When Danielle Bradbery released her eponymous freshman album in 2013, she was only 17 years old, and was getting accustomed to life in the spotlight after winning Season 4 of The Voice earlier in the year. The record produced one Top 20 single, "The Heart of Dixie," before Bradbery took some time to mature, discover who she really is as an artist and figure out what kind of music felt authentic to her.

With the release of her sophomore album, I Don't Believe We've Met, on Friday (Dec. 1), Bradbery lets fans in on what she's learned about herself: She is brave, she is empowered, she is a risk-taker. Most of all, she has found herself, in and with, her music.

Prior to the release of I Don't Believe We've Met, The Boot sat down with Bradbery to discuss her path to making a record that she calls "honest and real," and to talk about how different she is at 21 than she was right after winning The Voice.

You have a lot of different sounds and styles on I Don't Believe We've Met: some country, some pop, some blues and some sassy. Talk about the process of selecting songs for the album.

There’s a lot of different sounds and feelings and everything in between, and that’s kind of what I wanted.

There are a lot of different sounds on one record, and that’s kind of what I wanted; that was what I was going for. I didn’t want all of them to sound the same. I know that’s weird, but I’m influenced by so many different sounds and genres of music that I wanted to sprinkle a little bit over this album, because it’s something that I enjoy performing and singing and being a part of.

It’s me. It’s what I grew up listening to. I’m always country, but I just wanted to throw in a little bit.

"Red Wine on a White Couch" is strictly R&B, and it threw a lot of people off, but it may not ever be a single. It’s just something on the album that I love, and it was fun, and when I first heard it, I was like, "Okay. This is pretty awesome," and I was such a big fan of the song.

There’s a lot of different sounds and feelings and everything in between, and that’s kind of what I wanted, so hopefully people like it.

How did you narrow down songs for your record?

That whole process of narrowing down songs was kind of natural, which was amazing, and that's exactly how I wanted it to go. I didn’t want it to be tough. And sometimes it was a little bit, but all the songs that are on the album, I felt like, are on the album for a reason.

You know, in the process of writing songs, over the past months or year, you find songs, and you’re like, "Oh my God, this is a really good one," and so we keep it in our back pocket. But the amazing thing about writing is you just keep writing, and then you get another song that knocks that last one out. And so it just helps narrow down by time, and we ended up with these 10 songs, and three of them I picked just by listening, and the writing process helped me know how to get connected with songs, instead of just saying blindfoldedly, "Oh, I like that one because it’s cool."

You have to really connect with it, or else it won’t mean anything to you, and people won’t see that when you’re singing it. And so, I learned a lot just from the writing process, and narrowing down was pretty easy, which, I’m glad.

I want to be an honest singer-songwriter, and that’s what I’m finally getting to do and figure out. So I guess I’m stronger, thankfully.

You wrote seven of the 10 songs on I Don't Believe We've Met, including songs you wrote with hit writers such as Thomas Rhett, Emily Weisband, Heather Morgan, Josh Kerr and others. What was it like sitting in a room with them, writing songs for your album?

At first, I wasn’t sure really who some of these writers were. And when I got in the room, and after the fact, I’m like, "Okay. That was a pretty big deal." And now, from what I’ve been learning, I look back, and when I get in the room with these same people, and it’s like, "Okay. I know what this is all about now," and I’m pinching myself at times, getting to write with artists. It’s moments that I’m like, "Okay. This is pretty unbelievable." It’s awesome that I get to be a part of it.

There's four years between the release of your freshman and sophomore records. What was happening with you in those four years, when you took a step away from the public eye?

Four years is quite a long time. I feel like we’re all learning about ourselves constantly. I feel like you learn so much just in a year. It’s such a huge transformation for somebody. And so, four years, especially being at a young age, you’re constantly transitioning and growing up. You’re going through so much, emotionally and physically.

I was 16 years old, and now I’m 21, so there’s a lot I had to learn and catch up with myself. Being 16 years old, I will say, for any 16 year old, you are not sure about anything, especially yourself. Just the little things: I didn’t know my style just yet. I wanted to dye my hair 50 million different colors. I was a blond, and I wanted to be brown, a brunette. So there was a lot that was going on. And then on top of that, now I have to figure out this whole other person that’s an artist.

Daniell Bradbery new album
BMLG Records

There was a lot that I just needed to think about. With the support of my management and my label, they were a huge help in that, just offering the whole songwriting thing, and then a year or two later, that’s what I did. I laid low in Nashville, really figured out everything -- really figured out my voice and what I wanted to say, and what this next album was going to be shaped around. That’s when I got into songwriting and gained a little more confidence and gained a little more stage presence. Honestly, just a little bit of everything.

And so, there’s a lot that I was learning. And I’m still learning so much. There’s a huge gap. I look back at things, and I’m 16, 17 years old, and I’m like, "Good Lord, I cannot believe I was out there like that." So I’m thankful for these past couple years, just laying low and figuring out everything.

With the evolution between who you were as a contestant and winner on The Voice and who you are now, how would you describe Danielle Bradbery?

She’s a lot stronger than she was. I’m getting to figure out how to stand up for myself more, not let people walk over me. I used to, because I was so shy -- I’m naturally a shy person. And before, I necessarily didn’t come off as the strongest, most confident person ever. So I’m finally getting to have my say and have more of, just words to describe myself, and be more honest. I told myself, I want to be an honest singer-songwriter, and that’s what I’m finally getting to do and figure out. So I guess I’m stronger, thankfully.

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