A sunny-natured girl with a bit of a gritty streak. A small town girl with big city talent and dreams. A hypercompetitive performer with a crowd-pleaser demeanor. An introspective songwriter with something to say.
For Kristy Lee Cook, entry into the public eye came through one of pop culture’s largest avenues, the television juggernaut American Idol. But even after a #7 finish on the 2008 season, and a hastily assembled debut studio album, the Oregon native knew she still wasn’t where she wanted to be in the artistic landscape.
“After American Idol and my first album I took a beat and spent some time musically soul-searching. Now I have a new label and also new management and publicity teams,” continues Cook. “It’s so important in this industry to build a team that sincerely understands and supports you and your vision as an artist. I’ve worked really hard over the last couple of years to find those people and to also grow as an artist.”
Part of the process of taking the reins of her artistic life meant adding a few new pieces to the creative puzzle. First, stepping outside of her comfort zone behind the microphone to stretch her creative muscles as a songwriter, something she’d longed to do but hadn’t had the opportunity to cultivate previously.
“The first several times were nerve-wracking, because I was co-writing with someone new every single time,” she says of her initial songwriting sessions. “I’ve learned so much and now I have a strong comfort level crafting new material with a songwriter I may have just met five minutes before - as well as with those I’ve worked with for years.”
Indeed one of Cook’s most impactful musical moments is a direct result of her own songwriting prowess. For years, Cook had an overwhelming desire to tell her father’s story of serving during the violent extraction period of the Vietnam War. Last year, with the help of songwriters Michael Logen and Luke Sheets, she made that desire a reality with the release of her critically acclaimed debut single for Broken Bow Records, “Airborne Ranger Infantry,” based upon poems written by her father.
Cook’s follow-up single, “Wherever Love Goes” finds her in the musical ring going note-for-note against powerhouse vocalist and country chart topper Randy Houser (whose #1 hits include “How Country Feels” and “Runnin’ Out Of Moonlight”). The result is a heart-wrenching vocal boxing match between two of Country music’s most resilient voices.
“Wherever Love Goes” displays the commanding, yet tender vocals that proved Cook’s indisputable talent while competing on American Idol. Co-written by Nashville songwriting heavyweights Paul Jenkins, Jason Sellers and Neil Thrasher, the powerful ballad made its highly anticipated debut as one of the Top 5 Most Added records upon release week.
The new single has already garnered critical attention from the likes of Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Country Weekly and Country Music Is Love’s “10 Songs You Should Be Listening To” list, putting Cook back on the map as one of Country music’s most anticipated up-and-comers.
“I was honored to collaborate with Randy on ‘Wherever Love Goes’. He is an incredible vocalist, and he sets the standard high,” said Cook. “It gave me the chance to step up to the plate and challenge my vocal ability, and I always love a good challenge. I am humbled to have had the opportunity to work with a creative team of this caliber on this record.”
That’s not to say Kristy Lee Cook’s new music is all serious, all the time. That idea is dispensed on stand-out tracks like “Don’t Care,” with its sweetly ukelele-driven opening, followed quickly by crunchy guitar and Cook’s bright vocal, or on the roadhouse rocker “What Ya Gonna Do?” surely destined to be a live show favorite.
And then there’s the star power presence of
both vocalists on the ballad “Dirt Cheap,” where Cook collaborates with label
mate (and executive producer on her upcoming album) Jason Aldean.
“Jason’s been my favorite singer for a long time,” Cook says. “So you can hear certain things he asked me to do on a song, and it’s a Jason-ism – a touch that I wouldn’t have thought of. I feel so incredibly blessed in my career to be working with Jason on my Broken Bow Records debut. I mean, how lucky can a girl get?”
In addition to one of Country music’s biggest superstars, Cook is also working with the four-man collective known as New Voice on the recording of her upcoming album. The New Voice team (comprised of Aldean band members Rich Redmond, Tully Kennedy and Kurt Allison alongside songwriter/artist David Fanning) is the sonic tastemaker behind the recent breakthrough by Thompson Square, along with new Stoney Creek Records band Parmalee.
Music is not the only thing that drives this country girl’s soul. Cook is also a devoted horse lover and an active barrel racer. Back home in her small hometown of Selma, OR, Cook prefers to spend her spare time caring for her horses and participating in outdoor activities such as shooting, hunting and riding ATVs.
Kristy Lee Cook’s heart of gold is matched only by her love of music, and with all of these elements in place, it’s evident that the best is yet to come. Award-winning producers, a new record label, a strong team to support and guide her through the motions, a reinvigorated fervor for songwriting and a fresh new single to ignite the fire are all setting the stage for a successful road ahead.
Indeed, Cook’s focus is stronger than ever. The drive that puts the power in Cook’s music is the same drive that kept her going post-Idol. “I just didn’t want to quit after those opportunities. I wanted to prove to everyone that I could do it, and that I was capable of failing and still pushing forward and reaching my goals. That’s why I didn’t give up on it very easily, and I don’t plan on it, either.”
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