Courtney Cole remembers how she reacted when her manager called with news that she'd be opening up Miranda Lambert's Roadside Bars and Pink Guitars Tour last fall.

“Great!" the singer recalls saying, laughing at the memory. "I was thinking about moving to Hawaii and teaching yoga. This is awesome!” At the time her roller coaster ride through the music business had dipped. She'd hit a low, something that's tough to imagine from this sunny Mandeville, La. native.

Cole's laugh is as upbeat and delightful as her pop-flavored country music. While she enjoys a good man-bashing song, the "Drunk" singer says most of her songs turn negatives into positives. She looks for reasons to smile.

Cole opened for Lambert slongside RaeLynn, Clare Dunn and Ashley Monroe, but the partnership really stretched much further than that. The attention the superstar paid to all of her support acts made it clear that she was only beginning a relationship. Lambert's mission to shine a spotlight on talented female singers and songwriters is more than just lip service, Cole says. “She really wants females to be at the top again, and she’s pushing for it.”

Seeing her off stage, and how in control she is and how she really runs the show," Cole says of Lambert. "She runs her business and she’s so classy about it. She takes care of everyone.

That means watching every set, every night, from a custom built space just off stage. That means encouraging artists who are in a spot she was in a decade ago. It means setting a good example. Cole was the only artist who traveled by van instead of tour bus. The grind of the road took its toll, and right when the miles and sleepless nights were beginning to add up, Lambert pulled her aside to tell her how much she respected what the younger singer was doing.

“That could not have meant more to me because it gets exhausting out here,” Cole says.

Musically, Cole's music tends to do the same thing Lambert did for her. "Drunk" is a feel-good, loving-life song with an adorable, colorful music video. Others like the unrequited love song "There's Always Me" are sung with roseate pluck. She says even when she's bashing some guy, she's doing it in a positive way. It's a response to how she was raised. Early on she wasn't exactly Ms. Popular in school, but things changed around seventh grade.

“Before that Courtney Cole was cross-eyed and had asthma; she was not the cool kid," Cole says before adding, "I legit, in sixth grade, had a 'Kick Me' sign put on my back."

Maturation helped with those self-confidence issues, but a long memory, general awareness of the messages sent to young girls in the media, and a young niece who's doing her best to navigate through those messages keep her aiming at positive.

"I'm on social media all the time and see all the flat stomachs," Cole says. "There was a shirt that said 'Stop Eating'! I was like ... this is not OK."

That's not to say she doesn't bleed. Cole can whip up a song on a really good or really bad day. "Pretty Little Bow" was penned hours after a breakup. "Mama and Me" came from the time after her parents' divorce, when she and her father were having a "rough patch." The lyric is painfully honest, and while she and both parents get along great now, she knew she owed this tribute to her mother.

“It was very special to her," Cole says. "She cried her eyes out when I gave it to her for Christmas.”

2016 will bring more tours and hopefully new music for this one-time CMT's Next Superstar contestant. It's going to be tough to top the Lambert tour, but lessons learned from the CMA's reigning Female Vocalist of the Year will stick with her.

“Seeing her off stage, and how in control she is and how she really runs the show," Cole says with equal parts enthusiasm and admiration, "she runs her business and she’s so classy about it. She takes care of everyone.”

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