PEOPLE goes behind the scenes of Clarkson's latest LP, Piece by Piece

By Jeff Nelson Mary Margaret
March 03, 2015 04:00 PM

Kelly Clarkson opens up about marriage, the joys of being a mom and her emotional new album Piece by Piece. Subscribe now for instant access to her exclusive interview and personal family photos, only in this issue of PEOPLE!

The wait is finally over: Kelly Clarkson‘s first (non-holiday, non-compilation) album since 2011’s Stronger is here – and it doesn’t disappoint!

Clarkson was, of course, a little busy in those four years: She and Brandon Blackstock tied the knot in a surprise 2013 wedding, and the pair welcomed daughter River Rose in June. (For more on her life as a new mom, check out PEOPLE’s current cover story.)

The singer opened up to PEOPLE about her latest, most personal album yet.

The cover of Piece by Piece
RCA Records

1. She Recorded During Her Pregnancy
Clarkson recorded Piece by Piece during her pregnancy with River, a period during which she was very vocal about her morning sickness.

“I was pretty much trapped in my vocal booth since I would vomit 20 times a day,” says Clarkson. “But being inspired by other songwriters got me out of my dark little rabbit hole!”

2. She Lost Her Voice – and Thought Her Career Was Over
Known for her powerhouse pipes, the original American Idol lost her voice once while recording the album and worried she’d never sing again.

“At around eight months pregnant, my voice changed. I was like, ‘It’s over! I had a great ride, but it’s not coming back!’ ” Clarkson recalls. “I was so distraught.”

3. Her John Legend Duet Is a Personal Highlight
While she was joking about other artists turning down her requests to collaborate, Clarkson was seriously excited to sing with John Legend on “Run Run Run.”

” ‘Run Run Run’ has been my favorite song forever,” she says. “I just had to find the perfect person to make it a duet. John just brought it.”

4. Sia Makes a Cameo!
Before catapulting to massive mainstream success with “Chandelier,” Sia made a name for herself penning songs for other divas, including Beyoncé, Britney Spears and Rihanna.

The recent Grammy nominee contributed two tunes, “Invincible” and “Let Your Tears Fall,” to Piece by Piece.

Says Clarkson of the former: “I love her! Music is supposed to lift you up and make you feel welcome, like you’re not alone. So I guess I do gravitate towards that – the idea of overcoming something.”

5. She Reunited with an A-List Producer
Take a quick glance at the credits, and you’ll see Greg Kurstin co-wrote and produced nearly the entire album. And this isn’t the first time they’ve collaborated: He produced her entire Wrapped in Red holiday album, as well as helmed previous hits “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” and “Dark Side.”

He also produced lead single “Heartbeat Song.”

“It’s just a fun song, and it’s sweet, but it’s still anthemic, it’s still angsty. Even the lyrics – ‘Where the hell did you come from?’ – I loved that!” says Clarkson. “It’s so sweet but also, like, ‘Whatever, I got this.’ ”

For more of PEOPLE’s exclusive interview with Clarkson, including more personal family photos, pick up the latest issue of the magazine, on newsstands now