Kristy Lee Cook is getting a lot more than just 15 minutes of fame. The 'American Idol' finalist kicked her career into high gear shortly after wrapping up the show, signing with Arista Nashville and releasing her first country single, '15 MInutes of Shame' in August. Now the 24-year-old Oregon native is out with her first CD, 'Why Wait.'

"It sounds like an album that would be mine," she tells Nashville's Tennessean newspaper. "It's got some really fun up-tempo country songs on it. It's got some really nice power ballads on it and some mid-tempos."

Cook, who just wrapped up the American Idol tour, is enjoying the opportunity to perform without the constraints of the hit TV show. "I didn't get to show the side of me that I am performance-wise and vocally," she says. "I didn't get to sing those kinds of songs. People now are getting to see the real side of me that I should have showed on the show. There wasn't time and it didn't work out. You've got to bring that out in whatever you do."

Cook, who made it to the Top 7 before being eliminated, has mixed feelings about her 'Idol' experience. "I learned on that show I was kind of a different person; everybody pretty much was," she says. "But I learned you've got to do what you've got to do and not worry about what everybody else says."

Still, she is quick to acknowledge the show helped shape her as an artist, and a person. "Doing something that big and getting criticized all the time always makes you stronger -- plus I was in the bottom three a lot," she says. "Being part of that whole situation was a learning experience and makes you grow up and realize what hard work is."

Cook's new album includes her version of Lee Greenwood's classic hit, 'God Bless the USA,' which she performed on 'Idol,' as well as 'Not Tonight,' which was co-written by Brett James, Chris Lindsey and the most successful 'Idol' alum to date, Carrie Underwood.

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