"I was just so nervous and so happy," the American Idol alum says of working alongside Kelley on "Broken Heart Still Beats"

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Laci Kaye Booth always wanted a powerhouse voice, a voice like the ones of her heroes Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood, a voice that would stop people in their tracks with its sheer force and fortitude. But the Texas native wasn't born with a voice like that.

She was born with something better.

"My mom would put books on my stomach to help me build up my diaphragm so I wouldn't sound so nasally, and it really helped," remembers Booth, 25, in an interview with PEOPLE from her '70s-inspired home in Nashville. "But then, I remember hearing 'Merry Go 'Round' by Kacey Musgraves on the radio and I heard her voice, and I was just done. I hadn't heard a voice like that. I was absolutely captivated."

Laci Kaye Booth
Laci Kaye Booth
| Credit: Robby Klein

And from that point on, Booth found the beauty within her unique voice, a voice that shines on the self-titled debut that gave her the chance to collaborate with some of the country music superstars that she once could only love from afar.

"I was just so nervous and so happy," she says of working alongside Lady A's Charles Kelley on the hauntingly good "Broken Heart Still Beats," which the duo co-wrote with Paul DiGiovanni and Adam Hambrick. "I've always been a big Lady A fan. I got to see them during my senior year of high school back in 2013 when they came to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. So when I was sitting across from Charles in that writing room, I just couldn't stop thinking about how I once was just sitting in the stands, watching him and being so inspired, you know?"

Indeed, that girl that once was perfectly content with sitting in the stands still finds herself combatting a shyness that she has had pretty much her whole life. Back in high school, Booth tried out for the cheerleading team — not necessarily because she wanted to, but because she thought it would help her become a tad more outgoing.

"I thought it would make me extroverted and popular, but it didn't," she says with a laugh. "I just became an introverted cheerleader."

Laci Kaye Booth
Laci Kaye Booth
| Credit: Courtesy of BMLG Records

Even today, Booth is the first to admit that she remains a homebody perfectly content with laying low with her guitar and her dogs. But it was within the encouragement of producer and mentor Dann Huff that Booth says she is beginning to see what her career might look like — if only she has the courage to grab it.

"Dann has taught me that I can't just sing songs with my guitar on stage every single time and expect to entertain a whole crowd," says Booth, who moved to Nashville in September of 2019, shortly after her successful run on Season 17 of American Idol.

"I remember one day, he asked me if I wanted to be an entertainer. I thought about it and I realized I did. So together, we realized we needed to dive a little deeper. And that's when I started writing songs like 'Shuffle' and 'Treasure,' and I started to get more comfortable."

And comfortable is a good feeling, especially to someone who still can't believe she is being referred to as country music's next superstar. Heck, she still can't believe the actual superstars know her name.

"It's embarrassing," laughs Booth, who co-wrote every track on her new project. "I had a total fangirl moment when I met Carrie Underwood. And then when Miranda Lambert walked by me at the CMA Awards. She didn't make eye contact with me, but I completely freaked out. Being in Nashville around all of these amazing, incredible artists that I grew up on is just really mind-blowing."

Laci Kaye Booth
Laci Kaye Booth
| Credit: Robby Klein

But despite the ongoing and much talked about undercurrent of excitement about Booth's new project and the upcoming release of her first single at country radio next month in the form of "Shuffle," rest assured that this is not someone who will let the spotlight change her — or that voice of hers.

"I've always known that I had a different voice, and I haven't always liked that different voice and I never thought I would come to love it," she admits. "But now I think I do."