PACE — Amanda Cook has had an unorthodox journey to becoming a Bluegrass recording artist. 

Cook had a banking career with Harvesters Federal Credit Union that lasted more than 16 years while playing with her dad, Mike Blanton, in a band called High Cotton. One day Cook decided she wanted to make Bluegrass music by mixing traditional and contemporary styles and do it on her own. She quit her banking job and launched a solo career as a Bluegrass recording artist.

"I took a leap of faith," Cook said.

The High Cotton band had regional success as a traditional Bluegrass gospel group so Cook was not unfamiliar with the music business.

"I married my high school sweetheart right out of high school and started working for Harvesters," Cook said.

Her sweetheart, Dennis, and Cook grew up in the Pace/Jay area and graduated from Pace High School in 1996. Cook said her family is grounded in Santa Rosa County. Cook's daughter lives with family in Pace while she attends Pensacola State College. Cook, her husband and 11-year-old son live in Laurel Fork, Virginia, a small town with the look and feel of Jay according to Cook.

Cook was playing with High Cotton while working at the bank and although she loved traditional Bluegrass, she longed for a different sound, she said.

"I have always liked traditional Bluegrass music," Cook said. "When I was young and heard Alison Krauss, she became my first love in music."

Cook said knowing the creative process it takes to produce that style of Bluegrass music makes her appreciate what Krauss does even more.

Cook's main instrument is the mandolin. She also plays the upright bass and the guitar. The biggest change for Cook has been in writing music, she said she has been doing a lot of it and loves it.

"I don't have a process like writing at a certain or set period of time," Cook Said. "As thoughts come into my head I write them down and start putting them together."

In 2014, she self-released her first solo album "One Stop Along the Road." The project made it to the top of the 150 Roots Music Bluegrass Album Charts for 2014. That gave her the attention she needed to grow her brand of music.

A touring band was formed for her and in early 2017 Cook signed with Mountain Fever Records. She was not only a recording artist for the label, she also became one of the few female recording engineers in Bluegrass music. She released her first album for the label in 2017 called "Deep Water," which helped establish a loyal following of fans.

Her latest album, "Point of No Return," was released in April of this year and has spawned two hit singles.