of my creative endeavor.
It also helps that I am okay with people not understanding my decisions. When I first started taking my art in the direction of a career, it made me feel conflicted to over explain what I was doing. I would second guess myself, and my confidence would wane. I've learned that what other people think of me, is none of my business. So I don't let my mind go there.
(Q) What is a best day and worst day in this lifestyle?
(A) Oooo... hard question-I have a lot of answers for that.
On the practical side, a best day as an artist, is getting a paycheck. Some projects can last for years before being completed. Getting a paycheck for the hard work, is such a good feeling.
Worst day is when I spend too much time alone. I've been creating a lot of larger orchestrations... which means I'm inside with my headphones on at the computer in my home studio. It's amazing to be able to create in this environment, and I do love the solitude. When I don't leave the house for days on end though, I get a little batty.
(Q)What inspired you to make this change?
(A) That's hard to pinpoint one thing. My time traveling definitely had an influence on me. When we would go on tour, I saw and met tons of people. All living different lives on this planet. It reassured me that there's more than one path.
(Q) Walk me through a day in your life.
(A) I wake up. Do yoga. Have coffee, make a veggie/fruit/protein smoothie, and check emails. Make my "to-do" list for the day.
This year, I am trying to write and record a demo of a new song every week, so I work on that for a large portion of the day. It gets my brain in a quick creative mode. Some weeks that involves co- writing with other artists, or working on a commercial assignment.
try to concentrate on a task for an hour and a half and break it up. This year my goals are to: read a book every month, study Spanish everyday, exercise everyday, and become a better cook. So when I get to a lull in my creativity, I fall back on one of these tasks for a half hour. It gives my mind a rest, but I am still accomplishing something.
At the end of the day I check emails again. Set up work for the following week or month. And then I check out around 8pm. I'll make dinner and chat with Joel. We'll put on a record or watch some TV and hang out together.
We usually end up playing music for a little bit before bed. Then I read and fall asleep.
(Q) What sort of obstacles or challenges did you face to pursue this?
(A) I left a reliable job at a private equity firm, when I moved out to Los Angeles, to pursue music full time. There is always a point when reliability and risk do the baton pass. At some point, you have to make a choice. There is only so much preparedness that can be made, until you actually have to make the jump. It was exciting. Scary. And it still is both of those things. Which is why I keep working so hard.
My workday could go 24 hours a day. So I try to have a cut off point for working and free time. It's good to have a balance. It's hard when I am the one dictating it though... I say "no" to a lot of people wanting to hang out or stay with us. I have learned to be master of my own time and not say yes to everything.
(Q) Music to you is?
(A) Something that moves me to feel, dance, cry, and trigger memories.
(Q) If (when) you could make all the stars align, what would be your ultimate goal in this industry?
(A)To write a film score for a movie I love, to co-write with some of the producers and songwriters I really admire. I would really like to write a Top 40 hit.
Inga Roberts is a Los Angeles musician and songwriter. She is best known for her smooth-synth band, The Parlour Suite, with husband Joel Roberts. With a writing focus in pop music, her compositions have been featured nationally, on major network television: MTV, Showtime, and Lifetime. Her current position as a songwriter, for an LA publishing house, has landed her placements in ad campaigns ranging from Minnetonka Moccasin, Chan Luu, Similac, and more.