Brynn Cartelli's Bond with Coach Kelly Clarkson Is Stronger Than Ever: 'She's Like an Aunt to Me'

"We're as much different as we are similar, but she's also the kind of person that believes you have to trust your intuition to know what's right," Cartelli tells PEOPLE

Soon after the confetti stopped flying and the roar of the audience died down, Season 14 winner of NBC's The Voice Brynn Cartelli took a deep breath, and then made the decision to step away from the spotlight.

And now, the singer/songwriter is revealing the real reason why.

"I had to figure out what would be the best route for me to take so that I can have a career with longevity and success," the youngest champion in the show's history tells PEOPLE days before the release of her debut EP Based on a True Story. "Because I want to do the whole thing. I have so many dreams that I want to make come true, and winning The Voice was just the beginning. I realized that in order to make the career I want happen, I needed to give myself some time to not just rely solely on the momentum from the show. I didn't think that was going to work for me."

Brynn Cartelli
Brynn Cartelli. Andrew Segretti

So, with a maturity far beyond her 18 years, Cartelli was patient and deliberate and made choices that would not only make her a star today, but a star for tomorrow.

"I think if I had rushed it, it definitely wouldn't have been very good," she explains. "I'm just really grateful that I was able to get that separation, because I don't want to be just a winner forever. I want to have a career."

She stops to take in the gravity of the rather mature statement.

"It feels like this is a new beginning for me, because I feel like it's in such a different light. I'm moving forward with something that I feel completely confident in, rather than just being a teenager thrown into TV."

Brynn Cartelli
Brynn Cartelli. Andrew Segretti

Indeed, soon after her big win on The Voice, Cartelli admits that she began to see her career take steps in a direction that she wasn't crazy about.

"I had a lot of conversations with people who didn't really want me writing my own music, where they were like, 'You don't need to do that,'" the Massachusetts native remembers. "They said I should just sing, and I could have done just that. But that's not what I wanted to rely on for the rest of my life. I want to have a hand in every part of this process because I'm fascinated with it."

Brynn Cartelli
Brynn Cartelli. Andrew Segreti

And The Voice coaches who once mentored and guided her also agreed with her.

"Kelly was so supportive of me the whole time," Cartelli says of her coach, Kelly Clarkson, whom she also toured with in 2019. "I could not have a better mentor and still, we talk all the time. She's like an aunt to me at this point. We're as much different as we are similar, but she's also the kind of person that believes you have to trust your intuition to know what's right."

Brynn Cartelli
Andrew Segretti

And it's that guidance that Cartelli says has allowed her to hold her own and do her own thing and trust in the process of it all. And now, it's that confidence that allows Cartelli to truly believe in herself and the music she is turning out on her debut EP Based on a True Story.

"This first EP is just me wanting to create the core of who I am as a singer and songwriter," Cartelli explains. "I think that's what we accomplished, and I am really proud of that."

And it is this next chapter that plays out on the songs of Based on a True Story, including lyrical and musical standouts such as the carefree "Long Way Home" and the TikTok favorite "If I Could."

"It's just been so insane to see how people have reacted to this song, but it's also really sad how many people relate to it," she says of the song she co-wrote alongside fellow songwriter Ben Abraham and the song that has amassed well over seven million views thus far. "It means the world to me that people see it in their own lives, because in them doing so, I feel understood, and I feel heard."

Based on a True Story is available now.

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