Kristy Lee Cook
|KRISTY LEE COOK
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.
“My dad didn’t really talk about his time in the war much when I was growing up, but he’d written four poems about the things that were happening to him while he was serving. It was a way for him to express himself during that difficult time,” explains Cook. “When my brother and sister and I got older, our Mom showed us the poems and we decided to frame them and present them to my dad as a gift.”
“Because my dad had never really talked with us about the war before, I learned his emotions from those poems,” continues Cook. “And ever since I read them I’ve wanted to turn them into a song – to honor him. It just took me a while to find the right songwriters to write it with.”
That song – “Airborne Ranger Infantry” – is quickly putting Cook back on the map as a serious Country star contender and as an artist who is not simply just a performer, but who has something to say.
Written alongside songwriters Michael Logen and Luke Sheets, the quiet, reverent song – light years from the bombast Cook says she tends to be drawn toward — is the artist’s debut single on Broken Bow Records. “Airborne Ranger Infantry” is already off to an exciting start with double digit first week adds and critical attention from the likes of The Hollywood Reporter, AOL’s The Boot and Country Music Rock’s “12 Songs of Fall” list. Cook’s father, Larry Cook, also receives a songwriting credit.
“I never realized how important it was to be able to put what you personally feel in a song,” she says. “People really relate to what you’re feeling. They want to hear the real stories, not the fake stuff. I guess that’s why I love Country music, because it’s real and it relates to all of us.”
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 goes toe-to-toe, note-for-note 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.
With all of these new elements in place it’s evident that the best is yet to come for Kristy Lee Cook. An award-winning production team, a new record label that fits her like a glove, and 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, have all set 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.”
Kristy Lee Cook - "Airborne Infantry Ranger":
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