By Kurt Wolff
For Lucy Hale, the title track of her debut album Road Between carries a lot of weight. It’s basically where the young TV star and country music newcomer feels she is in her life — and her career — right now.
“When it came time to choose a title for the record, that title just kept floating around in my head,” Hale told Radio.com during a phone interview last week. “It just seemed perfect, because this is my first album, I was calling that song the anthem to my life, and — it just felt like the right decision.”
Road Between, which hit stores this week (June 3), marks a new career turn for the Memphis, Tenn. native. Though she’s been singing since she was a kid, and is a lifelong country music fan, she’s actually best known as an actress playing Aria Montgomery on the TV show Pretty Little Liars.
“It’s because of the success of that show that I’ve been given opportunities to do my music,” Hale said. “I grew up wanting to do music, and wanting to perform. The acting sort of — it didn’t fall in my lap, I worked really hard at it, but it was an idea that came to me a little later than the music. For me, I’ve always been a musician at heart who turned to acting. But in everyone else’s eyes, it’s the opposite.”
Hale’s on-screen career began when she appeared in 2003 on the reality TV singing competition American Juniors. After that she moved to L.A. to pursue a music career but wound up getting small parts in films and on television. In 2009, she landed her regular role on Pretty Little Liars.
She never let go of her dream of pursuing music, though, and in 2012, she signed a recording deal with Hollywood Records, a label owned by the Disney Group that is home to such artists as Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. And while she admits to being a fan of pop music, for her, that musical direction didn’t fit. “I always knew that when it came time to make music it was going to be country. Nothing else would have felt as genuine.”
Hale’s debut single, the bright and peppy “You Sound Good to Me,” was released to country radio and digital outlets earlier this year. “I loved the title before I ever heard it,” Hale told Radio.com about the song, which was written by Nashville stalwarts Luke Laird, Hillary Lindsey and Ashley Gorley. On the demo she first heard, though, “there was a guy singing it, so that threw me at first,” she said. “But then a couple hours later I was humming the chorus and couldn’t get it out of my head.” And, she continued, “it set the tone for me as an artist, the album, and where I see my career going.”
It’s the album’s title track, though, where Hale feels she’s most “vulnerable.”
“Everyone asks what song I relate to most on the album, and I say [‘Road Between’], because it’s kind of like my anthem,” Hale said. It’s a gently paced song built around inspirational lyrics from the point of view of someone in the midst of struggles and still finding their way through life. “I’m still getting to the good part,” Hale sings, “learning how to write my story” and “finding who I’m gonna be.”
Hale said the song reflects where she was personally and professionally at the time. “You know, sometimes you can’t really explain how you’re feeling, but a song does. So that’s just how I feel about that song.”
The album is a mix of emotions, from upbeat sing-alongs like “You Sound Good to Me,” “Back Seat” and “Kiss Me” to more reflective material like the title track, “That’s What I Call Crazy” (co-written by Kacey Musgraves) and “Nervous Girls.”
The latter is another of the songs that shows Hale’s ‘vulnerable’ side, highlighting the fact that everyone — even those, like Hale, who have achieved some degree of professional notoriety — has moments of being “nervous” and full of self-doubt. “I’m that girl you think that’s got it figured out,” Hale sings, “But I walk around, with a head full of doubt.” And perhaps the saddest part is the song’s next line: “The cruelest words about me, come from my own mouth.”
“It’s such an important message,” Hale said. “It’s stuff that we all forget — at the end of the day everyone’s going through something. And we should all try and be there for each other and keep in mind that, no matter what you do, where you’re from, what you look like or how much money you make, we all feel the same emotions. We all go through similar things even though we’re living out different lives.”
“I’m a huge Joe Nichols fan,” Hale said. “I love his tone, he’s got such a fantastic voice, and he’s a wonderful human being.” She said that when they were looking for a duet partner for that song she “kinda aimed for the stars,” and “never in a million years” thought the “Sunny and 75” and “Yeah” singer would be interested. “But he was,” Hale said. “He really loved the song, and he liked my voice. And it all happened within a week. We made a phone call, he said yes, we recorded it, and it was on the album. So it’s really cool to say Joe Nichols is on my first album. It’s pretty crazy.”