Gold-selling country music artist Julie Roberts chronicles her real life drama of tragedy and triumph — including a life-changing Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis while in her twenties — and the lessons of hope she has learned along the storied way. Don’t miss a single episode of Dinner Conversations — subscribe below!


TRANSCRIPT FROM THE SHOW

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Mark: Well, you’re the one who came up with Julie Roberts. I had not heard of her ’cause, ya know, I don’t listen to music. But she was a huge artist for a moment.

Andrew: That’s right. She did. She had a very substantial country recording career, gold records, and on some of the biggest stages. And then her life took a turn through a diagnosis with–

Mark: MS.

Andrew: Yeah, and she was only in her 20s. A couple of other things, her career floundering, the loss of her home in the Nashville flood. There’s a lot to her story. And we’re really just gonna let her tell her story.

Mark: Yeah, it was wonderful. And there’s one seat left at the table, and it’s yours! Let’s join the conversation.


Andrew: You all just met today.

Mark: I just met you today, and I wanna say, what a treat. You are a breath of sunshine. You’re not only pretty, but you glow. You got a spirit about you that’s really nice.

Andrew: Radiant.

Mark: Yes, radiant. 

Julie: Thank you. And so do y’all.

Mark: Thanks.

Julie: It’s nice to meet y’all.

Mark: Nice to meet you. I love your husband, Matt, who I’ve known for years.

Julie: And he loves you.

Mark: Well, he should. I’m worth loving!

Julie: He should!

Mark: And I should love him, right?

Julie: Yes.

Mark: Okay, so anyway, back to you. Let’s tell… For anyone who’s meeting you for the first time, like I did today, take us back to, tell us your story that led you to this table. You had a big country career. Why don’t we start there? Or if you even wanna go back further, you can go wherever you wanna start.

Julie: Okay.

Andrew: Did you always wanna do music? Or is that–

Mark: Wait, wait. My question is the question.

Andrew: Oh, I’m sorry, sorry.

Mark: See, he’s always got these good questions, and when I finally have a good one, he wants to interrupt with one that’s better.

Julie: No, but–

Andrew: This is the longest he’s…

Julie: That’s awesome.

Mark: Oh honey, I’m playin’.

Julie: So I grew up, and we talked about this earlier today, I grew up lovin’ country music that mama listened to. And I grew up in a home with domestic violence. And so I have two sisters, and mama would take us out of our home in the middle of the night and we’d drive to mawmaw’s house in this small town. It was like 10 minutes to mawmaw’s. And at mawmaw’s house, it was a happy home. And we would watch the Mandrell Sisters show.

Mark: Barbara Mandrell and The Sisters.

Julie: Yes, exactly. Hee Haw, Carol Burnett. We’d laugh, and then mawmaw made everything fried. And so we ate good. It was just a happy place. But mama drove a Ford F150 truck too. So this was before seat belt laws, so we’d stand in the truck. And she’d turn the country music up, and we sing all the way there, and it was like our escape. And so we get to mawmaw’s house, and mama was the first person to teach us about faith. And after we would watch the shows and eat everything fried, fried okra, fried squash, fried chicken.

Mark: Yum, love mawmaw.

Julie: And mawmaw’s still in Lancaster.

Mark: Is she?

Julie: Yes. And she would pray with each of my sisters and me. Each of us individually, and it would be the prayer you’ve all heard of, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” And it was my turn. And I said this same prayer for so many years, and it was, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” And at the end I’d say, “God, please give me a record deal.”

Mark: Are you serious? As a little girl.

Julie: A little girl. “And make me a singer like Barbara Mandrell so I can buy mama a happy home.” And so I prayed that prayer from the time I was a little girl till those things began to come in my life. So that’s how I began to love country music was really mama. And so I really wanted to be Barbara Mandrell. So I knew to be Barbara Mandrell, I had to move to Nashville.

Mark: Right.

Julie: But mama said, “You need to go to college.” I said, “I don’t have to go to college to be Barbara Mandrell.” She said, “Yeah, you do.” And I said, “Okay.” So I went to the University of South Carolina for two years. And then I learned about an artist I love, Trisha Yearwood, and that she went to Belmont University. And they had a music business program. And so I signed up to get as many scholarships as I could. And the only scholarship I got, and I studied so hard at University of South Carolina. But I got the Vince Gill scholarship to come to Belmont. And so I finished at Belmont in Music Business.

