Monica Opens Up About Her 9th Studio Album and Breaking Into Country Music With 'Open Roads' (Exclusive)

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Monica is entering a new era in her musical career and she told ET's Nischelle Turner all about it. The 41-year-old singer joined ET at the Baha Mar Resort in the Bahamas as a guest co-host, where she opened up about her upcoming album release and her venture into a new genre -- country music.

"You know what I did this time, I went back to the idea I had in the beginning, which was just to make music about living life and the things that happen in life," she says of her ninth studio album, Trenches. "We've all experienced so much over the last couple of years and this album is really indicative of the struggle of it, the love of it, the triumph of it, because you know I don’t believe in being the victim. I’m the victor."

Referencing her divorce from former NBA player Shannon Brown and the recent loss of her family members, the singer said she isn't ashamed to speak about her struggles or pain because "there's someone out there listening that's been in the exact place that I have." 

"When you hear this album, that's what it embodies," she adds.

Ever the realist, Monica noted that, unlike artists who "feel like they have to be perfect," she prefers to lay it all out on the line with her music. 

"I think my imperfections [are] what keep me connected to the people 'cause there's an authenticity that comes with me just telling the truth," she explains. "I've always felt that if [the music] is true to what you really feel then you can make other people feel it. How can I make you believe it if I don't and if I haven't been there? How can I speak on it? I always make sure that the music embodies the truth of where I’ve been."

And while the singer appreciates her fans for their support, she's always reminded them that her music isn't an invitation to follow in her footsteps. "Do not listen to me, just struggle with me. I always say I'm not giving advice, I'm honest enough to give you the truth," she notes. 

Her upcoming single, "Friends," featuring Ty Dolla $ign, drops on Friday and, according to Monica, it's about "keeping people in their place and handling your own relationships."

It's a marked difference from what fans can expect from the singer down the line, as she puts together her highly anticipated country album, Open Roads.

For fans that wonder where the desire to delve into country music came from, Monica revealed that she's been a fan of the genre since she was a child taking trips to Dollywood courtesy of her stepfather. 

"My Dolly Parton obsession began -- and it hasn’t ended -- and what it was, was that my love for family is really my connection to her," she shares. "I was in her park at about 10 years old and the lady working told me, 'Well, I’m Dolly’s first cousin and she gives us a job, a car and an apartment, it’s amazing.' So when I met her and I realized all of these people are related to her and she built all of this, it really help her family and her community, that’s when my love for her began in country music."

Monica explained that she would always sing country songs when she was younger but would be told "that's not what you do."

"But I realized there are no limitations to what we can do and Brandi Carlile told me, 'Monica, stop waiting and I will help you.' Since then we have been working nonstop," she says. 

The singer shared that she's also been working with artists such as Breland and Sean McConnell, and admitted she was surprised by the "different people" who "stepped up." 

The singer relived her debut at this year's CMT Music Awards, where she hit the stage with Jimmie Allen and Little Big Town for a performance of her song, "Pray." Despite the awe-inspiring performance, the singer (and other Black people in attendance, including co-host of the awards show, Anthony Mackie) were the subjects of a vitriolic rant by a Breibart writer

It was that tone-deaf rant that motivated Monica to make her visit to the country side of things, permanent.

"I was told to leave by a reporter and so now I almost reside there," she says. "Because I do the opposite of what people think and feel I should. I do what makes me feel good on the inside."

And what else would make Monica feel good on the inside? Manifesting some dream collaborations for Open Roads. Dolly Parton is the ultimate dream, as is Mickey Guyton -- who has already proclaimed that she would love to work with the singer -- and Chris Stapleton.  

Fingers crossed for you, Monica!

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