A year ago, Chelsea Sulkey made a vision board. On it she listed five years worth of professional dreams. Several months later, she crossed the last item off her list. Musically it has been a very good year for the Cairo, New York, 23-year-old.

A difficult end to a relationship (he cheated, she says) inspired "Gone," an inspiring moving-on song that she used to audition for the 107.7 GNA (WGNA-FM in Albany, N.Y.) local Hometown RISERS contest. She won and tried her luck against 14 other national finalists during a two-week-long Taste of Country Hometown RISERS voting contest. Prior to every meal she'd urge her fans on social media to vote. Then she'd remind her band, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers ... maybe even a few strangers and one or two tech-savvy black bears ...

"This is honestly what I've wanted since I could talk," Sulkey tells Taste of Country. "I always knew singing is what I wanted to do for my life and career. The only way I would be truly happy in life is if I was singing."

The first Taste of Country Hometown RISER has the talent, but perhaps more importantly, she has the want to become something bigger than a hometown talent. Sulkey is a versatile vocalist and talented songwriter looking for more opportunities, even if that means taking more risks. It hasn't been easy thus far. Her central New York town is small, and not a hotbed for songwriters or recording artists. There's no one in her immediate circle of friends and family who can hold her hand as she takes tentative steps on the business side.

"It’s been a huge roller coaster," she admits. "It’s been more down than up, for sure. I’ve had more rejection than everything. I've tried out for American Idol, The Voice — I didn’t even get a second chance."

No worries Chelsea, These Singers Were Rejected from Idol Too!

Like so many songwriters, Sulkey has learned to turn her pain into art. She often writes about love and heartache, admitting she'll borrow from a friend's story if she needs to. While no one in her family is a professional musician, that doesn't mean they're not musical. A couple of cousins helped her find a backing band on the fly when she needed to put something together to open for Frankie Ballard. Both her mom and dad kept the radio on while she was growing up. As for why she loves country? That's easy.

"Everyone is super country here," Sulkey says with pride. "I’ll go up to Albany which is 45 minutes north … and it's like the city to me. I’m, like, lost."

Nashville is much bigger than New York's state capital, but that's an uncrossed item on Sulkey's vision board. A short trip is planned for August to get a feel for the city and perhaps to record. Within a year, she says, she wants to make the move. That means giving up a strong local following and saying goodbye to those who've cheered her on since she won her first local talent show at age 14.

"I'm ready to take the next step and go," she says. Success or heartbreak could follow, but Sulkey takes the words she has tattooed on her back seriously — Will Hoge and Eric Paslay's lyrics that became a great Eli Young Band song:

"Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart."

Follow Chelsea Sulkey on Twitter or Instagram, and if you're in New York, look for her on July 7 as she plays for her biggest crowd ever at Countryfest in Albany, where she'll open for Rascal Flatts, Dan + Shay and more.

Listen to Chelsea Sulkey's "Gone"

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