Lauren Alaina has come a long way since her debut album, Wildflower, in 2011. In an exclusive interview with Taste of Country, the rising country star reveals that she poured her blood, sweat and tears into her new project, Road Less Traveled, and how it reflects her growth of the past several years.

"So much has changed in my life," she says, citing her parents' divorce, her dad's three-year recovery from alcohol and overcoming her own eating disorder as just a few of the struggles she's faced.

"That's like a lifetime of things in three years that I had to write about. I always joke and say that I literally live a country song, which works out for me because I write them for a living," she adds with a laugh. "So I have an entire album full of what happened to me over the last few years."

Writing a whopping 300 songs for the record, Alaina has selected 12 of her favorites to be included on Road Less Traveled. When comparing this new compilation to her debut, the former American Idol contestant says fans will know exactly who she is when listening to the tracks. "I really wanted to tell who I am as a young woman, as an adult, because I was so young then and my identity, I had no idea what it was yet, I was letting other people determine that and that's why the eating disorder was a thing," Alaina says candidly. "I feel like now I have a much better grasp on who I am and what I want to say as an artist, so I'm pretty excited to share that."

Just one of the songs Alaina is excited about is the title track and current single, "Road Less Traveled." The singer happily tells us that her sixth single has cracked the Top 15 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart, making it her highest charting single to date. "That is unbelievable to me, it feels really good," she says excitedly.

The country star co-wrote the upbeat track with pop star Meghan Trainor in 2013, calling her "one of my favorite humans."

I just want to inspire people to love other people and be accepting because I feel like there’s so much going on in the world and there’s so many pressures and there’s so much negativity.

"We wrote this song when I was in this weird, vulnerable place where I was trying to be confident, didn't know what that really meant yet, didn't know how to be secure in my skin," Alaina admits. "I wanted to write a song for people to feel good about who they are."

And that goal is certainly accomplished in the song, which enforces a positive message with confident lyrics like "Dress sizes can't define / Don't let the world decide what's beautiful / If you trust your rebel heart / Ride it into battle / Don't be afraid / Take the road less traveled." It is exactly this empowering message the singer hopes to inspire across the entirety of the album.

"I just want to inspire people to love other people and be accepting because I feel like there's so much going on in the world and there's so many pressures and there's so much negativity," she says honestly. "There's just as much positivity as there is negativity, but for some reason, people focus on the negative things. And I used to be that person, but I'm not that person anymore. I don't take myself too seriously, or I at least try not to, and I want to encourage other people to live that way because it's a much better way to go about your life."

In addition to positive messages, Road Less Traveled also chronicles the many battles Alaina has conquered over the years, adding a raw element to the project, a process she says presented challenges in itself.

"It was pretty hard to be that honest, in some of the songs almost brutally honest, but I didn't know how else to say it," she confesses, calling the experience "scary" but "freeing."

"I would literally say the things out loud and then just write a melody to them for some of the songs because…I didn't want to water it down. I feel like I just had therapy for the last three years and everyone's reading my diary now. So I'm excited to see what they think."

Road Less Traveled debuts on Friday (Jan. 27).

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