Fans who went out to see Miranda Lambert's 2015 Roadside Bars and Pink Guitars Tour this fall got to hear music from five country ladies, including Courtney Cole. The rising singer-songwriter, who recently signed a new publishing deal and released a three-track EP, says that her main goal with her music is to connect.

In an EPK video (see below), Cole says, "I want people to feel like we're friends." It's an idea she keeps at the forefront of her mind when it comes to her career, whether in writing sessions or at shows.

"That's what country music is: It's a lifestyle ... We're pulling from our experiences, and that's what keeps it real, and that's what keeps it honest," Cole tells The Boot. "... And I just want every single song to be able to connect with someone ... It's all about feeling connected, and that's very important to me."

As she builds her fan base, whether playing a solo show at a small club, at the CMA Music Festival or in front of a massive crowd with Lambert, Cole is excited to further her connection to those who have discovered her -- and those who will do so down the line.

"[I] really got to know my fan base, which has been so awesome because they have personality and they're -- they're like my friends," she says of meeting (and making) new fans out on the Roadside Bars and Pink Guitars Tour. Noting that she and her band have been on the road solo a lot recently ("vanning it," as Cole describes it), Cole adds, "It's cool to see some of the people that I met two years ago in a little podunk bar in Kentucky show up to some of these other shows.

"... That has meant the world to me," she continues. "It's been so cool to see that grow and progress."

Cole's friendliness comes easily: On the phone, she's bubbly and chatty, and in her music, she's ... well, pretty much the same. As she confirms, the "very fun and lighthearted" music she's released so far -- in addition to her EP, she's also put out a single, "Drunk" -- really is the perfect first impression.

"I kind of wanted that to be my handshake to the world," Cole explains. The projects she has planned for the future will show more sides of her personality, but for now, "I was kind of thinking, 'When people meet me, what do they get as a first impression?' and I think this collection of songs is that."

A Louisiana native, Cole grew up singing in church and in musical theater. Even at a young age, she says that her mother knew she'd end up doing something musical.

"I would harmonize with the vacuum cleaner," Cole admits.

After high school, she moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University, studying music, and got an internship at a publishing company. Cole was working "so many odd jobs" as part of her internship program, but when the company heard some of her songs, they signed her to a publishing deal.

"[They were] so great to me. I'd work 9-5, and then I'd sit after and write from, like, 6 to whenever I got tired, and they just allowed me to do that," she recalls. "A lot of companies wouldn't do that ... but I think they just saw my drive and saw that I really wanted to write, and apparently the songs weren't too terrible.

"Looking back, they were pretty terrible though, so they were pretty nice to me!" Cole adds with a laugh.

And because the publishing company was also a record label, Cole got to see multiple sides of the business -- experience that has come in handy as she continues her career.

"It really taught me how to run my company, my business -- my 'Courtney Cole business' -- and just to really take charge and know what I want and really be confident in my craft," she says. "... And it was also great to see a bunch of different sides of the business, know what it was about and kind of be like, 'This is what's gonna be coming your way if you want to do this.'"

Cole has a smattering of shows scheduled throughout the coming months, and she's continuing to write as she tries to secure a record deal. In that EPK, she mentions the pressure, especially on women, both in the music business and not, to conform to certain standards and expectations, but Cole says that she thinks things are "looking good" now for women in country music.

"There's so much positive flow around women in country music right now, and they're getting played, you know?" she muses. "...I think now that there's a little doorway open for all of us to kind of come out, I think the '90s are coming back, and women are going to be strong and powerful. And that's exciting; it gives us all a chance ... Now it feels like there's several [slots], and there's room for us all."

She later adds, "... I'm just very thankful that us girls, we can all support each other ... [It's] so great to see that working out for the good of us all."

Both "Drunk" and the Courtney Cole EP are available for download on iTunes; Cole's EP is also available on Amazon. Fans can keep up with Cole's goings-on via her website.

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