In 2012, the world fell in love with Jessica Sanchez.

At 16 years old and standing at just around five feet, her larger-than-life voice brought down theaters all over the United States. She was seemingly on top of the world — she may not have won American Idol, but she didn’t need to. Little girls and their mothers back home in the Philippines were already glued to their TV screens as they watched her command every stage that she stepped on.

But there’s only so much you can know at 16. She moved to Los Angeles, recorded songs with some of the industry’s most prominent songwriters, followed the advice of labels to release whatever she needed to release — the whole package. With a decade in between now and then, Sanchez can only look back at that time with seemingly conflicted feelings.

”It just wasn’t the right moment for me. I didn’t know who I was…I didn’t know what kind of music I wanted,” she shares in an exclusive interview with Billboard Philippines. “I think I grew up in music kind of fast, and everybody just kind of threw their opinions on me, [saying], ‘oh, you should sing this; you should sing that.’ I really didn’t know what direction I wanted to be in.”

You can hear this throw-it-to-the-wind kind of approach in her releases post Idol. 2014’s “This Love” fully captures the pop zeitgeist of the mid-2010s ala Alicia Keys, Rihanna, and their contemporaries. “Call Me,” released in 2016, leans into the Kehlani and Jhene Aiko side of R&B. “Millionaire” brings her back into synth-heavy pop with a boom-snap-clap type of beat, reminiscent yet again of the 2010 pop sound.

That’s why when she announced that she would be releasing a slew of singles leading up to her forthcoming full-length album, all of which had Sanchez as the main composer and lyricist, she was, to say the least, a little bit scared.

”The whole songwriting part, opening up, and sharing myself through the music was super, super hard,” she says, laughing. “I’m an introvert — a major introvert. It’s already hard for me to talk about what I’m going through, or being vulnerable and open, so that was an extra mountain for me to overcome.”

Leading the charge into Jessica Sanchez’s most personal body of work is “Higher,” the first of 13 tracks she is set to release. Out of everything that she has written until this point, “Higher” stood out as a very special song for her.

”We were going through all the songs, and this was one was really special, [especially] the message,” Sanchez explains. “People will interpret it the way you want it to, maybe their relationship with someone, or maybe their relationship with God, but that song was just so special to me and I thought that it would be the right one to kick off this album.”

After six years of writing and rewriting these songs, the flood gates are now officially open. Sanchez goes on to say that she is “so excited” for people to listen to the different seasons of her life as they take a new form in music, marking the triumphant journey of reconnecting with her passion for music. As she looks forward, armed with the confidence of being able to tell your story on your own terms, there’s simply no looking back.

“I feel like this is a way for me to really open up and share myself. It’s finally through my music.”

Jessica Sanchez’s latest album is set to drop on August 2nd. Listen to her newest single, “Weekend Love,” below.