"There was a case of getting lost in the shuffle," Bentley said, referring to changes going on at the label.
"I don't think I had found myself musically (at that point)," Bentley said. "We just weren't capturing that magic."
"I got up, brushed myself off and said let's go back in the studio and cut some more stuff," she said. About four songs from those sessions ended up on "Hopechest."
"Everyone really seemed to like it, " she said, adding, "But it 's a little bit different from the other stuff that's out there. This album is me. This is Stephanie Bentley. This isn't anybody else."
The label shopping continued. During this time, she ran into Worley once again, who was now a label honcho at Sony, the parent of Epic Records. "I think he was so fond of that demo that he definitely kept me in his head," she said. "Who was to know?"
She soon signed a record deal.
And then yet another break came. Worley called Bentley, asking her about doing a duet. "I said, 'That sounds like fun,'" Bentley said. When told Herndon would be the partner, "I said, 'who's that?'" Bentley said.
The three sat down at Sony headquarters one night for a get acquainted session. "I heard him sing, and I knew it was the (best) voice I heard in a long time," Bentley said. "I got very excited about the duet, and we just kind of clicked from the beginning."
That meeting turned into "Heart Half Empty," which appears on both Bentley's and Herndon's albums. "It started out as a duet between two artists that no one had ever heard of," she said. " It turned out be a real wonderful thing. I feel very lucky."
The two have done a number of tour dates together and plan to do another duet for Herndon's second release. Bentley distinctly remembered the charge she got when the crowd at a Kalamazoo, Mich. show started singing along, something she often did at shows she attended. "The first time that they started singing along with the duet, I can't put into words the feeling,"Bentley said. "I always thought what if it was me up on that stage, and now it is. It 's my dream come true. I'm enjoying every little step. I'm happy to be here. No matter what, I'm happy to be here. I'm on cloud nine."
And so with the release of her debut, Bentley already is at least somewhat known.
"I'm still pinching myself," she said. "That was my first taste of it before my album. That was kind of nice to be able to gradually ease into it."
Her disc includes two songs (the closing "Think Of Me" and "the first single "Who's That Girl") she had a hand in writing. She only took up writing four years ago. "I never even thought about it because I didn't grow up around writers," Bentley said. "Finally, I got tired of people asking me if I write... One day, I said, 'Sure. I guess I do. Right. I instinctively know how a song goes."
As for the song topics, most deal with the end of relationships, but Bentley acknowledged most were about emotionally strong women. "It's not depressing," Bentley said of "Who's That Girl," a song about a woman making it on her own at the end of a dead-end relationship with a Houdini.
Bentley was not worried her music would appeal only to women. "I think men and women can relate to that kind of thought," she said. "Everybody has been in a relationship, and it's really hard to move on. 'Okay, I learned this and take the positive and move on.' I think a lot of people can relate to it."
"Every song that I picked was because it spoke to me," she said. "Every song was my baby. If a song touches me, then it can touch people too."
In February, Bentley does a radio promotional tour and hopes to hit the concert trail again in April.
While just out of the box, Bentley has her eyes on the prize. "You have a goal." she said. "You have a dream. Therefore, it's reachable, and you go for it.You don't stop.There's always another mountain on the horizon."