Long before a dramatic she said-they said split from the girl group Fifth Harmony, Camila Cabello was planting the seeds for what is looking to become a fruitful solo career. She cracked the Top 20 with friend Shawn Mendes in 2015, and her collaboration "Bad Things" with Machine Gun Kelly topped off at Number Four. Following up the strong precedent set by those songs, the 20-year-old has been establishing herself as a versatile, budding pop diva with singles like "Havana" and "Crying in the Club," which will appear on her debut solo LP The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving. (The LP's exact fall release date yet has not yet been announced.)
"It's kind of like having a huge block of marble and carving out a statue," she tells Rolling Stone of the process of culling together lyrics, stories and music from the last few years of her life. She wrote the lyrics for the ballad "I Have Questions" a year and a half ago, while "I'll Never Be the Same" was inspired by a relationship she had a couple years back. "In the Dark" had been written the day after the Grammys about an encounter with an unnamed famous boy she had met at an after-party.
"The final product becomes more clear to you the more you carve at it and work on it. There were songs that five months ago were my favorite songs, and then two weeks after [we] scrapped it from the album," she explains. "Through trial and error, I've written enough finished songs to be able to say 'Okay, this is me. This sounds like me and only me, and this separates me from what other people are doing.'"
As Cabello perfects her debut statement as a singular artist outside of her former group, she is adjusting to the independence and authority she now has over her music.
"[The songs were] mostly written by other people," she recalls of the quick, two week process to make Fifth Harmony albums. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, it's just not for me. It has to be me in order for me to be happy with the result. I get to make mistakes, correct them and learn and keep growing."
As she continues cutting, adding and fine-tuning the record, its themes of home and roots – specifically hers in Havana and Miami – have remained a through-line. She had kept the name of her birthplace, Havana, on a brainstorm list before she entered the studio with producer Frank Dukes, and it ended up being the second song they recorded.
"[Frank] was a big part of taking a classic part of Latin culture and combining it with something new and modern," Cabello says. "Together we made an album that's just reflective of me in every way. It's what's inside my head and my heart."