GETTING PERSONAL

Amy Dalley relives a painful time from her past in her most powerful hit yet, as she anticipates the long-awaited April release of her debut album.

If you've actually come to the point where you've walked in on somebody cheatin' on you with someone else in your house, in your bed . . . there's probably been so much hurt already that there's really just nothin' left to cry about." Amy Dalley should know. She's been there.

The initial pain of catching her man in the act has diminished since that incident occurred several years ago. But the memory of it is still fresh enough in Amy's mind for her to deliver a strong portrayal of the woman wronged in the video for "I Would Cry," her current hit and the fifth release from her debut album, Amy Dalley. Two years since the first single, the CD is finally set for an April 19 release.

"I think people should have more courage and just say, 'Look, I'm not happy. And I want to break up,' " declares Amy, a single mother who's currently in a happy relationship. "There are so many lies that come with cheating, you know?

"It took me a long time to get into another situation where I could trust someone. But I have learned a lot. And for me, songwriting is always very therapeutic."

That was true when she co-wrote "I Would Cry," her 2004 hit "Men Don't Change" and most of the other songs on her album. And it's been true since the sixth-grader from Kingsport, Tenn., got in trouble for leaving the curling iron on when she went to school. She later wrote a tune about her coiffure crime and punishment, which was as close as a 12- year-old is likely to come to the social death penalty- Amy wasn't allowed to curl her hair for an entire week. Gee, Mom, why not just go all the way and shave the poor kid's head?

For the next few years, Amy became immersed in songwriting and performing, singing at school, weddings and starring in local theater productions. Eventually, she enrolled in college but left after two years for a job performing at Dollywood. She also sang with a local band-sort of. "I sang a song every now and then and played tambourine," she smiles. "But, basically, I was the hood ornament."

In 1994, Amy pointed her own hood toward Nashville, formed a band and hit the road. She eventually launched her solo career, with a slight detour to perform briefly as part of Trick Pony. She also established herself as a songwriter, penning all but one of the tunes on her own album, and getting cuts by Martina McBride, Reba McEntire and others.

The downside to her thriving career is that her many obligations are sometimes met at the expense of time at home with her precocious 6-year-old daughter, Madeline.

"That's the hardest part," confides Amy. "There's always a struggle with me, and I guess there forever will be-when I'm gone I feel the need to be home, and when I'm home I feel the need to be playing a show somewhere."

The other struggle in Amy's life will be resolved with the release of her album, which was delayed while her label, Curb Records, waited for the perfect timing-and the perfect hit. They've got both as "Cry" climbs the charts.

"Since the first song, 'Love's Got an Attitude,' fans of my music have been very anxious for the CD to come out," explains Amy. "And I have felt frustration because, obviously, that's what the goal is-to get a record in the stores so people can buy it. But I trust that people at my label know what they're doing."

Meanwhile, Amy's getting plenty of positive reinforcement through her live shows. "One of the highlights of the past year has been seeing a crowd singing along to 'Men Don't Change,' " she says. "Knowing they didn't even have it available to buy, but knew the words anyway was a great thrill to me."

Imagine how great it'll feel when the CD is actually in stores.

Amy smiles. "I just have to believe it's gonna be worth the wait."

- DAVID SCARLETT

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