ASCAP songwriter Julie Frost seemed to burst onto the pop music stage overnight, notching hits for Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, the Black Eyed Peas and Madonna (the Golden Globe-winning "Masterpiece") within two years of her first recorded single. But Frost's success was a long time coming. We spoke with this incredibly gracious creator about the changes - personal, professional and spiritual - that success has brought her.
When did you figure out that music was your life?
When I wrote my first song I sort of knew deep down, "Oh, this is what I AM." Once I realized that, I took a leap of faith and quit my job. I decided to make my living with my voice and with my guitar, or starve. I starved for a very, very long time! Every other job and vocation quickly bored me...until and except music.
Your song "Satellite" won the Eurovision Song Contest for Germany in 2010. How did that experience impact you?
I went to Germany the next day and was famous! I was doing talk shows and interviews. The whole thing couldn't have been more surreal if I'd suddenly discovered I'd grown antlers or something. I went from being an obscure and struggling songwriter to a hit songwriter with an actual songwriting trophy. Then I came back to L.A. and every one was like "Julie who?"
It's not so much the trophy as what changes on the inside. My strength and resolve had been tested over and over as I struggled to keep on writing and believing that such things were possible for me. That's okay, it made me strong. I could look back at the failures and disappointments, these really dark times, and see there was this great plan at work so big I just couldn't see it. It gave me a confidence on the inside that no one and nothing can take away now.
Do you have a preferred method of getting to know a new collaborator?
I have found that you usually have to take things on a case-by-case basis. Some people you need to hang out and chat with for a long time. With other people you walk in, they play a chord, and it just happens. One thing I am always aware of is the importance of my attitude. I keep my heart open and seek to meet all the people in the room with respect and faith in our talent. I make sure to expect the outcome to be something much greater than the sum of its parts. I try not to indulge in fear and anxiety, which can be difficult, because there is often pressure and other stresses involved when you are creating professionally and not JUST for love. It's very challenging sometimes, but so rewarding.
The pairing of lyric/melody in Madonna's "Masterpiece" and Black Eyed Peas' "Just Can't Get Enough" seem so effortless. Does topline tend to flow pretty easily?
Oh, those songs and melodies flowed through like gifts from God - those writing sessions were magical. That said, sometimes revision, trial and error are the way as well... it really depends on the constraints of the session and objective. With "Masterpiece" and "Just Can't Get Enough," that was pure inspiration with no thought of outcome except something big that everybody loved. Well, that WE loved anyway! It felt like a magic key had turned in my heart and the song just came out. I also had genius collaborators. That makes so much difference.
Is there one project you worked on, or lesson you learned from another music creator, that you feel shaped your songwriting more than any other?
There have been many lessons, but the first one that comes to mind came listening to songwriter Peter Himmelman speak about inspiration. He said something to the effect of "Let's say you didn't feel inspired to write a song today. Well if someone came up to you and put a gun to your head and was going to kill you if you didn't write a song, you could write a song today. If someone came up to you and showed you a check for a million dollars that would be yours if you wrote a song today, you would write a song today." Inspiration is unlimited. I have chosen to see it as a constant, always available to me as its willing vehicle.
You released your debut solo album The Wave a decade ago. Are you still actively writing and performing music for yourself?
Yes! That is just a part of who I am.
What professional achievement means the most to you?
This is going to sound like a cop out, but each one means the world to me. Each one is special in its own way. Seeing a song at the top of a chart, any chart, is such a thrill. An ASCAP award was literally on my list of dreams since the first time I saw one in a studio. And the Golden Globe, don't get me started!