When she opens her mouth and rears back her head to sing the chorus of her current single, a hard-country ballad titled “If You Can,” Tammy Cochran from tiny Austinburg, Ohio, sounds a lot like Grand Ole Opry star Connie Smith.
“I have listened to her but not a lot growing up,” Cochran admitted Wednesday following a brief, intimate industry performance at the offices of the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers in Nashville.
Instead of Smith, Cochran heard Loretta Lynn and Barbara Mandrell, but the comparison to Smith, who lived in tiny Warner, Ohio, in the southern part of the state, isn’t new.
“I hear that all the time,” Cochran says. “I know she’s from Ohio as well, so I’m thinking it must be in the water.”
Cochran has lived in Hendersonville, Tenn., outside Nashville, since 1991. While laying the groundwork for a musical career she sang demos for songwriters and publishers, waited tables at a local steakhouse and sold jewelry at Service Merchandise.
Written by Joy Swinea, “If You Can” was Cochran’s ticket to a record deal. “I found it in 1995,” the singer recalled, “and I’ve loved it forever and hoped and prayed I was going to get a record deal one day.”
“If You Can” is at No. 62 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. Cochran’s first album is projected for release on Epic in mid-July.
Sony marketing executive Mike Kraski compared hearing Cochran for the first time to his first exposure to country classics such as George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” or Vince Gill’s “When I Call Your Name.”
“You should all mark your calendars today,” he told the group gathered at ASCAP. “You’re going to have that kind of musical experience.”