Lucy Hale is, perhaps unfairly, one of the last people most would expect to record a country music album – just for the simple reason that she is a bona fide Hollywood star, and, let's face it, you don't see too many of those creating heartland-style hits. But that's a big part of what makes this newcomer to the Nashville scene so interesting.
Hale, of course, is best-known for her starring role as Aria Montgomery on the smash TV show "Pretty Little Liars," but as it turns out, the multi-talented brunette has a pedigree that's seeped the genre into her bones.
"It's so funny, because everybody is always really surprised when I decided to go the country route, but a lot of people don’t know my background I’m from Tennessee – I grew up in the South," she explains. "Growing up in Memphis, it was just kind of inevitable that I would have this love of country music . It was on the radio; it was the music videos I watched on TV. It was what my Mom listened to. I developed a love of it at a very young age. [So] it was kind of a no-brainer when I got the opportunity to make an album that I wanted to go the country route. "
The second "perhaps unfair" assumption regarding Hale is that, even though she may have released a country record (Road Between, which hit the streets June 3), her acting would naturally outshine any musical attempts. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Hale's country debut is a startlingly confident production by any measure; however, she is completely understanding that some might look askance at her foray into music.
"I knew getting into it that people would be very skeptical and have preconceived notions of me," she says, with a calm smile. "I'm known for being on a commercially popular show, and so I’d be skeptical of someone who did – you know, it's human nature. But I think at the end of the day if you sit down and listen to the album, open your mind to the thought of it, I think you may be actually more accepting of it."
She admits her already established fame has its drawbacks. "It’s a little frustrating at times...like a double-edged sword, because on one hand its amazing, and you have this support system and you have all these people that are willing to buy the record and request the song on radio. But on the other hand I feel I have to prove myself that much more, to be like – no, this isn’t a phase. This is something I want to make a career out of."
Hale actually intended to earmark music originally as her primary focus – in fact, she started out as a singer, appearing on the reality show American Juniors as part of a vocal group in 2003. After the show, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a record deal. Along the way, she found herself falling into acting, taking various roles in shows before landing her role in "Liars" in 2009. The commitment understandably caused music to take a backseat for the time being.
"Everyone was saying, why are you acting? You could be singing," she notes of her switch into the other craft. "I was about 15 and I decided, oh maybe I’ll give acting a shot. I really loved it, and I’m a super creative person, so it was just another way to get to be creative...and then music kind of got put on the back burner for awhile."
Hale kept very busy with her acting career, but her longing to sing continued to linger. "About three years ago I did a movie that involved singing and I hadn’t been in a studio for a really long time so that re-ignited that flame in me," she says. "I was like, I gotta get back doing this. I forgot how happy it makes me."
Timing was everything: Hale secured a record deal, then promptly startled everyone by insisting she was going country. "I think a lot of people thought I was gonna go in a certain direction and then when I approached them, I said, really, what’s genuine to me is country music. I really want to go that route."
As can be easily observed from Hale's robust performances (she cites such powerhouse country royalty as Faith Hill, Shania Twain, and Martina McBride as her influences), she was completely secure in her choice. As she explains, she simply followed her heart.
"When deciding to take the plunge, [people] just gave me the advice to just be yourself. All they want is to see you be yourself.That was pretty cool for me, because I live in a world where I don’t ever get to be myself – I play a character. So to get to be Lucy and get to explain like my story, that was awesome."
"You know, on paper, I seem a little strange, but when you meet me it kind of I guess makes a little more sense," says Hale. Indeed: She's certainly not being a "liar" on that front.