Kimberley Locke was born and raised in Tennessee. She grew up singing, both in church and for fun, and by high school was a member of her school's singing and performance group. Locke studied business at Nashville's Belmont University and sang in various local bands before friends and family encouraged her to try out for American Idol's 2003 season. She did well, and before long she was standing in the semifinalist's circle with Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard. Though she was cut before the finals, Locke did land a spot on the program's resulting tour, and that exposure led to a recording contract with Curb. Her debut single, "8th World Wonder," appeared in March 2004; it was followed in May by the full-length One Love, which featured a comfortable mix of light pop, contemporary R&B, and adult contemporary ballads.