Gabby Barrett opens up about her life after American Idol in this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

By Brianne Tracy
June 24, 2020 12:00 PM
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Gabby Barrett; Carrie Underwood
Paul Archuleta/Filmmagic; Getty

A lot has changed for Gabby Barrett in the two years since she placed third on season 16 of American Idol.

Last year the singer, 20, wed fellow Idol contestant Cade Foehner and hit No. 1 with her breakout single "I Hope." Now she's on the heels of releasing her debut album, Goldmine, and can count Carrie Underwood — who mentored her on the ABC singing competition series — among her famous friends.

"When 'I Hope' went No. 1, Carrie texted me congrats," Barrett tells PEOPLE in this week's issue, on newsstands Friday. "We keep in touch, and I think I can call her friend now. That's pretty cool!"

Thanks to her powerhouse vocals and ability to seamlessly cross over from country to pop, Barrett has often been compared to the "Cry Pretty" singer, 37 — a comparison which Barrett calls "an absolute compliment."

"If I'm going to be compared to anybody, I hope it's Carrie Underwood," she says. "But when I actually talked to her about how people compare me to her on American Idol, she said, 'You know what? You have blonde hair, I have blonde hair. You have a big voice in country music, and so do I. But clearly there's a difference between me and you — our voices don't sound the same.'"

"She was like, 'You have more grit and you have soul and a real R&B flare in your voice. It's much different than mine,'" Barrett adds. "She predicted that everything would be fine after American Idol for me."

Indeed life since Idol has been more than fine for Barrett, who released Goldmine on Friday to rave reviews.

"I would have never guessed that all of this would be happening," Barrett says. "It's an extremely huge blessing. The word on the street is that it's a 10-year process in Nashville, and I'm just very thankful that it's been much shorter for me to get into the community."

Barrett says Goldmine, which she co-wrote 12 out of the 13 songs on, was inspired by all of the different genres of music she listened to growing up.

"I think you get a lot of influence from what your parents play around you," she says. "So I always loved country, R&B and rock. I was super influenced by all of them in different ways, so creating this album was really fun. I wanted it to be everything about me as an artist and as a person. We live in a generation now where genres of music are just blending with one another, so that made it really exciting for me because the album has a lot of variety to it."

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Barrett's husband Foehner, 23, also played a part in inspiring the album, specifically the song "The Good Ones." He's also featured as a guitar player on several of the songs.

Amid the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, the couple — who tied the knot in October 2019 — have been isolating together at home in Nashville. Though it's not exactly how Barrett imagined their first year of marriage, she says the time spent together has been "wonderful."

"With us both being musicians, it was hard to get downtime with each other before," she says. "So we've gotten to bond more. I always love spending time with him because he's my best friend in the whole world. We're just really taking these few months to hone in on a bunch of family time."

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In addition to spending time with family, Barrett says she and Foehner have been keeping entertained by exploring their new home and catching up on TV.

"We've only lived in Nashville for eight months now, so we're taking the time to sightsee," she says. "And we started watching Lost — we're on episode 17 of season 1, and I'm like, 'How many episodes are there?!'"

Though Barrett planned on promoting her new album on tour with Brad Paisley this summer, the tour got postponed due to coronavirus. Currently, she says, they're "taking it day by day."

"People are nervous with the virus, and I'm trying to be cautious myself because I have severe asthma," she says. "Hopefully some time this year we'll be able to get to you."

For more on Gabby Barrett's life after American Idol, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.