Hillary Roberts: "Number one is growing the foundation to help as many people as possible and to release more new music as everything is opening up."
The story of Hilary Roberts reads like no movie script. It is real life. That of a strong woman who has been through the worst things imaginable and still escaped as a beacon for hope and empowerment. The American singer/songwriter and philanthropist has emerged from that painful past free as a bird, despite life-long trauma and health concerns, inspiring others for the better.
With the release of her new single ‘Free,’ Roberts showcases her undeniable talent and presents a stellar addition to her successful chart-topping discography. ‘Free’ targets superficial relationships that decide to break ‘free’ for the beauty of self-love. This bright, vibrant pop release features legendary remixers/producers Bimbo Jones.
In the track, Roberts calls for a stop to posting selfies and superficial love instead, asking everyone to look inside themselves, open their hearts, and break free. The messaging is better understood and valued once you hear from the woman herself.
On top of preparing for the release of the new single she shares what she has been up to in the last couple of months: “Well, I just celebrated 25 years of sobriety, so that’s been a huge deal for me! I am also working on my foundation, The Red Songbird Foundation, to help people and continuing our podcast, called Let The Journey Begin”.
Roberts founded the non-profit organisation, The Red Songbird Foundation, in 2009 and in May 2019 she joined forces with ‘The Hills’ star Jason Wahler and celebrated its public launch. Together they work to help people heal from the darkness of their past by providing education, outreach, resources, and treatment scholarships; Hilary and Jason have made it their mission to raise awareness and save as many lives as possible through their work.
After the two years, the world has gone through; everyone is ready to get back up. Roberts is set on her intentions while keeping her well-being in check: “Number one is growing the foundation to help as many people as possible and to release more new music as everything is opening up. I am a bit of a sugar addict, so I enlisted the help of a coach/nutritionist who’s been helping me take better care of myself and being responsible with eating, and it feels really good”.
Roberts’ story will leave you stunned, intrigued, and inspired, but as she worked through her trials and tribulations, she was determined to rewrite her story and leave a mark on people’s lives. She elaborates: “I suffered horrible sexual trauma growing up and was trafficked as a teenager, I escaped that, but then my perception of life and relationships from all of that was very twisted and toxic for a long time. I became an alcoholic at 14 and struggled with that for years, finally getting and staying sober in 1997. At six years of sobriety, I had to go get help for my sexual traumas because I was still having nightmares every single night from the abuse and what I had lived through. It was so painful to get to the healed place but so worth it. That is why today I want to help people. My life is so different today, and I have a life beyond my wildest dreams. I do experience trials and low spots at times, but it’s not often, and it doesn’t stay for long, and I have a great support system that surrounds me that I made sure to build around me”.
As she celebrates 25 years of sobriety, she shares what pushed her to get the help she so desperately needed: “Taking the action to do whatever it took to stay sober no matter what. I craved alcohol and drugs for six months straight, and then it hit me in waves for another year after that. If we bring the body, then the mind will follow. Also, I made sure to get with people that had success and joy and peace in their lives from sobriety, and I did what they did, and I took their suggestions, and my life changed”.
More than anything, it is about the strength to keep going day by day. Roberts talks about what was essential for her sobriety in the beginning stages: “Being honest with everything in my brain with a spiritual advisor. I still have an advisor today. Having that support system was crucial, so I could call people to build relationships and attend support groups. Also, today I get to help other women with their journey and light the path for them, which brings me immense joy. Plus, it ensures me staying sober”.
When she found out she had to undergo open-heart surgery, Roberts was faced with overwhelming guilt and struggled to see her positive impact on the world. She explains how she stayed above the clouds “My spiritual advisor had me write out every good thing I’ve done to help people because I had a lot of guilt about my past and felt like I hadn’t done enough in the world at that time. A lot of prayers, too. My experience was after the surgery, I had a burning bush experience three days after, and it didn’t happen before, and it hasn’t happened since, but it was very powerful for me”.
The isolation of a global pandemic turned everyone’s life upside down, but the challenges and uncertainty had to be a lot for someone with her experience. She mentions music being the saving grace: “It gave me a run for my money for a little while, at the beginning especially. I was eating a ton of junk and watching Netflix. I was attending online support groups but was in a bit of a depression. Damon Sharpe and I ended up releasing Just Let Go that summer of 2020, and it helped me get out of myself because I thought I needed to express myself and put positivity out in the world, and it preached to me also.
Music is a way to get my feelings out; it’s a way to heal; it’s a way to feel connected to humanity and God; it brings me joy, walks me through sadness, and uplifts me. It is truly the universal language”, she says, also telling us what sparked this feeling in the first place. “I saw the play “Annie,” started singing the songs from the musical, and discovered I had a voice. From there, I started performing in talent shows, commercials, and dinner playhouses”.
