When Lauren Alaina became the runner-up on Season 10 of American Idol in 2011, the future looked bright -- and a bit scary -- for the then-16-year-old. Her debut album, Wildflower, was released a few short months later, though only one of its three singles, "Like My Mother Does," cracked the Top 20. Meanwhile, Alaina was battling an eating disorder and watching her parents' marriage crumble while trying to navigate the often-unpredictable music business.

"It was a crazy few years, and a lot of life-changing things happened. I felt like I was drowning at one point," Alaina recently revealed to The Boot and other reporters, "so I just started writing songs about those things. And then, suddenly, I woke up one day, and I was like, ‘I think I’ve written my album about all of these things,’ and then we went in and recorded it."

Alaina channeled her struggles into her honest, 12-track record Road Less Traveled. The album includes her first No. 1 single, the title track.

"It’s crazy, because I feel like I’m so much more honest with this music," Alaina adds, "and maybe that’s why people are connecting with it more, because I connect with it more."

I feel like I’m so much more honest with this music, and maybe that’s why people are connecting with it more, because I connect with it more.

With only one songwriting credit on Wildflower ("Funny Thing About Love"), Alaina admits that learning the craft of songwriting was initially challenging for her. Determined, she reached out to veteran songwriters such as busbee, Emily Weisband, Victoria Banks and others to help her put her thoughts and emotions to music.

"It was really fun for me to kind of dive in as a songwriter and as an artist," Alaina shares. "Just as a person, I got to know myself a lot more because of those five years of writing. And I feel like now, people are getting to know me a lot more because of those five years of writing ...

"I learned a lot about what it takes to be a songwriter and kind of what that means in Nashville. I found out that I was the least-talented person in town and had to work my way up, because you had to write with people that were better than you in order to get better. So that’s what I did," Alaina continues. "I wrote with all of the best people in town and took something from each person. Once I started learning how to write songs, I had to learn how to write songs about me. And then when I started doing that, I wrote my record, and it was kind of an accident."

Releasing Road Less Traveled was a tough decision for Alaina, especially after releasing five previous singles that didn't become radio hits. But Alaina's loyal fans kept asking for new music from the Georgia native, and she felt compelled to deliver.

"We wanted to put new music out for the fans that were dying to hear where I’ve been," Alaina says. "And that was super scary, because a lot of people wait until their song is in the Top 3, at least, to release an album, but I didn’t know ["Road Less Traveled"] was even going to go into the Top 3, and so we put it out anyway. It was really scary to do that, because you want to do it in a moment when you have a lot of momentum and there’s a lot going on. And when we put it out, I think our song was in the Top 30, Top 20 or something."

When you feel the way I feel about music and about the vision I have for my future, I just couldn’t give up. It wasn’t an option for me.

Earning her first No. 1 hit gave Alaina the confidence she needed to keep moving forward.

"We didn’t know that the song was going to be climbing the charts or what the plan was for that. But it was cool because it’s helped me so much on the road, just connecting with people and being able to talk to people about the music," Alaina continues. "I think anytime you can get music in people’s hands, it’s rewarding. It was scary to do that, because I didn’t have a song in the Top 3 at the time, but it was really cool. Now they’re coming to the shows and they’re singing it, and that’s pretty awesome."

When Alaina reflects on the years since her time on Idol, she acknowledges that she faced many hurdles and setbacks along the way -- but, in retrospect, she is grateful for all that she endured.

"There were lots of ups and downs for me. It was pretty crazy. I was a little bit all over the place. At one point, I never even thought this album would come out," concedes Alaina. "But I just had a dream. And when you feel the way I feel about music and about the vision I have for my future, I just couldn’t give up. It wasn’t an option for me. And I needed to write those songs, because if not, I probably would have been put in a hospital or something and needed doctors to evaluate me non-stop, because I was losing it a little bit, and writing about it saved me."

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