Andrew: So music, I mean, was that, when I think about you going to mawmaw’s house, I wonder if one of the reasons you loved music so much was it was this kind of, not only was it an escape, but it kind of soundtracked hope.

Julie: It was, and it was fun.

Andrew: It was a safe place.

Julie: It was a safe place. Mama would even sing to the radio. I mean, we would sing so loud, and it was like everything else in our life was not there. It was music, and it was that radio, or it was TV.

Mark: And your father was abusive.

Julie: An abusive alcoholic. So yes, definitely, that was my introduction, and it’s also why I love sad country songs. ‘Cause people always say, “Julie, you smile all the time.” And I do. I love to smile. I’m a happy person. But I love Patsy Cline, and I love Tammy Wynette, and I love to hear that cry in their voice when I hear them sing.

Andrew: Do you feel like that gave you an outlet for your tears?

Julie: It actually did. It was definitely my escape, you know. Just sitting there pretending to be somebody else. When I would pretend to be Barbara Mandrell, I wasn’t Julie, the little girl that lived in this house. And so when I would step on stage, ’cause mama and mawmaw started signing me up for these talent things.

Mark: Oh, yeah?

Julie: And I was scared of everybody. Everybody! Like if they’d go take me to a restaurant, Ryan’s, we’d always go to eat y’all. Y’all remember Ryan’s?

Mark: Oh, yes, yeah.

Andrew: Yeah, yeah.

Mark: I do!

Andrew: If you go early, you get the lunch pricing and just stay till they bring dinner out.

Julie: So we’d go to Ryan’s and mama would say, “Now speak to me. Don’t speak to her. She’ll cry.” Because I was afraid of, I was afraid of everybody. And I think it’s because of my home as a child. And they’d speak to me, and we’d have to leave the restaurant. But when I would get on stage, it was like my comfort zone. And the first time I sang onstage was “Rocky Top.” And I burped in the middle of the song because I ate mawmaw’s fried squash.

Andrew: Right beforehand?

Julie: Yes!

Andrew: See!

Julie: Big lesson early in life.

Mark: Tell me about that first time. Were you nervous the first time? Or were you at home?

Julie: You know, they didn’t think I’d walk out on stage. And I tapped my foot, which I still do, always just kinda kept me comfortable. And I sing kinda behind the beat.

Andrew: And that’s the way I’m like, waitin’ for everything else to happen? Join in the party?

Julie: Yes! But, you know, I think that that’s where I actually felt safe.

Mark: And you get a degree. And then after you get this degree, what happens?

Julie: So I was interning for Mercury Records. And when I graduated, they said, “Julie, do you wanna be the receptionist?” And I said, “Well, sure.” ‘Cause I had school loans. And then I knew when I graduated, I’d have to pay rent and a car payment. And so I became the receptionist at Mercury Records. And that’s not what I prayed for. I prayed, I said, “God, I don’t wanna answer phones. I wanna be Barbara Mandrell!”

Mark: Right. I love that you were so specific. Lord, we’re gonna do this now.

Julie: Yes!

Mark: We’re not gonna have none o this answering phones stuff.

Julie: But I did it! And I did it for two and a half years. And I had a lot of idle time. When the phone’s not ringing and you’re not saying, “Mercury Records, this is Julie,” I was just sitting there, and mama was still back in South Carolina. And so I started making out a resume for her ’cause I wanted her to move here with me. And I’d made up the cover letter. I pretended I was mama. I said I’m lookin’ to relocate to Nashville. This is what I do. And I helped her get a job at a mattress factory in Nashville here. And she still works there.

Mark: Wow.

Andrew: Wow.

Julie: And it was the first time in my life. So she moved three years after I did, and it was the first time in my life that I had seen, ever seen mama really smile.

Mark: Really?

Julie: She started to wear makeup. She died her hair blonde. She became a new person.

Mark: What was making her not be like that there? Was she still married to your father?

Julie: Yeah.

Mark: Okay, so she left him?

Julie: Yeah.

Mark: Finally. And got free, and–

Julie: Started her life over at 50. She put everything–

Mark: Let me ask you this. Let me interrupt right here. For anybody who might be watching who’s in that kinda situation with little girls, when is it the right time to say, okay, I’ve been abused enough? When is the right time?

