Listening to Caylee Hammack's debut album, If It Wasn't for You, is like having a heart-to-heart with a close friend. Much like recent releases from fellow up-and-comers Ingrid AndressTenille Townes and Ashley McBryde (the latter two are Hammack's good buddies and collaborators on her new song "Mean Something"), it's frankly honest and conversationally uncensored.

Hammack was a staff writer and late-night honky-tonk performer, not yet a signed artist, when she penned her new record's 13 songs. Songwriting was her therapy.

"I was really venting," she tells The Boot of crafting these lyrics. "I used a lot of these songs as a way to get out emotions and stories that I just needed to get out to clean up my soul, make my soul a little lighter."

A few of Hammack's songs will earn that "explicit" tag -- there's mild swearing in "Small Town Hypocrite," for example -- and the artist admits she was just a little bit worried about being that truthful. For advice, she texted her former tour boss, tell-it-like-it-is country superstar Miranda Lambert, who encouraged Hammack to "keep that s--t in."

"After that, I was like, you know what, if you hate me because I say it how it is, I'm probably not music for you," Hammack says. "But if I'm as honest as I can be and as vulnerable as I can be, I hope that people will see that and feel that they can be honest and vulnerable with me. I don't believe in censoring if I don't have to."

In addition to her unflinching honesty, Hammack has her malleable voice to set her apart. Throughout If It Wasn't for You, her vocals evoke everyone from Alison Krauss to Miley Cyrus.

"I started mimicking everything I could ... Anything that made sound, I wanted to figure out how to replicate [it]," Hammack shares, "because I thought it would make me better."

She spent her childhood singing along to her brother's Southern rock favorites, her sister's selected pop hits and her parents' Motown and folk choices. Then, as a teenager, Hammack saw an infomercial for a classic country compilation album, she remembers, "and I was like, what is this music?!"

"I had been introduced to country, obviously -- being in south Georgia, you can't run from country music -- but I'd never heard, really, the golden classics," the Ellaville, Ga., native explains. "I never sat down and focused on just that, and I was pulled in."

Hammack bought and wore out a variety of CDs as she tried to match artists' voices and harmonize with them. "I would sit there and find artists ... and be like, okay, I need to learn how to harmonize," she says. "If I can harmonize with someone who's difficult for me, it's gonna help me later, you know?"

If It Wasn't for You dropped on Friday (Aug. 14).

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