October 14, 2015 09:45 AM

Country star (and new mom!) Carrie Underwood opens up about body issues, breast-feeding struggles and how she makes her marriage work. Subscribe now for exclusive family photos and an inside look into how she’s adjusting to motherhood, only in PEOPLE!

When Carrie Underwood set out to record her first album since becoming a mom to 7-month-old son Isaiah, she knew the expectations for her sound had changed.

But the change, she tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story, isn’t what you might think.

“I feel like everybody expected me to have an album full of 13 mommy-and-me tracks,” Underwood says of Storyteller, out Oct. 23 (preorder it here). “Like, everything would be sentimental and mushy. I’m still me, and this is just another layer.”

Instead, Storyteller features “a fresh twang,” she says. “There’s a lot of country, traditional, staple instruments, and obviously storytelling is something country music has always done really well. I feel like we occupy those elements, but it’s very cool and very now and very fresh.”

Underwood does get personal on two tracks: “The Girl You Think I Am,” a song she co-wrote about wanting to live up to her dad’s view of her, and “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted,” her tribute to Isaiah.

On “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted,” she sings, “I never pictured myself singing lullabies in a rocking chair in the middle of the night” – a personal confession for the Grammy winner, 32, who admits that motherhood wasn’t something she’d always imagined for herself.

“There’s always one song on each of my albums that it’s just like, ‘That’s so personal and really deep and kind of hard to get through. It’s just for me.’ And that one is definitely just for me.”

Carrie Underwood
Joe Pugliese for PEOPLE

Of “The Girl You Think I Am,” she says of her dad Stephen: “So many people might not even know that their parents put them on a pedestal. When I realized that, I was just kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh, he just thinks I’m better than I actually am.’ I want to be the person he thinks I am.’ ”

Storyteller also features a significant milestone for the country superstar: her first “bona fide” love songs, as she calls two of the tracks.

“It’s something I have not really done before,” Underwood says. “I think the reason I shy away from love songs is that I find so many to just be super cliché: ‘Oh, your eyes, when I look at you ‘ It’s just not real. The things I love about the two that I have, ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘Like I’ll Never Love You Again,’ is that they’re very conversational and real. It’s imperfect. It’s not putting love or this person up on a pedestal, like you can do no wrong. It’s not fairy tale-ish. It’s real.’ ”

Does she sing those songs to her husband of five years, NHL star Mike Fisher?

“I don’t really sing to Mike, actually,” she says. “Normally if I’m singing around the house I’m singing to some song on Isaiah’s toys and making fun of it! But I definitely can relate to those songs in Mike. I don’t know if every time I sing them I’m like dreaming of him, but I can definitely relate to them.”

For much more of Carrie Underwood’s intimate interview and exclusive personal photos, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Don’t miss a beat of country music news, photos and videos! Click here to get all this and more in the PEOPLE Country Newsletter.

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