John Roberts is no stranger to the world of entertainment. His voice has brought laughter to American living rooms for over a decade through the iconic character of Linda Belcher of “Bob’s Burgers,” but Roberts’ voice is singing a new tune lately. His latest song, “nothin 4 something,” channels the 1980s by way of glam rock, synth pop, and new wave.
The comedian-singer’s musical inclinations began with his high school marching band. The now Emmy-nominated actor has balanced music and acting since the early 2000s, finding success with a band that gave way to strong industry connections and lasting friendships. Cody Critcheloe, known for the striking visual and video work he continues to direct for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, directed the moody black-and-white vintage video to accompany Roberts’ latest single.
“In the early 00s I was in a band with friends and we did really well and played some great venues. At the same time I was developing my characters, one of those being my mom character, which ended up getting me the job on ‘Bob’s Burgers.’ That took over for a while,” said Roberts.
Several years ago, Roberts first resumed his professional music journey with producer Big Black Delta. “It just opened up a whole world for me,” recounted Roberts. Delta connected Roberts with other music producers he felt were consistent with his style, notably Junior Sanchez, who has worked with some of the biggest names in pop, including Katy Perry.
The Sound Behind “Nothin 4 Something”
Roberts has long taken inspiration from the many offshoots of alternative music of the 1980s. Lyrically, the singer, who identifies as gay, often calls back to conflicting emotions associated with Christian religious imagery.
“I really enjoy that time of music because there were so many melodies and great choruses and a lot of drama and it was just big and fun,” said Roberts. “Those songs really still resonate today. Me and Junior go way back to the rave scene from the 90s, and I love house music and electronic music and synthesizers too.”
Apart from their shared rave origins, “Nothin 4 Something” explores a more introspective side for the singer-producer duo. “This is just a really great tempo for me. It’s a little slower than the stuff we started with. So we were able to really work on the harmonies and I just think my voice sits better in this type of track.”
The track seamlessly blends contemporary pop with 1980s influence, channeling George Michael and Blondie, the latter of which Roberts now shares a personal connection to. Roberts befriended Blondie’s lead singer, Debbie Harry, years ago, and has plans to hit the studio with her soon. “It’s vintage sounding, but it sounds fresh to me. It sounds very me, so that’s also what I wanted.”
His collaboration with Critcheloe on the accompanying music video allowed Roberts to channel his teenhood favorite artists through a deeply personal lens.
“There’s that ‘Flashdance’ storyline, but it’s also very Bruce Springsteen and George Michael. And there’s some religious elements in there too, being LGBTQ and referencing the Catholic Church.” said Roberts, who grew up in a Catholic Irish-Italian family.
The Voice Behind Linda Belcher
In conjunction with the new music, Roberts is slowly rekindling the creative process of “Bob’s Burgers.” The show was among the numerous productions impacted by the joint WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike. The WGA recently came to a deal with the AMPTP, marking the beginning of writing on the new season.
Despite working to carve out a unique yet nostalgic musical sound for himself, Roberts does not mind if fans still draw the connection between his singing voice and the voice of Linda Belcher. “Well, I think it is a bit of a challenge sometimes, but at the end of the day, I’m just happy people know who I am, and that I’m working, and people enjoy what I’m doing. So there’s always going to be a person that’s like, ‘Oh, sing it like Linda,’ but that’s fine too,” said Roberts.
Personal expression and a song for any occasion is all that Roberts hopes for with his new music.
“As long as people enjoy it and they’re able to take their minds off of things and if it inspires them or it provokes some kind of thought, all of that is awesome,” said Roberts. And also just shaking your booty to it is good too, going for a car drive. I think right now and in general, music is always a great healer.”
“Nothin 4 Something” is out on all streaming platforms now.