A week after Julie Gold won the Song of the Year Grammy for her tune ''From a Distance,'' her tiny Manhattan studio apartment is still overrun with flowers. She's thrown out some of the 28 floral arrangements already, but the one from Herb Alpert (whom she has never met) is still dazzling with its two toy canaries in a white basket. Gold, 35, jokes: ''It's bigger than my life.''
But not for long. The Grammy award, coming on the heels of Bette Midler's hugely successful version of ''From a Distance,'' seems to have jump-started Gold's career. The burst of interest in her songs, and what she calls ''murmurs'' of having her do concerts and maybe even make a record, come after 18 often frustrating years in the music business. ''From 1979 to 1990,'' Gold says, ''I never paid the rent through music.'' Among other part-time jobs, she demonstrated Mr. Coffee machines and collected money over the phone for a water-filter manufacturer.
A turning point came in early 1986, when her parents shipped her childhood piano up from her hometown of Philadelphia. After squeezing it into the 10-by- 25-foot apartment she shares with two cats and two turtles and waiting a full day for the instrument to settle, Gold sat down and wrote ''From a Distance'' straight through. A friend, folksinger Christine Lavin, passed the song along to country-folk singer Nanci Griffith, who recorded it for her album Lone Star State of Mind and made it popular enough to inspire 13 other versions before Midler's.
Despite the success of ''From a Distance'' even before Midler's hit version, no one has recorded any of Gold's other songs. Is she baffled by this lack of interest? ''Of course,'' she says, ''but I've never really been in a position to show my wares.'' Midler helped with that. ''It took a Bette Midler to reach the masses,'' Gold says, ''including the masses in the music business.'' Now Gold is getting lots of calls and, she says, ''one out of 10 is a Shelley Duvall, a Cyndi Lauper, Cliff Richard's management.'' But, she adds, ''Whether anything will come of this, I don't know.''