"The fact is that sometimes we hope for the worst when it comes to our exes," Gabby Barrett tells PEOPLE

By Tricia Despres
May 23, 2019 03:45 PM
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Each and every time she steps onto the stage to sing her vengeful anthem “I Hope,” Gabby Barrett sees them.

“It’s never someone specific. It’s more like I see a compilation of guys in my head,” the country music powerhouse tells PEOPLE about what she’s visualizing while performing her first release since her top three finish on American Idol. “Sometimes, it’s guys that my friends or my fans have told me about that did them wrong. The faces I see are always different.”

But rest assured, one of those faces is not Cade Foehner.

“I have so many fans come up to me and say, ‘Please don’t let this song be about Cade,’” says Barrett, referring to her fiancé and former competitor on Season 16 of the ABC reality show. “I can guarantee that this song isn’t about him.”

Gabby Barrett
| Credit: ABC

Either way, it is a song that both Barrett’s female and male fans are relating to at the moment. Mixing a blend of Miranda Lambert-esque revenge with her own brand of Pennsylvania-bred sweetness, “I Hope” tells the tale of someone looking to have an ex-love feel all the same painful feelings they put them through.

And watching it all go down as it happens.

“When I sat down with [co-writers] Zachary Kale and Jon Nite, the original idea was to write a song about a girl who experiences a breakup but still wants the guy to be happy, and I was like, ‘Umm, that’s not exactly how it goes,’” Barrett tells PEOPLE with a laugh.

Instead, Barrett and her fellow songwriters sat down to write a song armed with addictive wordplay that leaves listeners shaking their head in delight.

“The fact is that sometimes we hope for the worst when it comes to our exes,” claims Barrett, who returned to the American Idol stage earlier this month to perform “I Hope.” “We would never voice that, but it wreaks [havoc] inside. This song now says the things that maybe you or I never said.”

Of course, at 19 years old, one is left to wonder if Barrett herself has seen enough of life in her rearview mirror to effectively write about it.

But indeed, she has.

Having started her music career in the church choir at just 9 years old, Barrett started playing shows at the age of 11, and has subsequently found music to be an outlet throughout her life, especially on the rough days.

“High school relationships will mess you up,” laughs Barrett, who is one of eight children in her family. “I wasn’t in any super duper serious relationships growing up, but yeah, I know what that heartbreak feels like. It’s that feeling of anger and hurt all mixed into one.”

gabby barrett
Gabby Barrett
| Credit: Taylor Kelly

Thanks to much support and success initially on the airwaves of SiriusXM the Highway and Radio Disney, “I Hope” now finds itself on the country music charts and increasingly being infused into the torn-up hearts of many of her fans.

“There is nothing like hearing people sing your single back to you during a show,” says Barrett, who followed up her third-place finish on American Idol by embarking on the American Idol Live! 2018 Tour along with Chris Lane‘s Laps Around the Sun Tour.

The accompanying music video for “I Hope” has also experienced smoking hot success, with the sound of Barrett’s sexy drawl mixed with the sight of her high heeled shoes being viewed over five million times since its release on YouTube earlier this year. And with that kind of fan-propelled momentum, Barrett now finds herself in the studio, pumped to be working on new music with Grammy-nominated producer Ross Copperman.

“Ross is such a blessing to have as part of my team,” she says. “He’s believed in me — and he’s just one of those guys that connects with what I am trying to do. I’m excited to see where everything takes me.”

And she’s definitely going places, both professionally and personally.

Gabby Barrett and Cade Foehner
| Credit: Madisen Elizabeth Photography

Heck, she’s got a wedding to plan.

“I’m just enjoying the engagement process,” says Barrett, who got engaged in the same room of the same hotel she and Foehner first met in at the auditions for American Idol. “We don’t want to wait super long though. He’s my best friend. I’m very blessed to find my soul mate already.”