IT WAS a love affair forged in the scorching summer heat of Tamworth.
A guitar slung over her shoulder and a dream in her heart, Sami Cooke rolled into the Country Music Capital in 2011 as a student of the CMAA academy.
Weaned on pop artists like Delta Goodrem and Mariah Carey, Riverinaborn Cooke had no idea her first dalliance with country would unlock a hidden passion – and talent.
Three years later and the 17-year-old has returned with a debut album under her belt and bookings for 26 festival gigs.
She’s one of a band of emerging stars who are plying their craft during the festival in the hope of getting that big break.
“I just fell in love with country music at the academy and now it’s my career,” Cooke said.
“I never thought it would be my job, but it’s just happened.”
Her debut album, SAMI – Every Passing Minute, features 13 original tracks and one cover, a version of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You. Inspired by powerhouse balladeers like Martina McBride and Aleyce Simmonds, Cooke will host a mini album launch on the Festival HQ Stage at 8pm.
In between playing the Shine show at the Capitol Theatre this week and cohosting spots with Paul Rowe on Tamworth FM, Cooke has also competed in Battle of the YoungStars and been identified as a future star in the People’s Choice Awards.
A classically trained musician, Cooke is proficient on the keyboards,guitar, saxophone and violin.