Healing is the prevalent theme of Jana Kramer‘s long-awaited sophomore album, thirty one. The Elektra Nashville recording artist admits she has undergone plenty of changes since her 2012 self-titled debut and she wanted this new set to reflect that growth.

“On the first album I was super timid and very afraid to have a voice,” she told Billboard. “On this one, I walked into every room knowing what I wanted to write and what I wanted to say. The reason I wanted to be a musician or a singer was to share my stories and help people with my music. I didn’t do it on my first album to the potential that I could have. I wanted to transcend that to the second one.”

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Nowhere is that more apparent than on the disc’s final track, “Last Song,” which she admits is a deeply personal song about the emotional baggage of a past relationship. The singer has never sounded as emotional or vulnerable before. She says she couldn’t have recorded the song any other way.
 
“I had walked into a writing appointment with Catt Gravitt and Jimmy Robbins and I told them, ‘Guys, I have to write this song.’ This is the one song I needed for the album, I want it to be as raw as possible. It was personal. This is everything we’ve been through and it sucked, but this is the last time I have to let go of the heartbreak and let it be the last time I sang about him or anything. That’s how we approached it in the first verse and the second was about taking off the ring. It was a very therapeutic day, to say the least.”
 
Kramer hopes that the lyrics of the song will show her growth between albums. “I feel like I have found my voice. I had a lot of stories between the first album and getting to where I am now in my life. Everything I went through resulted in me being thankful for everything — whether it was good or bad. It helped me heal.”
 
“Last Song” is one of four tracks on thirty one that features Gravitt’s songwriting credit. Kramer says the songwriter has played not just an important role in her career — but her life, as well. 

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“She was a bridesmaid at my wedding,” she said. “She was the first person I lived with when I moved to town. I love her so much. We’ve written some very special songs together — including some that I’m still not ready to share yet. We go very deep and have been on the same journey together, with our lives being parallel. Even though she’s older than me, we’re like soul sisters from a different family.”
 
One other song where Gravitt’s name appears is the high-octane “Bullet,” which features Steven Tyler on harmony. Again, Kramer says the influence to write the song was an intently personal one. 

“I was in a therapy appointment and we were talking about a relationship being over and she said, ‘You know what? You dodged a bullet.’ I thought I needed to write that down, as I had a writing appointment immediately following it. It was with Catt and Marti Frederiksen, who produces Aerosmith. The fact that Steven Tyler came on board for it made for a dream come true,” she said, beaming.
 
The singer insists that she has no regrets about baring her soul on the album. 

“If anything, I’m always thinking of stretching the boundaries and going even farther,” she admitted. “I wanted to dig deeper. I never regret anything I say. I don’t regret anything in my past. It hasn’t been perfect and I’ve made a ton of mistakes, but I wouldn’t go back and change it.”
 
Besides, she reasons that had she not gone through the emotional turbulence of the past few years, she wouldn’t be able to truly appreciate the blessings in her life now. Kramer married NFL tight end Mike Caussin in May and the couple are expecting their first child — a daughter. Motherhood is something that Kramer is looking forward to. 

“I have so much joy in my heart because of her,” she said. “She’s made me really sick and that’s frustrating, but he and I are so excited. We can’t wait to be parents.”
 
thirty one is in stores October 9.