Julie: You know, I think it’s so personal. For mama, I begged her my whole life. And I would, even when I lived at home and I was working, I would work in theme park shows during the summer, and I would, when I’d get off work, I would go buy things like dishes that would be in our home one day. And I’d hide ’em from my dad. And so I told her back then, ya know, when I was little, I said, “Mama, let’s leave.” But we were from a small town, and she didn’t want my younger sister, who was still in high school, to have to answer, why aren’t you living with your parents?

Mark: But she blossomed when she got here.

Julie: Yeah, so my younger sister graduated, and then mama was ready to come. And she started her life over. And then, she didn’t have a F150. She had Ford Escort.

Andrew: That’s a change.

Julie: And so we nicknamed it Gray Lightning ’cause it didn’t go very fast. And she put everything she had and she moved here. And we got an apartment, and that was our first happy home.


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Andrew: And you blossomed, too, at that time, if you think about Receptionist Julie. But two and a half years later, you landed a record deal.

Mark: How’d that happen?

Andrew: Yeah, I mean that’s fascinating.

Julie: Okay, so I was still answering phones, you know. And then, the head of Mercury, Luke Lewis, came to me and he said, “I like the way you answer phones.” And he said, “Will you be my assistant? But if you’re a singer, don’t tell me ’cause I don’t want a singer answering my phones.” I said, “Okay.” “You’ll get a pay raise.” I said, “Okay.” So then I started answering Luke’s phones for another year and a half. But at night, I had formed a band in college, and at night, I was playing when I’d get off of work, playing at anywhere you could get a gig. It’s hard to get a gig. So we’d play in coffee houses. We even played at a laundromat, Harvey Washbanger’s. Harvey, they had never had anybody there, and they said, “If you get too loud, and you hear the dryer go off, you need to say, ‘Dryer number three, your clothes are ready.'”

Mark: That is fantastic!

Julie: We played there all the time.

Mark: Really? And people’d come, and they’d say, “If you’re gonna be at the laundromat tonight, let’s go!”

Julie: Listen, no. It was just people doing their laundry. So we’d always have a crowd.

Mark: A built-in crowd.

Julie: That’s right. So we would play anywhere we could like that. And my guitar player was a receptionist at a publishing company across town. And he’d been my guitar player through college, Belmont. At his office, producers would come in, and he saw Brent Rowan one day. He said, “Hey Brent, I’m playin’ with this girl at the laundromat. Why don’t you come and hear her sing?” And he said, “I’m not going to a laundromat to hear somebody sing.” He said, “Do you have a CD or somethin’ I can hear?” And we actually had made a CD in a class at Belmont. So he said, “Yeah, here ya go.” And then he told Brent that it was Luke Lewis’ assistant. So Brent calls me, and he said, “Hey, I heard your stuff. Can you put the laundromat gigs on hold awhile? And let’s record at night. Just guitar vocals.” ‘Cause he’s a brilliant guitar player. And, I said, “Okay.” And so we started recording, and we spent a lot of time. I would go to the Blue Bird, listen for songs. That’s actually where I heard “Break Down Here.” And that was mama’s story, ya know, every part of that. I didn’t want her to break down and turn around and go back. And the lyrics to that song are about mama. Even there’s a line in “Break Down Here,” it says, “I’m out of cigarettes, and I’m down to may last drag.” And mama used to smoke Doral Lights, and when I heard that song, I could see her ridin’ down 40 to Nashville with her Doral Lights. But she ended up quitting. She said, “If you get a record deal, I’ll quit smoking.” And so she ended up quitting smokin’. But, ya know, sorry.

Andrew: Well, you’re gonna end up quittin’ smokin’ here, sista.

Mark: So you get a record deal.

Julie: So I started recording with Brent. And he said, “I’m gonna start takin’ it to every label in town.” Just guitar vocals. And he did. He went to every label in town. And they all said, “She’s too bluesy. She’s too soulful.” They wanted more pop country. And so we kept workin’ and he said, “I believe in you. Somebody’ll get it.” And finally he said, “Julie, I wanna take it to Luke, your boss.” And I said, “No, you’ll get me fired. I’m not supposed to be a singer.” He said, “I know. Just get me on his calendar.” So I prayed, and I went to my boss, Luke. And I said, “Hey, Luke, Brent Rowan is working with a new artist in town. And he’d like a meeting with you.” And my boss, Luke, never said, “Who’s the artist? Is it a guy or a girl?” And so I knew that was God. Looking back now, that was God working on my behalf.

