Gabby Barrett is about to say something you don't expect from a singer made famous on a reality television show, but give her a chance and remember the 20-year-old "I Hope" singer's life didn't begin during Season 16 of American Idol.

Talking to Taste of Country, Barrett touched on songs from her new Goldmine album, how she struggled to find a record partner after finishing third on the TV show and one bad habit new husband Cade Foehner has that she's only learning about because they're spending so much time together during the quarantine.

The part of the conversation about her childhood is most telling, however. The Pennsylvania native wasn't just a teen dreamer with a good voice and some moxie who amazed America two years ago. She's always planned on being right here, right now. Like an Olympian, she trained for this.

“At a young age, me and my dad literally said to each other, ‘There’s no Plan A, B or C. Like you’re not going to go to college. You’re going to make something out of this. So that was always just the plan," Barrett admits.

That meant sacrifices. When friends went to school dances, she found shows to play. Instead of sleepovers, she performed for five people across town. She didn't have a high school graduation ceremony, or at least didn't attend. Since age 11 she was hustling — OK, here comes the eyebrow-raising quote:

“I just appreciated people that worked really hard before something happened for them," Barrett says. "Things that are like overnight success things don’t last long, and that’s not something I wanted. I wanted to put in the time and the work, because eventually it pays off in a good way.”

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Admit it, that'd be worth an eye roll coming from a reality television show contestant in just about any other circumstance, but young Barrett's life to this point has been anything but an overnight success. It's probably why she — unlike so many singers with careers born on reality TV — was able to overcome skepticism and sign with Warner Music Nashville.

In fact, it surely is. The label — like all labels on Music Row — wouldn't give her a chance until she proved "I Hope" was a hit on streaming providers and satellite radio. The goal for her debut single was to hit No. 1 ... on iTunes. Now Charlie Puth is banging on her door to remix the song and it's finding a whole new audience on pop music formats.

Across Goldmine Barrett teams up with A-list Nashville songwriters, but forges the strongest connection with producer Zach Kale, someone she says was on Team Gabby from Day 1. It's a “very bleed genre album,” she says, and the 12 songs (plus the Puth remix of "I Hope") support that. Like early Carrie Underwood, she leans into the pop side of country and frequently reaches for the upper limits of her vocals. In that way, it's a vocal showcase, but songs like "Footprints on the Moon" add depth. The song is about ignoring the limiting constructs society puts on us, especially those of age.

Barrett credits co-writer Jon Nite for the title, but adds that her experiences of being told she's too young fueled the songwriting session. It was criticism that came for reasons professional and personal.

“For marriage, yes, people always had their opinions of, ‘Oh, you’re too young,' because it’s become a stereotype, for some reason, for people to get married later in their 20s," she says. "Which I have no idea why ,because my aunts and uncles, they got married at like 13 and 14 and they’re still together 60 years later.”

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Last October, she married Foehner after a year-plus of dating. He's all over the album as an inspiration, most notably during her new single "The Good Ones." As musicians, they frequently make each other cry with loving tributes, but amid coronavirus quarantine, they're getting to know each other in ways more real than anticipated.

“We hadn’t been living together," Barrett says of their time before marriage, "and now I know he’ll take his hair and just put it on the side of the shower, and he’ll throw his clothes everywhere but the hamper and so it’s great. Thanks. Thank you."

If you're picking up some sense of sarcasm in her gratitude, you know Barrett well. And once you know Barrett well, you understand there's nothing sarcastic or ironic about her touting the virtues of hard work. It's why she's here.

Gabby Barrett goldmine album cover
Warner Music Nashville

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