It's easy to imagine that Lucy Hale's teen years were just as glamorous as those of her character on the hit ABC Family series Pretty Little Liars. As Rosewood's Aria Montgomery, she has a super-tight-knit circle of besties, a wardrobe we'd trade our eyeteeth for and (until recently) the kind of romance everyone else envies.
But many of the tracks on 24-year-old Hale's debut country album, Road Between, speak a different truth. Hale, like most of us, didn't make it through her youth emotionally unscathed. One of the album's standout tracks, "Nervous Girls," is a favorite of Hale's much for that very reason.
"A lot of time, people judge a book by its cover, so someone who's in my position, they think, 'Oh, this is a girl who's kind of got everything figured out and who's living a life without any problems or issues,' and that couldn't be further from the truth," she told us. "I think 'Nervous Girls' is one that speaks directly to my heart and will hopefully speak to other girls. It's kind of uniting in a way and should almost bring comfort to other people, because ultimately all of our issues kind of root from the same emotion."
Like many of her fans, Hale asserts, she is just a typical girl at times overcome with insecurities. "I think that the thing I always sort of struggled with was that I felt a little different and more off-center than people my age," she revealed.
Unlike her character on the wildly popular Pretty Little Liars, Hale never considered herself to be an "it" girl. "I've definitely gone through awkward phases physically," she said. "And I was never, like, the social butterfly or never had a lot of friends, so I kind of just did my own thing."
As for boyfriends, well, Hale has had her fair share of struggles in that department, too. "Dating issues?" she laughed when we broached the topic. "Oh, for days! But everything happens for a reason, right?"
It would seem so, as such is the stuff great songs are often made of.
Hale tackles heartbreak on sing-out-loud anthems like "Goodbye Gone" and "Kiss Me," and she explores discovering who you are on poignant tracks like "Nervous Girls" and "Road Between."
It's not all unrequited love and soul-searching, though. Many of the tracks on Hale's album are infectiously upbeat, particularly her debut single, "You Sound Good to Me," which has been very well received in the country music community.
"I just want this to be an album that people want to listen to in their car and get ready to with their girlfriends, and relate to," Hale said. "Music is so important to me, and music can make me feel so many different things — comfort me in really hard times and make me happy and make me laugh and everything — so I just hope my album kind of does that for other people."
For Hale, seeing the album come to fruition is the realization of a dream she's had since she was a little girl.
"I grew up singing country music, and that's all I listened to... it's sort of what I was born and bred on," says Hale, who counts country powerhouses like Faith Hill, Martina McBride and Miranda Lambert as defining influences.
"When I moved up to LA, I was sort of was unsure of exactly what I wanted to do," she elaborated. "I was 15 and kind of just knew I loved music, but just couldn't pinpoint exactly what I wanted to do. So it was kind of a blessing in disguise that it got put on the back burner for awhile, because I got to figure out who I was and figure out my sound and get to have all these wonderful life experiences."
Contributing to her album's country pedigree is the fact that Hale selected songs by — and worked with — some of Nashville's best songwriters. The track "That's What I Call Crazy" was actually penned by Kacey Musgraves, arguably country music's fastest-rising female star.
"She's killing it… she's amazing," Hale gushed. "She's just got a way with words. Her lyrics are so quirky and spot-on. You can definitely hear a song and know if it's a Kacey song or not."
With a Grand Ole Opry debut fast approaching on June 21, Hale may just be well on her way to "killing it," too, although that may or may not include a musical cameo for Aria on Pretty Little Liars.
"I don't know where country music would fit in on the show," she told us, "but that being said, ABC Family has been unbelievably supportive of the music, so you might see some stuff on that channel. Maybe on PLL, who knows? I don't rule anything out!"
This much is certain: Hale is looking forward to June 3, when Road Between drops.
"Right now I'm sort of in this area where people don't really know what to expect from me musically," she shared, "and I'm so excited to almost prove people wrong in a way."
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