Mark: He just said, “Okay”?

Julie: He said, “Okay, find a spot.” And so the day came, and Brent came into my boss’ office, and Luke always listened to his music really loud, which I loved. I loved hearing music as I answered his phones. But I could hear me playing through the wall, just me and the guitar. And he stopped and started the CD a few times. And then Brent left, and he said, “Call me when you get off.” And then my boss left, and he said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” So I called Brent as soon as I could. And he said, “He stopped the CD the first time, and he said, ‘Who’s this girl? I wanna meet her.’” He said, “She’s your assistant. She’s right outside your office.”

Andrew: Hello!

Mark: Then what happened?

Julie: And then Luke said a lot of things that I can’t say at this table!

Mark: Was he upset? Was he upset?

Julie: Well, he was shocked, number one.

Mark: But he signed you.

Julie: Well. He didn’t know what to do. And he basically said, “She’s not supposed to be a singer. I don’t know what to do,” but in his words. So it took him… I knew he liked it, but it took him a few days, and he finally came and stood in front of my desk, and he said, “I heard your stuff, and I like it.” And he said, “I’m gonna play it for the rest of Mercury Records and not tell ’em it’s you, exactly how it was played for me. And if they say they like it and then they want to sign it, then I’ll tell ’em it’s you.”

Mark: Wow!

Julie: And so it took a little while still. And he finally came back to me, and he said, “I need a new assistant that definitely does not sing.” And that’s how my record deal came into my life. And I thought that that was all I wanted, was this piece of paper.

Mark: You finally are on your way to becoming Barbara Mandrell.

Julie: Barbara Mandrell.

Mark: And then what happened?

Julie: And then life was great. I put out a record, went gold, did the theme song for Good Morning America a few years. I got to do The Tonight Show. I got to be on a bus. I started gettin’ my hair done where Barbara Mandrell gets her hair done!

Mark: No way. Are you serious?

Julie: By the same guy!

Mark: How did you get that worked out?

Andrew: She’s a stalker. Stalkers do it.

Julie: That’s right, that’s right!

Mark: Yeah, that’s great!

Julie: No, I figured it out.

Mark: You said whoever did her hair has gotta do mine.

Julie: Yes! And she still goes there. We both still go there.

Mark: Have you met her?

Julie: Yes. She actually wrote… She read my book, and she wrote a note in the front of my book.

Mark: Okay, so take your time. We want y’all to just sit back. You’re gonna love this story. We’re not half done.

Julie: That’s right.

Mark: You think, okay, we’re meetin’ a country singer. Just buckle up and hold on.

Julie: That’s right. Okay, so I was doin’ what I always wanted to do, be on the road singin’. And, ya know, I was playin’ shows every night. I told my booking agent, I said, “Keep me on the road. I only wanna come home to get my roots done.”

“Keep me on the road. I only wanna come home to get my roots done.” – Julie Roberts

Mark: I love you! I mean, I can almost remember those days when I would tell them the same thing, I just wanna come home to get my roots done.

Julie: See!

Andrew: Actually, that’s still in the contract.

Mark: So anyway.

Julie: So they kept me busy. And I would have to come home. So soon as you release a record, you have to go ahead and start working on your next one. And my second album was called Men and Mascara. And the line is, “Men and mascara always run.”

Mark: Always run, that’s good. Did you write that?

Julie: No.

Mark: That’s clever.

Julie: But I’ve lived it a lot.

Mark: You have? You got the best laugh. Gosh, I love your laugh. Okay, so well, that’s another episode of all your men. We’ll have to line them up.

Julie: Yeah, line… So I only came home to work on that song, record that song or what was on that record, and get my roots done. And so it was 2005. I’ll never forget it. I was playin’ a show in Asheville, North Carolina. And by this time, people knew my songs. They’d been on the radio. And so at this club, it was a club–

Mark: Your dream was comin’ true, wasn’t it?

