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Tammy Cochran's new video is nothing to cry about

Story by Tom Roland Photo by Tammie Arroyo

Beauty Bar. Even the name of this trendy nightclub - literally 80 steps from one of Gene Autry's five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame - oozes with glamour. That's why Tammy Cochran is here shooting her new video, "I Cry," in which she plays a woman stepping out on the town after the end of a relationship.

"It's about things that would actually happen," she explains. "You would go out with your friends while you're trying to get over a heartbreak, and your friends are there to help take your mind off of the hurt that you're going through."

At the moment, though, Tammy's a little weirded out from pretending the carefully coiffed 20-something extras are her real-life friends. "I'm having to party with people I don't even know," she explains. "People I just met, like, 10 minutes ago!"

Over and over, Tammy and her temporary buddies repeat a simple scenario for the camera: A couple of gorgeous, young guys flash perfect, gleaming smiles at the singer.

When the video is finished, it will all look like great fun as the bartender pours a celebratory glass of champagne, and she and the other revelers toast her return to the single life. The glittery walls, the '50s-chic ceiling lamps and the six hair dryer stations along the wall all add to a kitschy, festive vibe. Still, Tammy insists, "It's a lot of hard work - my cheeks are sore from smiling!"

Tammy's also had plenty of reason to smile off-camera lately, as her song "Angels In Waiting" became her first Top 10 hit. But things weren't always so rosy.

The last of three children born to a working-class couple in Austinburg, Ohio, Tammy's birth was an accident. Her older brothers had cystic fibrosis, and her parents had worried that any future children might also suffer from the disease - fears that turned to joy when Tammy was born healthy. The family endured harsh Lake Erie winters, and Tammy watched as her brothers died in 1980 and 1991. But Tammy found comfort in her family's country albums and began singing herself, entering talent contests and eventually forming her own band, TC Country.

"Growing up, listening to people like Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette taught me to sing," Tammy says. "When you're 8 years old, you're really impressionable, and then over the years you develop your own style. But everything you learn along the way goes into the big melting pot."

When Tammy decided to move to Nashville, her parents came with her, providing an instant support network during the eight years she waited for her big break. During that time she worked at McDonald's, then in the Service Merchandise jewelry department.

"I really enjoyed that job," she says, "because they were so cool about letting me take off work when I had a session or a meeting. And I bought a lot of jewelry - they give you a good discount!"

As the years wore on, Tammy began to doubt if her musical dreams would ever come true. "You start to second-guess yourself," she admits, "because it's not like going to college and pretty much being guaranteed a career when you get out. With the entertainment business, it's a lot of hard work, a lot of praying and a whole lot of luck."

In the midst of this uncertainty, Tammy briefly married. It was soon after her divorce that luck finally came her way - one night a Nashville producer heard her sing in a nightclub, and promised to bring a record-label exec with him next time she performed. "At that point, I'd lived in Nashville for eight years, so I'd heard this many times before," she recalls. "It wasn't that I didn't believe him, but you get a little disenchanted."

But he made good on his promise, and before long Tammy had a record deal. She watched her first three singles fizzle before "Angels In Waiting" - written about her late brothers - took her to the big time.

Having her first hit, she says, has brought satisfaction, relief - and a mountain of work. She's spent much of the last year crammed into a tour bus with seven other people. "Everything just becomes a blur after a while," she says. "As far as clubs I've played and cities I've been in, I can't remember them all."

And today, she'll spend hours filming one take after another, only to eat lunch off a paper plate in the club's parking lot. But while Tammy has learned that being a star isn't the kind of nonstop glamour fans will see in the "I Cry" video, years of struggle have taught her that it's nothing to sneeze at, either.

"I'm not complaining at all," Tammy says with a laugh. "Success is much better than the alternative."