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STAR Views: Tammy Cochran

By: Estella Pan

Tammy was one of several guests at the
Photo credit: Estella Pan
Countriest of the Country Benefit Concert

Tammy Cochran put a prominent page of her own life into her deeply personal song, "Angels in Waiting." In return, her fans' overwhelming response to the song made it her first Top Ten hit! As fast as her star was rising, Epic Records/Sony Nashville sliced its roster in half, and Tammy found herself without a record deal. Not one to pack up her dreams in defeat, the Austinburg, Ohio native and now Tennessee resident has continued writing her own music and has, in fact, already completed a new album. I had the opportunity to catch up with Tammy during CMA Music Fest/Fan Fair week, prior to her performance in Countriest of the Country (a star-studded benefit concert organized and hosted by Billy Yates with proceeds going to Christmas for the Children.)

Tammy confirms that "my new album is done. It was produced by Mark Thompson and Anita Cochran." [NOTE: Anita and Tammy are not related but ARE close friends.] She adds, "I wrote every song on it. It's like a songwriter's album, something I've always wanted to do. It's totally different from anything I've ever done." Though work on the album has wrapped, fans waiting for new music from the "Angels in Waiting" and "If You Can" songstress might have to hold on a bit longer, as it has yet to be scheduled for release. The holdup has to do with a slight change in marketing plans. Tammy explains, "Initially, we were looking to market it ourselves through the Internet. Well, word got around town that [I was] working on a new album, and labels wanted to hear it. So, we're in the process, right now, of taking it to different labels." [NOTE: As determined after our interview,
Tammy's album is set to release on February 20, 2007.] While the label from which the project releases remains up in the air, Tammy is pretty certain that she prefers "something a little more intimate" this time around. "To be honest, I don’t really want a [major] label deal anymore. I just want to be myself and make the music that I love. So, if I find a place where I feel comfortable, fabulous! If I don't, there are lots of other avenues." Ever the optimist, Tammy has come to realize that there isn't just one sure way of getting to where she wants to be. "One of the biggest lessons I've learned is I’ve got to be myself and I have to make myself happy. I spent a long time making everybody happy, but you can only give so much of yourself before you can't anymore!"

With her album release pending, Tammy can offer this insightful preview of her forthcoming album: "The name of the album is going to be called Where I Am. There’s a song called "Where I Am," that's kind of about where I am – imagine that! I wrote it with Verlon Thompson and Tommy Polk and that is probably one of my favorite songs on the album. It's almost a gospel kind of song. There’s a song on there about domestic abuse and then there are love songs. There's a song I wrote when I was first falling in love, which lasted ten minutes!! [NOTE: The lovefest not the song!] So of course, there’s a heartbreak song, because I was going through that. Another one of my favorites is one I also wrote with Patricia Gray. I was going through this whole Oh my gosh, I'm single and I'm getting older thing. So, it's called "Nobody’s Home," and it's about the life of a single woman who goes home to a big house that’s empty." As far as musical styles go, Tammy exclaims, "It’s all over the map!"

When writing songs, Tammy tends to draw inspiration from real life experiences – though not necessarily always her own. "I always try to write songs that I can somehow relate to, whether it be a movie I saw, something I read in the newspaper, or from personal experience. I don't just pick an idea and go, I'm going to create a story out of thin air!" Knowing that she is "my own worst critic," Tammy got creative with the song selection process and turned to friends. "I relied on a lot of my friends who weren't in the music business, saying, 'Here's a tape of twenty songs; tell me your twelve favorite.' I think that was a nice perspective, because I was a little too close to those songs." She says writing her own songs has its advantages – and she’s not talking about receiving royalties! "Country music has gotten to where it's so image-related – [a lot of times,] it seems to be about what you're wearing and how you look. But, [my new album] is a little peek into who I am as a real person, as opposed to 'Tammy Cochran, the country artist.'"

Tammy Cochran

That real person also has some very real concerns; one of them is the reason for her endless dedication to raising awareness for cystic fibrosis (CF). Tammy's older brothers, Alan and Shawn – her only siblings – succumbed to CF at 15 and 22 years of age, respectively. "It's an awful disease where one in thirty people are affected. But, you don't really see it advertised or hear much about it." Tammy wrote "Angels in Waiting" to honor the good times she shared with her brothers and hadn't actually planned on releasing it as a single. However, the inspirationally powerful ballad took its own course toward touching people all over the world with its message of hope. Tammy has since worked closely with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) in continuing to spread the word about the disease. "I think we've helped each out through 'Angels in Waiting.' I’ve helped them bring awareness to CF and they've helped me because they put me in front of so many people that I wouldn't get the chance to be in front of." Though not having been born with cystic fibrosis herself, the reality of her personal circumstances doesn't escape Tammy, "If I choose to carry a child one day, I know that I carry the cystic fibrosis gene. And, [there's a percentage of people] who have the CF gene but don't know about it. That means, if I find Mr. Right and we decide to have a family, the reality of it is, those aren't very good odds! So, I just think everybody needs to know more about it."