Julie: It was comin’ true. And my fans were there singing. I could hear ’em singin’ back to me. In the middle of my show, my vision went blurry, and I couldn’t see their faces anymore. I loved to make eye contact, and I couldn’t see them anymore. And then I’m right-handed, so I hold my microphone with my right hand. In the middle of my show, my had went numb and weak, and I couldn’t hold my microphone anymore. So I switched it to my left hand, and the same thing happened. I couldn’t hold my microphone. But thankfully, there was a stand on stage, a microphone stand, and I was able to put my microphone in the stand. And I stood there and finished the show. And I always sign after my shows. I love to do meet and greets. And I still couldn’t see. But sittin’ at that desk, I had practiced my autograph all those years, so I was able to hold a Sharpie and sign my name without seein’ it.

Mark: And you never told anyone yet?

Julie: No. I didn’t tell anybody. Except when I got back on the bus, I called mama. And mama’s been my other half, until recent, till I got married. She’ll always be my other half. And I called her, and she said, “You’re comin’ home tomorrow to record, and you need to go straight to the doctor.” And so I came home and went straight to my regular doctor, who sent me to a neurologist. I learned I was claustrophobic ’cause I had an MRI. And they did a spinal tap and some other tests. And he said, “I’ll call you.” I said, “Okay.” And so I was singin’ “Men and Mascara.” And when I listen to that song on my record, I think back to that day. And my phone rang, and I knew it was his number, my neurologist’s number. And I didn’t answer it. I said, “I wanna keep singin’.” But when I had a break, I called mama. I said, “Hey mama, can you call him, and I’ll call you when I’m done.” Mama said, “Okay.”

Mark: Okay, so it was in the middle of your concert. I got it.

Julie: It was in the middle of recording.

Andrew: At the studio.

Mark: Oh, studio. I got it.

Julie: So I called Mama. I remember exactly where I was. ‘Cause the studio that we were workin’ at was in south of Franklin. And so I was drivin’ 65 North to our townhouse, and I called mama and I said, “What did he say?” And she said, “Why don’t you pull over? I wanna come pick you up and drive you home?” And I said, “I’m good, mama. Just tell me.” And she said, “Well, you don’t have.” And I know she’d gone on the internet. She said, “You don’t have,” and she had a list of things that she thought sounded worse than what they told her. I said, “Okay, what do I have?” She said, “You have MS. I’ll come pick you up. Pull over.” And I said, “That’s okay. I’ll be home in a little bit.” And so I was drivin’ to our townhouse, and the whole way there, I thought about a lady. When I was in South Carolina growing up, I used to sing in nursing homes every Saturday, and there was a young lady in one of the nursing homes. People always say, “Julie, how old are you?” And I say, “30 several plus a couple.” So this lady was in her 30s. And as a little girl, she looks very different from the other residents there. And I would ask… Her name was Carol, and I would say, “Why is Carol in the nursing home? She’s so young.” And Carol would always ask me to sing “Peace in the Valley” for her. And I just connected to her. And finally, probably after I’d aggravated them so much, they said, “Carol has MS and doesn’t have a caretaker.” So I had the picture of Carol in my mind the whole drive home, and I knew then why God introduced me to her. And I thought, okay, well my music helped Carol. Maybe I’m supposed to have, maybe I’m supposed to do something else, like help people now like me ’cause I’m like Carol. So I got home. And I’m tryin’ not to cry. But I pull up to our townhouse, and we don’t have a garage. It’s a carport. And, um, you’re gonna make me cry!

Mark: Why?

Julie: I don’t know!

Mark: I’m listenin’, honey.

Andrew: It’s a common effect.

Mark: You’re okay. Go ahead and tell us.

Julie: Oh yeah, I’m good. I’m passed all this.

Mark: Bless your heart. So you pulled up.

Julie: Okay, pull up. And so my younger sister had moved to Nashville, too. She’d gotten her new start, too. So we were all livin’ together, and we had four dogs. I love dogs.

Mark: I do too, honey.

