Lauren Jauregui Feels 'So Much More Secure' in Her Artistry as She Releases Debut Project 'PRELUDE'

"You always receive what is meant for you when it's meant for you," Jauregui tells PEOPLE as she opens up about her new music and growing from Fifth Harmony

Lauren Jauregui is finally writing again — and learning a lot about herself in the process.

On Friday, the Cuban-American songstress, 25, released her debut project PRELUDE, a deeply personal seven-track project fully written by Jauregui. The soft, sexy, meditative tracks provide a new perspective to the singer's artistry and life up to this point.

"I learned a lot about myself sonically," Jauregui tells PEOPLE about the writing process. "This round of life and music that I'm giving people is genuine expressions of my experiences in life, and introspection into my own inner world and just s— that's happened to me in my life. It's not necessarily all tragic, but there are definitely a lot of layers to the emotions."

Among the tracks are songs such as "Falling," a song about feeling emotionally exhausted while pleading for support, the 6LACK-featuring "On Guard" about being afraid to open up to a new lover and "Sorry," a poignant song about falling out of love.

"You say you don't wanna break up, but I don't really wanna fake it anymore," she sings on "Sorry," as she seemingly alludes to her two-year relationship with Ty Dolla $ign. (When asked if the person the song is written about had heard the track, she says, "They haven't heard that one.")

Lauren Jauregui
Amanda Charchian

It's those painfully relatable stories about love lost and self-reflection and growth that are laced throughout her songs' lyrics.

"It's just me being myself," she says. "I'm a f—ing artist. That's what I've always been. I feel just so much more secure in that now."

"It's exploring yourself as you grow through life, and it's expressing that however it comes up, whenever it comes up," she adds. "I don't have anybody telling me what I can and can't do creatively anymore. It's my vision."

It's that independence that was not really available for Jauregui for a large portion of her life as she performed as a member of Fifth Harmony, the girl group she last comprised alongside Ally Brooke, Dinah Jane and Normani. For Jauregui today, putting a pen on paper has become a crucial aspect of her expression.

"I've always had little notebooks and journals and kept notes of all kinds of things that just pop into my head. It's how I'm able to explore my inner world is through writing," she says. "But then while I was in the group, it was interesting because we wrote sometimes... But when I attempted to write in that kind of environment, I didn't feel valued as a songwriter, and I felt like what I wanted to say as a songwriter wasn't necessarily the collective voice of the group, and so it just got rejected."

fifth harmony
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The music coming from Jauregui today is a complete 180-degree change from her music in the group — and Jauregui is cognizant of that.

"When motherf—ers come up to me outside, they're like, 'Oh my God, are you Lauren Jauregui?' Not, 'Are you that girl from Fifth Harmony?' No. No, I'm not," she says. "I don't know who that is anymore."

Since the group's 2017 hiatus announcement, all of its members have described the grueling aspects of being in the group. (Brooke has said she faced "mental and verbal abuse" in the group, Normani revealed that it "took a toll" on her confidence while Jauregui said she felt "disgustingly uncomfortable" with rumors that she dated ex-member Camila Cabello.)

But though there were negative aspects to being in the "Work From Home" collective, she maintains that what the group did together was "beautiful."

"It was such a beautiful, inspiring experience from the outside. I think that there was a lot that we went through internally that has nothing to do with anybody, to be honest," she says. "It's our own business. Unfortunately, in this music industry, internal business is always everybody's business or is assumed to be everybody's business. But what's important, I think, about what Fifth Harmony did was that we inspired so many of y'all to love yourselves and to be yourselves."

"That's what matters," she adds. "That's what kept me grounded through the whole process... A lot of people don't understand or can even conceptualize what being a [teenager] doing those kinds of things at that kind of caliber, what that could do to just mental health in general, regardless of all the other external factors that went into play."

After all they endured, the "Colors" songstress looks at her former members with love, saying that they all are finally "shining individually as we did together."

"We're all our own light," she says.

It's through those years in the group — and the handful of years after releasing tracks like "More Than That" and "Expectations" — that have taught Jauregui to "trust [her] instincts" and be unapologetically herself.

"You always receive what is meant for you when it's meant for you. It can't miss you, as long as you're being you," she says. "The only way that it can miss you is if you block it and you're not being yourself."

"I had to learn that," she adds. "And I did learn that."

PRELUDE, the first half of Jauregui's upcoming album, is out now. (On Wednesday, Jauregui surprised fans in Los Angeles with a Wave Silent Disco special listening party at Santa Monica Beach, featuring a sound bath, meditation and dance therapy from Julia Grace.)

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