Don't count on Tammy being country music's next "comeback artist," because the fact is, she hasn't so much as left the music, let alone disappeared. Her musical passion and commitment to her craft are still fiercely intact; she has just found other ways in which to utilize them.

STAR Country!

"Angels in Waiting" inspired an episode of Doc
Photo used courtesy of Tammy Cochran
Tammy played a former singer-turned nurse

Can you share a musical memory from your past that has helped shape the person you are today?
Tammy: My first concert was Anne Murray and I don't remember how old I was. But, I saw her at a theater in Pennsylvania and I thought she was just fabulous, because she was just all over that stage, having a ball, and every time you turned around, she was in a different outfit! I just kept watching her and thinking, Man I want to do that! I want to have that much fun everyday! So, that was a pretty big influence on me, as a young girl.

Having been signed with and worked for a major record label, what has been the most valuable lesson you've learned from that experience?
Tammy: It's a lot harder than you think it is when you get in it. You can play the clubs and be the hometown hero – big fish in a small pond kind of thing. But once you get [into the music business], you realize that, as sad as it is, sometimes it's just really not all about the music. It’s about Do you have the look they want? Will you say the right things? When 'If You Can' and my first album came out, a lot of people said 'You're too country.' Well, that pendulum has swung. Now, it's country everywhere! I was like two years too soon. I could never do the whole pop thing anyway, because that's not who I am and everybody would see right through it! They’d go, "What the heck is she doing singing that hip-hop song with that twang?!" It wouldn’t sound right!

You’ve written or co-written every song that is on your forthcoming album, Where I Am. Is there any one particular song that is especially meaningful to you?
Tammy: There's a song I wrote when I was on tour with George Strait, and it was right after September 11th, when they shipped all the soldiers overseas. The song is called "On My Side of the World" and it’s another that I wrote with Patricia Gray. At the time, I was doing a lot of Spirit of America shows and for the troops here. I would look out at all those people and think, Gosh, if I was that wife, mother, sister, daughter, how would I feel every night when I laid my head on my pillow? I'd be scared to death! At the time, there was Darryl Worley’s "Have You Forgotten?" and Toby Keith ["Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)"]. But, there weren’t any songs that addressed the people left at home. So, I thought, You know, that’s what I need to do!

Having worked directly with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in raising awareness for the disease, what would you like to tell people about the importance of helping out the CFF?
Tammy: When I first came out with "Angels in Waiting," people would ask me all the time what CF was. Then, when I would start to tell them, they would say, "Oh, I knew someone who had that, but I didn't know that’s what it was called!" They research all the time to find genetic treatment and a cure for this. I really believe that there IS a cure out there and the more people who know about CF and know that they can give five dollars or volunteer at a walk-a-thon, they're really close. That's why it’s important to me. I really want to have a family one day, but I'm not going to bring a knowingly sick child into this world.

What is something fans would be surprised to know about you?
Tammy: I'm a homebody. I love traveling and doing shows, but I like to have my "home time." I love to cook. Like now, while I'm not traveling so much and I'm writing all the time, I am the person who gets up and makes breakfast. I am the person who makes dinner. I love to experiment when I'm cooking – which can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing! I love going online and finding these obscure recipes and trying them out. I love going to restaurants and trying different things on the menu, things that I don't eat everyday. I grow a garden, too – fans may not know that.

What's the best thing that you've ever made?
Tammy: Last summer, I planted spaghetti squash and I had spaghetti squash growing up the wazoo!! I had tons of it, and I was like, What am I going to do with all of this?! So, I just started experimenting and came up with this Twice-baked Spaghetti Squash, with peppers, mushrooms, Italian sausage. You mix it all together then scoop [the ingredients] back into the shell and bake it. And it really turned out good!! Now, it's my dad's favorite food; he's always asking me to make it when he comes over!

Have you had dishes that didn't turn out as you expected?
Tammy: There have been some bad things! Like, last week, I made Ricotta Cheese and Smashed Peas; that was the online recipe that I tried. I wouldn't suggest it. But, that's what I find fun about cooking – when it works, you keep it! When it doesn't, you can trash it! I just pity everybody who comes over to my house who has to eat it, because they don't know what they're getting when they come over. They ask, What are you serving? and I'm like, I don't know yet! I'll tell you in about an hour; you'll know when I know!


Visit Tammy at http://www.TammyCochranFans.com!!

For more information about the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) and how you can help out, please visit http://www.CFF.org!!

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