To get your message across, it is very important to work with someone who understands you, your needs, and your story. Roberts hit the jackpot with her long-time collaborator Damon Sharpe. She speaks about the nature of their writing sessions: “Damon and I discuss which direction we want to go with a particular song that I would like to create. He and Eric Sanicola put the scratch background tracks together, and Damon and I lay down melodies and start with the hook, then the verses, and then the bridges. Sometimes I come to him with a melody or an idea that we can start from. He is so great at bringing out the best in me, to be as involved in the process as possible”.
Their symbiotic working relationship seems to be working more than well, as multiple of their singles hit the top of the Billboard Dance Chart, including ‘Back To Life,’ ‘Fight To The Other Side’ and ‘Good Man.’ Roberts kindly depicts each backstory: “Back To Life’ is a remake of the “Soul II Soul,” classic. My interpretation of it is coming back to life after going through any kind of personal torment or dark time. And then being able to serve others. ‘Fight To The Other Side’ was written about my dear friend, Annie Blake, who had attempted suicide seven times after being diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. After we presented the song to her, she never attempted suicide again, got off certain medications, and has been able to help lots of people get help from alcoholism and drug addiction. She and her husband, Kevin, live in the New Forest, UK”.
‘Good Man’ was a song written about the type of man I wanted to be with. At the time we wrote it, I was dating an abusive narcissist and in a lot of pain surrounding that relationship. Fortunately, I faced what was keeping me there and why I had allowed myself to be in these types of relationships. Today, I have a beautiful and loving relationship. Today, I have my good man.”
‘Free’ is the first release of the year for Roberts. As much as it is bouncy, upbeat, and uplifting, bound to be a summer floor filler, ‘Free’ encourages people to break free from the fake hazards the world might hold via its pulsating rhythm. Roberts expands: “As I have been in the entertainment industry, I wanted to try and stay as grounded as possible. Sometimes we can get caught up in the superficial world of red carpets, award shows, and the like. Life is truly about being authentic, having fun, and having real relationships. Breaking free from the supervisor aspects of being in the industry”.
Roberts and her team went with video-game-inspired graphics and a Kill Bill-esque storyline for the accompanying music video. ”Éli Sokhn came up with the battle between Damon and me and his superficial entourage. So great to see them freed after I win the battle! And a fun little homage to Mortal Kombat at the end. I wanted the unicorn with a rainbow because when we have joy and freedom in our lives, that’s how it feels; it’s like being a kid again. Liz Imperio came up with the fabulous choreography and being in front of the club. The car was a $2 million electric car by a company called Raesr Automotive, they were so kind to let us feature their incredible supercar in the video! Me driving an amazing car was also Eli’s idea because I like to race cars at the track”.
As we spoke more about the Red Songbird Foundation, Roberts shares how everything came about: “When I was six years sober, I was plagued by nightmares that occurred every single night. My spiritual advisor at the time said she would not continue to help me unless I went and got help for my sexual traumas. She had found a foundation that would pay for half of my treatment. One friend loaned me the money for another quarter, and then the rest was gifted by another friend. I was able to tell the entire truth about what had happened to me and what I had lived through to my family. It took another year and a half to really start stepping into freedom. I swore that one day if I had the means that I would help others the way I’ve been helped. Beginning in 2009, I started personally sending people to treatment, counselling, and workshops for trauma and mental health, mostly and sometimes for alcoholism and drug addiction. In 2019 Red Songbird became official, and we have given away 1.4 million dollars in treatment and counselling”.
She elaborates on specific programs the Red Songbird Foundation offers: “RSF has been collaborating and partnering with like-minded community members to bring education programs like our virtual Mental Health Summit in October 2020, that reached over 340,000 people, as they also see the need for an increase in mental health support. Other initiatives that we have collaborated on with the local communities include, Epic Journey Golf Classic, Quarterly Community Town Halls on various mental health subjects, fundraisers for mental health treatment scholarships, speaking engagements at local schools during drug awareness month, and Restaurants 4 Recovery, which was featured on Fox 11 highlighted our effort in the Southern California region”.
As the phrase goes, everything happens for a reason, and the torment Roberts had to go through is now saving lives. From all the many many success stories, Roberts mentions the following: “We have many success stories, but the one that really stands out to me is a young woman that we connected with that had lost everything, including custody of her young daughter. Through one of our scholarship opportunities, we were able to get her back on her feet, and now she has full custody of her daughter”.
Take it from Hilary Roberts; all pain is temporary; ask for help, and surround yourself with like-minded people. It gets better. Professionals all around the world are qualified to work through your traumas with you, and the Red Songbird Foundation offers them all.