Kree Harrison hasn't been sitting around bored since placing second on 'American Idol' in May. She recently released her first single, she debuted on the Grand Ole Opry (with help from Keith Urban), and she even jumped up onstage with Wynonna Judd at a recent Nashville gig.

But life wasn't always so rosy for the 23-year-old rising country star. Harrison lost both of her parents before she was out of her teens, and in a new interview, she calls her newfound success "the sweet after the bitter."

Harrison says she didn't share her difficult past on 'American Idol' to win over voters. It's just a part of who she is. And as she tells CMT, she's hopeful that her tragedy-to-triumph story can inspire others.

"Maybe that gives them hope that you can move forward," she reflects. "I think at the end of the day, it's a choice, and you just have to literally get up and not move on -- because it's impossible -- but move forward. So, I don't know if I've done that for anybody, but I hope."

Despite her own hardships -- which include a more-than-decade-long Nashville struggle, complete with the obligatory record deals gone wrong -- Harrison remains optimistic and upbeat. "Why not? Why not be positive? It's a choice," she points out. "It's just so much harder to be unhappy. It takes a lot of energy to walk around and feel sorry for yourself or be negative. And it's draining -- not just to you but to other people."

Despite her recent whirlwind success, Harrison says she's just getting started. Among her future goals she lists making a good record, touring the world and meeting new people. "I've never even been out of the country," she says. "I would love to do that. I think it would be an amazing experience!"