Julie: Listen, I just rescued another one. So they were all waitin’ on the patio for me, and I opened the gate, and mama and my sister, Laurie, were crying. And I said, “Why are y’all crying?” And mama said, “Why aren’t you?” ‘Cause I wasn’t. And I said, “I just keep thinkin’ about Carol.” And mama knew who Carol was. And I said, “I know why I met her.” I said, “But I don’t know what God wants me to do with my life now ’cause this is all I’ve ever wanted to do was to sing country music.” So in my mind, because Carol had MS before there were any disease-modifying therapies. So she was in a wheelchair, and she couldn’t use her hands. And I thought that that was what my life would look like pretty soon. So the next day, I went to my neurologist. He gave me tons of literature on MS. And he told me about the available therapies at the time, and I said, “Okay, thank you.” And I took the literature. I never read it. I put it in a drawer, and I got back on the road. And just like when we were little, and we never talked about what happened in our home, we hid everything. I said, and mama, we both said, “If we don’t say it out loud, maybe it’ll go away.” And I was afraid to tell the music industry, too. I’d just started, things were going great, and I was afraid they would think I couldn’t sing or I couldn’t tour. So I kept it to me. The only people that knew were my neurologist, mama, my sister, and my dogs.

Mark: But did you go on the medicine?

Julie: No, I didn’t read anything.

Mark: So did your mama even push you to do that?

Julie: Nope. We both thought it would go away.

Andrew: Was that like an inborn fear of being broken or seen as broken?

Julie: Oh, yeah. And when I look back–

Mark: Did you think the Lord would heal you, or were you really thinkin’ if you ignore it, it won’t be there?

Julie: No, I thought if I said it out loud and told anybody, it meant I was accepting it and that I had it. And I thought if I didn’t accept it, that it would go away. And I got back on the bus, I released Men and Mascara. And then in 2009, Lifetime… Y’all watch movies on Lifetime? I bet you do every night.

Mark: Well. I’ve heard they’re on there.

Julie: They wanted to make a movie about this girl, me, that got this record deal from a guy that she worked for. And they knew also how country music saved mama and me, and they wanted to make it for other women to help ‘em, and dreamers, too. And so they said, “Will you move to Los Angeles? You’d have to take a year off of music.” And I said, “Okay, I’ll move to Los Angeles.” So I moved out there, and I started working with Tom Rickman, who wrote “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

Mark: Oh, wow.

Andrew: Oh, love it.

Julie: And started taking acting classes and was there for a whole year, and I loved it. I rescued another dog.

Mark: Oh, yeah?

Julie: Yes. And at the end of 2009, the heads of Lifetime changed, personnel changed, and they said, “Your movie is on hold.” And I said, “What’s on hold mean?” I know what on hold means in Nashville.

Andrew: Oh, yeah yeah.

Julie: And they said, “It means it could be 10 years before your movie’s made.” And I said, “Okay.” So I moved back to Nashville the end of 2009, and I started writing and recording some songs. And by the beginning of 2010, like around April, I was ready to meet with Luke, my old boss, and play him this music ‘cause I wanted a new record out and I wanted to get back on the road. So I went in and he said, “Before you play me any music,” he said, “tell me what’s going on with the movie.” I said, “It’s on hold.” And he said, “Well, your career here is on hold, too.” And that, honestly, was harder than hearing my mom tell me I had MS. Because all I ever wanted was that record deal and to sing. And just a few days later, May 1, 2010, the same exact week, the 1,000 year flood came through Nashville, Tennessee. And people lost their lives in that flood. And that morning at 8 a.m., someone started knocking on our townhouse door and told us to get out, that the water was rising. And I was like, what water? Because I was never home. I didn’t know I lived near water.

Mark: Right?

Julie: They said, “The Harpeth River’s rising. And your cars are floating away.” Well, I’d just paid off my car, and I’d just paid off mama’s car. And I said, “Mama, I just paid off those cars.” So she tried to go out and save the car. The car ended up floating away. And so the water rose really fast in our townhouse, and we had to go up to the second level. And we were there for like six hours and were rescued by boat eventually. And so we lost everything.

Mark: So you lost your health. You’ve lost your home. You’ve lost your career.

Andrew: Your dream, essentially. Back to back blows. What was the aftermath of that for you just personally? Your psyche, your emotions? That’s a lot!

