The 23-year-old was among the winners in 2003 of "American Juniors," a spinoff of "American Idol," where the final five formed a vocal quintet. They recorded an album but broke up in 2005.
Hale laughs that she was "just convinced I was the second coming to Kelly Clarkson."
She went into acting, landing roles on the short-lived TV show "Privileged," movies like "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" and "Scream 4."
Now she's decided to give music another go.
Hale signed with Hollywood Records and is recording a country album, produced by Mark Bright who's worked with Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood and Sara Evans. She's expected to release a single, followed by an album later this year.
"(The album) is something I wanted to do way before `Pretty Little Liars' or anything. I grew up singing, and acting sort of came up along the way. ... (Recording) is a lot of weekends, it's a lot of long nights but I'm so passionate about it ... I'm just really excited," she said.
Hale, who was "born and bred in Tennessee," says she listened to country music as she was growing up.
"Country music to me is the best music in the world. It's storytelling and it means something and it can make you feel any emotion in the world and it's just where my heart is," she said.
Kristian Bush of the country duo Sugarland is writing songs with Hale for her album. In a recent phone interview, Bush said he tried to discourage Hale because of all the hard work involved.
"I've had multiple record deals. ... Even when you're great it doesn't guarantee success," he said.
But Hale showed she was fearless, committed and has an impressive knowledge of country music.
"I would drive around in the car with her ... and she always flips the station to the country station and always sings along louder than the radio. I'm like, `How do you know that song? I don't even know that song. I've just heard of (the band) Florida Georgia Line. How did you get that? Did you get an advance copy?' She just obsessively listens. Nothing creates a better writer or an artist than a great listener," Bush said.
Hale hopes country fans will accept her.
"Once you get in the circle of country music, you're in and they will stay with you for life," said Hale. "It's just going over the hurdle of getting in there because they don't just let anyone in. Look at the careers. You don't make one album. You make 25 albums. They're just behind your back always."
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