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Just 25, Lanae Hale embodies confidence, poise, and creative prowess. She just released her national debut, Back & Forth, to critical appeal (drawing comparisons to Sixpence None the Richer, The Cranberries, and Nichole Nordeman), and was recently selected as a "Discovery Download" on iTunes. But things haven't always been so good for Hale. Not long ago, she struggled extensively with cutting (self-mutilation), while also dabbling in alcohol and over-the-counter sedatives. Hale spoke candidly with us about her tumultuous teens and early twenties—and why she decided to come forward about this often taboo topic.

You're being billed as a pop star with substance. What's that all about?

Lanae Hale: I've been writing for about ten years. I grew up in a family full of musicians. My dad's a singer/songwriter who's been in bands, my mom's a singer and my brother's a musician. I don't know what it was, but I picked up a guitar, taught myself how to play, and started writing. God just started putting things in my life since I was 15, and I always wanted to write about real things—raw, genuine emotions people go through—and that just built over the years.

You seem so confident and driven, but you struggle with self-esteem. When did that begin?

Hale: The summer before my senior year of high school. What's so weird is I grew up hearing about God's love and I got saved when I was young, but I struggled with self-confidence. For whatever reason, I didn't understand why God loved me, and I felt like I was a failure. I had always heard about God's love and grace, but could never wrap my mind around the concept of how he could love someone like me.

Why did you feel so unloved?

Hale: I didn't feel like I was worth much. I was never ...

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