Julie: I think you just kinda have to keep moving, you know. And so when we were able to go back to our townhouse, nobody had flood insurance. ‘Cause it never floods here. So we had to pull up our carpet. And when I was tryin’ to pull up my carpet, I couldn’t use my hands again. And this had been five years since my initial diagnosis. And so mama saw that ’cause she was there too, and she said, “You need to go back to your neurologist. It didn’t go away.” I know now why I had to live through that and lose everything ’cause I thought that was what was important, and what was really important was I was saved by that boat. But as God had another purpose for me, and it was to sing, but it was also to help people like Carol. When I was saved and I went back to my neurologist, I said, “I was saved. I was rescued by a boat,” I said, “But my symptoms are back. Now I wanna save me from me.”

“Now I wanna save me from me.” – Julie Roberts

Mark: Oh, wow, wow, wow!

Julie: And I said, “Oh, and by the way, I didn’t read anything you gave me. It’s floatin’ in the Harpeth River.”

Andrew: Hand it back.

Mark: I might need another copy.


Dinner Conversations Sponsorship Message

Mark: You can help change the life of a child today by partnering with Andrew and me in supporting a boy or girl in Guatemala through ChildFund today.

Andrew: Your sponsorship will not only improve the future of one child’s life, your child’s sponsorship will promote communities in Guatemala. The communities that Mark and I just visited where we saw parents who are learning to value and to protect and to advance the worth and rights of their teens and children who through your child sponsorship are literally changing the culture of each child’s community from the inside out.

Mark: Perhaps you already sponsor a child. Would you consider sponsoring another child in Guatemala? Maybe in honor of one of your children, a new grandchild, a special niece or nephew. It takes so little to make such a profound difference in the life of a child.

Andrew: Your sponsored child is a real kid with real dreams, just like the dreams of your children and grandchildren. We know because we met them. Kids that want to be doctors and lawyers and teachers, even musicians kinda like us. Your sponsorship gives these children their chance to achieve their very unique dreams.

Mark: You may not be able to change the whole world, but you can change the world for one child. Visit childfund.org/dinnerconversations to sponsor a child in Guatemala today. To learn more about Dinner Conversations, visit dinner-conversations.com.

Andrew: And while you’re there, check out some of our friendly merch. We’ve got show mugs and Season One and Two DVDs. And we’ve got these little note cards so Mark can write me a note that says, “You’re the best cohost ever.”

Mark: Oh, yes. Well, you know you get that after every episode. And what about this mug with our faces on it?

Andrew: What says good morning better?

Mark: It’s like we’re on both sides, so now lefty or a righty, you get to see us every morning.

Andrew: You know, I think it’s time we get back to those guests.

Mark: Yeah, probably.


Andrew: What that says to me, and I think we’ve all been at some place in life, or will be again, or will be for the first time, of our whole identity, our whole self, being wrapped up in what we do more than who we are. And I think that speaks to a lot of people because when you get to the end of that, if what I do equals who I am and then what I do goes away, even if temporarily. You know, they say you don’t have a career here anymore. Oh wait, that career also bought us a happy home. That’s gone. All these things go away, my health, my physicality. How did you find… Like what happened to your identity at that point in time? When it’s all wrapped up in this and all of it’s gone.

Julie: It was really tough ‘cause I, even as a little girl singin’ in South Carolina, and people said, “Oh, that’s Julie. She’s the singer.” So that was hard. I had to really find who I am here, ya know. And I really had to dig deep and see if there was another purpose in my life. And I asked God, I said, “God, what do you want me to do now? You’ve gotta show me because all you’ve ever shown me was this, was music.”

Mark: It kinda sounds to me like all you ever showed him was music, like I’m gonna be Barbara Mandrell. And I hope you go along with it.

Julie: And he did. He was losin’ it!

Mark: And he did! He let you have your dream, and then it’s gone.

Julie: It’s gone. But I really was, that day in my neurologist’s office when I said I’m ready to take care of me, because I think I was saved for a reason. That was a big step for me because everything was gone, but I still had my life, ya know.

Mark: What year was that?

Julie: 2010.

Mark: So it’s been eight years.

Andrew: So in that eight years, I’ve seen advocacy for MS. Like you really have shifted. Music has started to come into play, but even with this book and telling your story, that you’ve started to allow your story it seems like to be the impetus for your life, for your stage, for your platform, for what you have to share rather than just a song.

Julie: Right. ‘Cause I wasn’t scared anymore to tell the world I had MS. And I just wasn’t scared to admit to myself I had it. And then I started to learn more about MS. I wanted to. I got involved. I learned about the National MS Society, and I would sign up for a walk. And I would learn what they did. And then somebody asked me one day if I would be interested in speaking at a benefit for the National MS Society. And from that point, I started really doin’ that more than singing.

