Her name was Alyssa, and Alana Springsteen loved her immediately. The teenage fan had just watched the rising star's set at CMA Fest last month and was determined to ask Springsteen a super important question.
"She wanted me to sign her shoes," Springsteen, 21, recalls to PEOPLE.
Of course, these were no ordinary shoes. These were Air Jordans, the high-end brand of shoes that Springsteen herself has always adored. So, as the accomplished singer/songwriter grasped a Sharpie marker nervously in her hand, she silently second-guessed the girl's decision to do such a thing.
But then, she signed the darn shoes.
"That's what fires me up," explains Springsteen excitedly. "It's about getting to be a small piece of somebody else's story."
It's these charming moments that continue to keep showing up as Springsteen cements her place in today's constantly changing world of cathartic music. And in Springsteen's new project History of Breaking Up (Part 2,) Springsteen once again finds a way to take a past heartbreak and turn it into yet another masterpiece.
"To be honest, I got my heart broken pretty bad last year," Springsteen says quietly about the emotional backbone of the project that had her co-producing five of the project's eight tracks. "For a while, it was really hard to talk about or even think about."
Anna Clary Alana Springsteen
But as she walked into the writing sessions for History of Breaking Up (Part 2), Springsteen says she found herself desperately wanting to put the pain down on paper, which she finally did on the day she created the standout single "Trust Issues."
"I just started pouring my heart out," says Springsteen of the song she wrote alongside Sasha Alex Sloan, Jessie Jo Dillon, and Nick Bailey. "We all ended up telling our own stories, and it went from what I thought was going to be a writing session to more of a therapy session."
Indeed, this willingness to pour pain into her songs is something that separates Springsteen from so many singer/songwriters out there today, eager to keep a filter on their deepest hurt. And while bringing up those sorts of dark emotions is never easy, it's seemingly a prerequisite for the creative soul of the Virginia Beach native. Granted, Springsteen wasn't necessarily raised with this mindset of sharing everything with others, especially the messiest pieces of life.
"I once saw emotion as weakness," admits Springsteen, whose emotion on album tracks such as "That Was All You" and "New Number" is downright addictive. "If you sit in it for too long, I always felt as if you would get stuck. But I've kind of found that the only way to get over it is to go through it. Cry when you need to and scream when you need to and talk it out when you need to." She pauses. "I think these songs are me giving myself permission to do that."
And in doing so, Springsteen has found a new sense of freedom.
"I went through this horrible thing, and it hurt, but sometimes the hurt that you feel is a direct proportion to how much love you felt," says Springsteen, who is set to perform at Faster Horses Country Music Festival on July 22. "It means that you gave yourself permission to feel deeply and to go all in and to give your heart that chance to love. And I think that's so brave."
Anna Clary Alana Springsteen
Of course, every chapter has an end.
But today. Springsteen is turning the page.
"I think this is the happiest that I've ever been," she concludes. "I've been through a lot with these last couple relationships and writing about it, but in a way, releasing this project to me is closure. I'm such a stronger person for it. It's cool to look back on it and be like, 'I've marked those moments. I've felt those moments and I have written songs about those moments." She pauses. "And now, I can let it go."