Music refuses to let Kate go
WHEN she was bundled out of Australian Idol after singing her way into the final six in 2010, Ipswich girl Kate Cook defiantly told a television audience of millions: "Country music has not seen the last of Kate Cook".
But for a while there, it looked like Kate's talents might have been lost to us.
In the aftermath of Australian Idol - without the support of the show's managers, publicists and other helpers - Kate found the journey difficult.
She toured for two years, appearing at country music festivals like Tamworth and the Gympie Muster and working with stars like Troy Cassar-Daley and Beccy Cole.
But it was hard, and earlier this year she decided to take a break from it all.
She joined younger sister Sam in Rockhampton, working on the hydraulics as a trades assistant for CAT trucks and vehicles.
It was there - working on the tools with other women in an industry that has long been stigmatised as male-driven - she rediscovered the drive to write and record a new single, Give the Girl a Spanner.
"It made me realise that there are so many anthems for hard-working men out there; the chicks need one, too," she said.
A former fruit picker, abattoir worker and Outback sheep and cattle station roustabout, Kate Cook's life experience provides all the inspiration she needs to be a prolific country songwriter.
But it wasn't until Australian Idol came along that she had the stage to showcase her rich talents.
The country singer made her debut on the reality talent show in 2010, with a heartfelt rendition of a song she wrote for her mother who committed suicide two days before Cook's 17th birthday.
It was an audition performance that left the judges in awe and set the tone for her memorable Idol journey.
While many of her fellow Idol alumni have since disappeared into obscurity, Kate went on to carve out a successful career in the music industry.
Touring Australia, she showcased her unique brand of country music at various pubs, clubs and bars.
But the transition from Idol contestant to acclaimed country artist wasn't easy.
"Once you're out of the Australian Idol spotlight, you soon lose the support network of people who helped you during the show," she said.
"It took a lot of hard work and help from my sister Paula - who managed me for two years - to keep my music career going.
"But I'm extremely humbled by what Idol did for me and overwhelmed with how the country music industry has opened its arms to me."
Kate said her life-changing run on Idol helped her realise that she could have a career in music.
"To be honest, when I went to audition for the show, I didn't think I would get through the first round," she said.
"It was such a shock when I did. All of a sudden I was thrust into this new life and going on an amazing adventure with music.
"When I had my first chance to perform in front of a television audience, I knew in that moment that this was where I was supposed to be."
One of five children, Kate and her siblings grew up performing for their parents on their 2ha property in Pine Mountain, later moving to Lowood.
Developing a love of the land, Kate learned to play the guitar from her mother Jennifer and said she had many fond memories of her family gathered around the campfire singing country songs.
"Mum always played the guitar and when I was 10 years old she taught me a couple of chords," she said.
"After that I was always taking the guitar out to the paddock to play, which later developed into a passion for songwriting."
Her 2010 single Make You Stay, which soared through the Country Music Channel charts, was written as a farewell message to her mother.
Cook, who lives and works in Toowoomba, said she took a lot of pride in her accomplishments and was looking forward to getting back out on the road and sharing her music with Australia.
"As an artist I want to be as honest as I can be and hope to keep producing music and bringing it to audiences," she said.
"Music has helped heal me during difficult times, so I hope that my music helps do the same for others."
Kate will launch her debut EP, Come A Long Way with a special performance at Brothers Leagues Club on Friday, July 26.