Tammy Cochran was born and raised in Austinburg, Ohio. Her father taught her the words to her first song, "Heartaches by the Numbers," when she was around eight years old. A short time later she was given a child's record player that came with a microphone. Her favorite pastime instantly became singing along with country tunes by artists like Barbara Mandrell and Loretta Lynn. She preferably sang in front of an audience, with her older brothers' help.
Over the next few years, she gained experience singing at her family's church. At age 12, she entered a local talent contest and won. With a newfound confidence, she entered more contests, winning over and over. While still in her teens, she put together a band of her own called TC Country. The group appeared at fairs, weddings, and clubs.
She finished high school and took vocational training to be a secretary. In 1991, she moved to Nashville with her parents. In 1996 she married, but divorced after a few years. In 1998, she was introduced to Shane Decker after one of her performances. Decker worked for Warner-Chappell Music as a songwriter. He offered to help her get a demo ready. He also helped her land a job writing songs at Warner-Chappell. She signed to Sony Music Nashville, which released her first single, the very traditional "If You Can," in 2000. After a second single stalled, "Angels in Waiting" cracked the Top 10; Cochran co-wrote the song about her two brothers, who had died of cystic fibrosis. Her follow-up album included the single "Life Happened," but didn't sell well and she parted ways with the label shortly afterwards.