Many musicians have dreams. Some materialize. Others are broken. But singer and songwriter Julie Frost feels like Cinderella. After standing alongside Madonna onstage at the Golden Globes and accepting the award for co-writing the best original song in a motion picture ("Masterpiece," from the movie "W.E."), Frost is hoping the rest of 2012 can measure up.
"The whole experience was so incredible," Frost said a few weeks after her Golden Globes experience. "All this talent is in one place — Mary J. Blige, Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep. I'm looking at them and thinking, 'You're nominated, and I'm nominated. How cool is that? We now have something in common!' "
Frost's success did not come without great hardship. After moving to Chicago at age 19 to play music, she was robbed twice and lost everything in a fire.
"I lost my computer, my guitar, everything. Chicago was tough on me," she said. "But it was also where it all began. I mean I knew I loved music, but I had terrible stage fright. I couldn't sing in front of people."
Frost overcame her performance anxiety after several open mic nights and guitar lessons. Eventually she was teaching guitar and singing for Wiggleworms classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music, which led to her first CD, "Songs for Wiggleworms."
Nowadays, Frost collaborates with well-known artists such as the Black Eyed Peas, Madonna and Beyonce — quite a long way from her days of singing for infants.
Q: How did you get your first big break?
A: A friend of mine in Chicago said he'd heard about this guy named Jon Platt. He goes by "Big Jon." He signed Kanye West, Jay-Z, Beyonce. He's known for having integrity and for going with his gut. So we sent him a cold email. And he opened it!
He flew me to Los Angeles, and I got an amazing publishing deal. People never get publishing deals that way. It's completely something that would happen in a movie. Meanwhile, my landlord was giving me groceries, and I was two months behind in my rent.
I didn't know what I was going to do. But when I got to LA, every amazing thing you ever dream of happened to me.
Q: Before you made it, there were a lot of hard times. When was the fire in Chicago where you lost everything?
A: It was eight years ago. ... I was living on Dearborn in a midrise. I had an awful day in the bitter, bitter, bitter cold, and I got home at 11 at night, and I thought, "Well this day can't get any worse." And I went to turn on the heater, and it didn't work — so I got under the covers and went to sleep. I woke up to a wall of flames.
I got my cat Katie, my cellphone and I ran out of there. I was wearing a T-shirt with blueberry stains on it, I'll never forget it, yoga pants with a hole, and that was it. I had that outfit, my cat and my phone. That's all I had. I lost everything else.
Q: Then what happened?
A: I was a struggling independent artist, playing where I could, just trying to survive. You're looking at your home burn, and you don't know what you're going to do — it was quite a while until I was back on my feet. I stayed with friends and everyone was so supportive.
Q: Tell me about the Golden Globes.
A: I had a total breakdown the morning of — you're so anxious and keyed up, and you gotta get a dress and do the hair. But at first that morning I woke up and said, "I'm not doing this — this is crazy!"
It was really emotional, but it was good because my friends were there and the crew — there literally was a crew that helped me get ready — said, "You'd be surprised, this happens to everybody." And when we stepped into the limo, from then on it was just really cool. … I couldn't believe it was happening to me.
Q: What would the current day Julie tell the 20-year-old Julie?
A: (Long pause) I'd just let her know that it's going to be OK. There was no physical reason for me to know that things were going to turn out the way they did. The odds were so against it. You know in "Finding Nemo" when they say, "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming"? Well, I'm thinking, "Just keep writing. Just keep singing. Just keep writing. Just keep singing."
Q: What did you want to be when you were 13?
A: I think by that time I had decided I was going to be a lawyer. I was actually pretty brainy and intellectual at that age. I thought I loved music, but I somehow decided I wasn't musical or creative.
Q: Do you have a living hero?
A: I met Mary J. Blige at the Golden Globes, and she was nominated in the same category. She makes me proud to be a woman. And what an honor it was for me to be in the same category. She is everything you hear that she is — kind, genuine, talented. I told her how much she inspired me.
Q: What's your personal mantra?
A: Everything happens for some kind of reason — even a robbery and a fire. If you don't think of yourself as a victim, but think, "What am I here to learn, and what's the gift here?" then you have the power, and nothing can take that away.
Twitter @jenweigelCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times