BATESVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Living in Alabama among a musical family, Debbie Cochran was a blonde-headed 7-year-old when her grandmother Lola Holland placed Debbie's young fingers on the piano keys and taught her how to make chords.
The old gospel tunes that she heard as a child has led Debbie to the inspirational, country-gospel style music that she writes and records today. Her album, "It's Never Too Late," the first of seven, was released in 2011.
As her musical abilities grew, so did Debbie's dreams of writing, singing songs and hearing them on the radio; maybe even someday singing on that special "Nashville stage" better known as the Grand Ole Opry.
She is now one step closer to that hallowed stage, thanks to her producer Kent Wells, who also works with Dolly Parton. Wells arranged for the two to meet and ultimately record a duet on Debbie's latest album, "Born Again Wildfire."
In a recent phone interview Debbie explained how that meeting came about.
"I was in the studio working on an album a few years ago when Dolly dropped by and Kent introduced us. She was so friendly and genuine. Then after I started touring across the country a bit, we would run into each other at different places and soon became friends.
"I met her one day in Minnesota; we both had on white rhinestone outfits," Debbie said, laughing. "Dolly said, 'Here comes my sister.' I thought it was because we were dressed alike, but I kept running into her and we formed a real close relationship.
"Then, I was in the studio one day working on 'Born Again Wildflower' when Dolly called and was talking to Kent and he mentioned I was in the studio and she said to tell me, 'Hello.' As they talked more Kent told her about the song and suggested that she should team up with me," Debbie said. "She listened to the song and loved it."
The idea of a duet was just fine with Debbie and when talking about working with Dolly, Debbie expressed how easy Dolly was to get to know and work with, and how she is a genuinely nice person.
"It was a great experience; we had a wonderful time," Debbie said.
Once, during a break in the recording of the duet, Debbie said she and Dolly were hanging out and talking about music in general when Debbie mentioned her childhood dream of someday performing on that great "Nashville" stage, as she likes to call it, and Dolly just looked at her and said, "We might do that, too!"
From her early childhood days of musical dreams, to her adult life of fulfilling them, literally all over the world with several awards and other accolades — the latest being Gospel Songwriter of the Year Award from the George D. Haye Society of Missouri — Debbie said she realizes it's all "a God thing."
"It's not easy, it's a hard job. I give all my credit to God for opening up these doors for me," she said.
"Born Again Wildflower" is available locally at Deni's Inspirations in Batesville, or online at all digital platforms. Debbie does plan to work on another album this fall as her husband and tour bus driver Elmer recovers from a shoulder injury.