Debbie Cochran defies just about every preconceived notion of a Christian artist. Although she's been singing all her life, she's only just started sharing her music now, in the autumn of her life. And she hasn't wasted any time at all, having just released her sixth project, Born Again Wildflower.
In addition, Cochran is sharing her gospel-centered tunes in a way that isn't often done: through country music. And not just country music--classic country music--for fans of Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker and even a little Reba McEntire.
Armed with a contagious confidence in a God who has redeemed much in her life, Cochran's Born Again Wildflower declares the beautiful truths of the life of faith with purity and honesty. And, perhaps most notable to outsiders, does so with the help of one of Cochran's heroes: Dolly Parton.
I asked Cochran to tell us about the ways she's seen God show up in her life, her music and her connections. It's a pretty amazing life she's living!
You've been musical all your life, yet have only been recording since 2011. There's got to be a story there of how you finally got to this point.
My dream of singing on the Grand Ole' Opry was hidden deep within my heart. Living life is not always a bouquet of roses. I was married, divorced and raised a son, leaving behind my dream of long ago. When my best friend introduced me to the love of my life (25 years ago), it was then I began to hear the music again. I began to sing in church, learned to play mountain dulcimer, bass guitar, acoustic guitar and enrolled in Berklee College of Music and received a Master's Certificate in Music Theory in 2009. I was ready for Nashville.
At what point did you know you wanted to share your own music with the world?
The Bible says "There's a time for every season." I wrote a song about my childhood titled, "The Movie in My Mind" after finding two letters in my grandmother's family bible, she handed down to me. This was the first song where both melody and lyrics came to me. October 2010, I presented this song to Kent Wells with the idea of Dolly Parton recording the song. I thought I would live my dream through someone else. But Kent Wells said four powerful words: "It's never too late." I took it to heart.
Talk about your relationship with Dolly Parton, and how that all came together.
Recording with Kent Wells Production gave me the opportunity to meet Dolly Parton. We would meet and greet at some of her shows on the road. We've been at the studio the same time, also. Each time built the friendship, which soon turned into a duet on the song titled "Born Again Wildflower."
What did it mean for you to be able to sing with her on your title track? How do you write a song for Dolly Parton to sing with you?
Working with Dolly was the most incredible experience of my life! I believe God opens doors. This one just happens to have a star on it! This was a dream I never dreamed of. Her spirit is a reflection of the light I love to sing and write about. She added the glitter to "Born Again Wildflower." This song is about struggling through hard times and how we overcome: "Oh God, you rock my world when I rock my boat."
You and your husband travel a lot in your RV. What are some things you love about road life?
Elmer loves to be on the road. We have traveled many places in the United States. One year we traveled through Canada to Alaska. It was breathtaking; experienced an earthquake, too! I wrote a song traveling through the Great Smoky Mountains, called "Happy Soul." We also travel with the Winnebago Club. We coordinate our travels with my music agenda--the best of both worlds! We have made forever friends along the way, kindred spirits. When we travel in our RV, home is where we park.
Your bio says that until your record, the only real place you were able to share your music was on a stage your husband built in Batesville. Talk about that venue, and some of the experiences you've had performing there in your hometown.
The song I wrote, "It's Never Too Late"--which was given the DisCovery Award by Robert K Oermann of Music Row Magazine--tells the story of how my husband builds a stage to make me feel as though I'm on that Nashville stage. It was a surprise when I made the grand entrance. It was small but grandeur, because it was built by love. When the lights would dim and my rhinestones sparkled, I felt I was there. The fans and their applause was so inspiring. This was a stepping stone to the future.
You've been recording now since 2011; what have the last six years meant to you?
You don't know until you try! When I reflect on the past, I am humbled. I have realized I'm building my dream day by day. It's hard work, but very rewarding. It is very inspiring to hear feedback. Their expressions tell all. Some have said a song changed their life. Making a difference is worth all the time and energy. I have met the most wonderful and talented individuals along the way. I am so thankful for the doors God has opened for me.
How have you grown? What are some things you enjoy about the recording process?
Working with Kent Wells is amazing. I absolutely love the recording process. The studio musicians are so gifted. I must admit I get embarrassed when they hear my homemade tracks. Their kindness is so inspiring. It is a beautiful process. It's like a family reunion. Everyone makes me feel at home. When I step into the studio, I feel as though I'm in Music Heaven.
The album includes 10 new songs. You've got a classic country sound, which we simply don't hear in Christian music. Talk about your musical and lyrical choices for this album. What you're trying to have come across.
I'm a Southern country gal writing songs of hope. The album consist of songs depicting everyday ups and downs. The answer is always the same: "If God is with us, who can stand against us." Forgiveness will set you free. There is a line in the song "Born Again Wildflower" that sings: "I took a leap of faith, fought my way forgiving." You have to let go to grow.
A year ago you released a single, "Faith Can" to honor a child cancer survivor. What did that experience mean to you, and how has it shaped how you do music now?
When I read about Kate Foster on the internet, it made me cry. She was 12 years old battling leukemia. She was holding a very long string of beads which represented every time she had a procedure. Her dream was to be a gymnast. She lost a leg to the terrible disease. Her story, an amputee Gymnast with a prosthetic limb competes amazingly with others with no physical challenge. Her determination inspires me. Matthew 17:20 if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
What's next for you? How can people be praying?
I will be in the studio in November recording my seventh project. Pray the songs will inspire, lift spirits, give strength, change hearts and encourage hope, faith and love.
Marcus Hathcock is the Executive Editor of NewReleaseToday.com, a husband to Savannah, father of three and a worship leader living in Boise. He has released an EP, Songs For Tomorrow, and occasionally blogs at mheternal.com.