Mark: Wow.

Julie: And when I stand in front of a room of other people living with MS, and especially newly-diagnosed people who are in the same place that I was, who were afraid and didn’t know that they’d be able to continue their dreams. I’m more fulfilled than I ever was dropping off a song at a radio station hoping they’d play it. And so it took me all of that to figure out that I could do other things and that God really introduced me to Carol for a reason and had this purpose for me.

Andrew: I feel like this whole story, this whole journey of yours, leads into that title of this, Finding Beauty in Brokenness. It seems like at one point, growing up with this broken family, or father, and then maybe associating that MS or that illness with brokenness, don’t wanna be broken-hearted, shut it away. And finally discovering that, actually, they’re beautiful things. Right?

Julie: Totally.

Mark: You wouldn’t wish it, but would you have missed it? I mean, I’m wondering… I mean, it’s kinda what day you ask me. Would I change it? How about you?

Julie: I think if you ask me, not I think, I know if you’d ask me any day, I wouldn’t change it. At all. Because as I said just a minute ago, if I know that I’m helping one person to save them from themselves–


Julie Roberts singing “The Song Goes With Me”

Lately I’ve been wonderin’

If I should even be here

Seems everything you’re showin’ me

That I don’t belong

But still I’ve got the story

And this broken heart of gold

Memories and melodies

And I’ve got this song

And the song goes with me

When the lights go down

It’s my true companion

At the edge of this town

You can leave me stranded

Strike a bargain for my soul

But the song goes with me

When I go

Heard it as a baby

Rockin’ me fast asleep

Gentle as a morning rain

Woke me from my young girl’s dreams

It took me to the honky-tonks

To bring my stumblin’ daddy home

He sang Haggard from the back seat drunk

And I sang along

And the song goes with me

Where the lights go down

It’s my true companion

At the edge of this town

You can leave me stranded

Strike a bargain for my soul

But the song goes with me

When I go

I know where I’m headed when I go

There’ll be a whole lot a singin’ in heaven

You can leave me stranded

Strike a bargain for my soul

But the song goes with me

Yeah, the song goes with me

Yeah, the song goes with me

When I go


Mark: Oh, I love a country song. And Julie Roberts, thank you for being with us.

Andrew: You liked Julie. I could tell she’s one of your favorites.

Mark: Oh, she’s beautiful! Sweet girl.

Andrew: She is absolutely. You can find her music in our Amazon affiliate link in the episode description below.

Mark: And if you’d like to binge watch Dinner Conversations, you can do that right now on Amazon Prime. Dinner Conversations is brought by ChildFund, a community development organization that has been envisioning a world where every child is free to live at their fullest potential no matter where they’re from or what challenges they face since 1938.

Andrew: Partner with us and our good friends at ChildFund to change the world and the life of a child by considering sponsoring a child today.

Mark: It really does take so little to make a difference.

Andrew: Visit childfund.org/dinnerconversations.

Mark: A child is waiting.


ChildFund is a community development organization that has been envisioning a world where every child is free to live at their fullest potent no matter where they are from — or what challenges they face — since 1938.

Partner with us and our good friends at ChildFund to change the world in the life of a child by considering sponsoring a child today. It takes so little to make a difference. A child is waiting. And remember, every one who sponsors a child is invited to a Dinner Conversations Friends & Family Weekend in Nashville, plus receives an autographed Season Two DVD, CD and a special item handmade for you by our communities in Guatemala.

Learn more here: childfund.org/dinnerconversations.


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Watch Our Other Episodes:

S03, E01: Orphans No More featuring Lisa Harper
S03, E02: Perfectly Imperfect featuring Wynonna Judd
S03, E03: Surviving Miscarriage featuring Jason Crabb and Sonya Isaacs
S03, E04: Fear Factors featuring Patsy Clairmont
S03, E05: A New Normal featuring Jaci Velasquez and Nic Gonzales
S03, E06: Suicide: Hiding in Plain Sight featuring Mark Means and Wes Hampton
S03, E07: Personality by Number featuring Ian Morgan Cron and Lisa Whelchel
S03, E08: An Intellectual Faith featuring Eric Metaxas