Gabby Barrett has been turning ears for months now with "I Hope," the deliciously vengeful debut single that in April became her first No. 1. But don't expect any more hell-hath-no-fury lyrics on Barrett's much-anticipated debut album, Goldmine, released Friday. Instead, it's chock-full of songs that affirm love really does conquer all.
So does that mean country's new queen of comeuppance is really just a hopeless romantic?
"Hopeful romantic, not hopeless!" Barrett, 20, tells PEOPLE. "I'm married! I love romance and talking about love, and I think it's one of the greatest things you can talk about."
By now fans know her smash hit, which she co-wrote, was inspired by an ill-mannered high school boyfriend. But ideas for the majority of the album's other 12 songs, most of which Barrett co-wrote, were extracted from her experiences with her husband of nine months, fellow American Idol alum Cade Foehner.
"I think being married and in love and all of that changed how I write songs and what I want to sing about and the type of songs that I like," she says. "So I think this album was very much made up of songs that you'll see a lot more of in the future — things about my life now and what I've been going through."
Indeed, Goldmine is a thorough exploration of the "death do us part" kind of love, navigated by Barrett's expressive, R&B-infused vocals. Title track "Goldmine" — the only song Barrett didn't co-write — celebrates the good fortune of finding true love. "Footprints on the Moon" is a hearty declaration that love makes anything possible, with lyrics that pointedly address some perceptions that Barrett and Foehner were too young to marry (she was 19 and he was 23). "The Good Ones" and "Hall of Fame" are both moving testimonies to Barrett's mate and to love itself. And in "Rose Needs a Jack," Barrett breaks out the fun and funk for a Titanic-inspired tribute to everlasting love (without the iceberg, of course).
But just as much as love, faith also has found its place on this album. For Barrett, the two are inseparable, and neither she nor her husband shy away from publicly proclaiming their commitment to their Christian faith.
"I hold the Lord so high in my life, to really being number one before anything else," Barrett says. "I value the Lord more than I value my career, because at the end of the day, when we die, we face him. We're going to wish that we did more on this earth for him. And so I want to make sure that I'm doing everything to glorify him. I think it's silly that some people are too scared or timid to talk about it. It's very important to me to include it in my music."
She and Foehner were two of the five co-writers on "Got Me," the one full-tilt gospel track that has Barrett merging voices with contemporary Christian duo Shane & Shane.
"I absolutely love Christian music," she says, "and I had gotten a lot of requests from fans actually to do a gospel or Christian song. I was very excited to put a song like this on the album, especially during a quarantine when people are needing and looking for something to grab onto."
Other songs offer dual messages, and even dual meanings, about love and faith. "Thank God," for instance, is an uptempo expression of gratitude for God's help in finding true love. "You're the Only Reason" is another gratitude song, and while Barrett is happy if it's interpreted as an expression of faith, it was actually inspired by her father.
"My dad was a huge influence on my life, especially early on with music," Barrett explains. "He was my management and my label wrapped up in one for seven years, and he just did so much. He's the foundation and the rock of the family, and so I wanted to write a song about him and dedicate it to him."
She reports she sent an early copy to her dad, and not unexpectedly, it was a hit: "He loved it! Of course he loved it, oh my gosh! I'm in a family of criers, so he probably shed a tear."
Perhaps the most revealing song about Barrett's marriage is "Strong," which describes a scripturally inspired partnership and proclaims where she places her priorities: "When I was a kid, I'd dream of the lights / I've spent my whole life trying to chase 'em down / Then I met you, it's changing the view / The things that I need look different now."
It's a stirring moment on the album as Barrett uses all the power of her expressive voice to sing about submission. The song, she says, reflects her biblical understanding of her role as a wife.
"The Lord talks about the highest calling for a woman is to be home and be there for her family and take care of her household before she takes care of anything else," she says, "and I completely agree, of course, and I follow that. I make sure that everything is right with my marriage and my family and my household. I wrote the song about people that say the opposite, that say it's not good to depend on somebody. I always just bring it back to, what does the Bible say about it? And so that's what I did with that song, and that's what I do in my life."
Barrett easily squares her marital calling with her personal ambitions. "God didn't say women can't ever have a job or women can't ever do anything [outside the home]," she says. "He just said that's first, what's important. You can also be inspired and have dreams with whatever gift he's given you."
Barrett's debut album already is making one of her biggest dreams come true. Still, with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping artists off the stage, the release isn't quite how she'd imagined it just a few months ago. The plan had been for her to promote the album on tour with Brad Paisley this summer, but like every other tour, it's been postponed, and "we're taking it day by day," says Barrett.
When she does get back on the road, she'll be sharing it with Foehner. His considerable guitar skills are featured on Goldmine, and he also has joined her touring band.
"That's always a dream — to have a family and be able to take them on the road with you and do what you love, too, with music," Barrett says.
In the meantime, she's keeping her supple voice in good form during regular singing sessions with her husband. Among their at-home favorites during the quarantine: selections from the Glen Campbell and Fleetwood Mac songbooks.
"We sing all the time," Barrett says. "He picks up a guitar every single day and plays all kinds of songs. It's nice to have a spouse that's a musician that you can relate to in a lot of different ways. We're always singing together."
And singing, she assures, "is definitely the first thing that I want to do when I can get out."