Brooke Eden Revels in the Freedom to Be Vulnerable on Her New EP: 'I Have Nothing to Hide'

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Brooke Eden
Brooke Eden

Ford Fairchild Brooke Eden

Brooke Eden used to want it all — hits, fans, fame — because she wanted to be a star. And while she admits she'd still love that skyrocket life, the "why" is completely different for her these days.

"If you're not singing songs that move you, what are you doing this for?" the 33-year-old country artist tells PEOPLE. "I want to have shows where people come because my music means something to their lives. That's where things have changed for me a lot."

On her new EP Choosing You, released Friday, Eden has already taken the most important step toward her goal: creating songs with meaningful, soul-baring lyrics. The five-track collection invites listeners into Eden's new-found vulnerability — something she was avoiding only two short years ago.

"It was so scary to me for such a long time," she says, "and now it's hard to not be vulnerable, because I have nothing to hide."

Her secrecy ended in early 2021 when Eden summoned the courage to talk openly about her happy personal life with then-girlfriend Hilary Hoover, who's now her fiancée. Previously fearful of being "out" in a musical genre that is profoundly straight, Eden had kept the five-year relationship from public view — and the stress of being in the closet ultimately ravaged her health and for a time forced her to suspend her career.

RELATED: Out and Proud, Brooke Eden Is Singing About the 'Love of My Life' in New Singles: 'This Is My Girl'

Her health long since restored, Eden is today reaping the rewards for her bravery by earning new fans, hearing ("on a daily basis," she says) about her impact on people's lives, and finally being able "to tell my real story."

That sentiment is especially evident on the EP's lead single "Left You for Me," an uptempo anthem that charts Eden's journey from the depths: "I guess I accidentally / Went and wrapped my whole damn world around ya / Holding onto one day / I was looking in the mirror / At someone I don't wanna be."

Listeners could easily interpret the lyrics as the words of someone leaving a bad relationship, but Eden reveals the song was intended as a breakup announcement to her old self, as well as other people's expectations. She also shares that "Left You For Me" was inspired by a life-changing conversation with close friend Mickey Guyton in February 2020.

Guyton was just weeks away from releasing "Black Like Me," a song that brought her racial identity to the fore and proved to be a career turn, and the 39-year-old singer-songwriter urged Eden to take her own leap of faith.

RELATED: Finding Her Voice, Mickey Guyton Stirs Hearts with 'Black Like Me': 'God Put It on My Heart'

"She said, 'You know, I think it's really important for all of us who are diverse in this town to really start speaking about why it's important to include people and to speak your truth,'" Eden recalls.

While Eden was in awe of her friend, she herself wasn't ready: "I'm like, 'Mickey, I don't know. … I wish that I was where you are, and I'm just not.'"

A week later, however, she was in a songwriters' room and "Left You for Me" just spilled out. "It was the song that became my compass for when I finally realized that I could do it," Eden says.

Another track on the EP, "Knock," could be interpreted as a warning to a friend about a toxic romance, but Eden says she also wrote it as something she needed to hear for herself.

"I think that 'Left You for Me' and 'Knock' are very much you looking in the mirror and finally feeling worthy enough to choose yourself," Eden says.

Brooke Eden
Brooke Eden

Ford Fairchild Brooke Eden

That theme is so compelling throughout the project, Eden adds, that she decided to use Choosing You as its title — even though the words don't appear in any song. Choosing You also speaks to her decision to enter into a relationship with Hoover. In doing so, she says, "I was actually choosing myself."

The EP's three remaining tracks, "Comeback Love," "Heartless" and "Off the Ground," are all inspired by her love life, and Eden relishes the freedom she felt to openly express herself. "I got to write real-life love songs with no boundaries," she says, "and with no boundaries with writers, who were like, 'Okay, we're gonna talk about this real-life love that you're in.'"

Except for "Heartless," which features a sexy, slow-burn vibe, Choosing You brims with an effervescent sound that underscores the joy Eden felt during its creation. She and producer Jesse Frasure (who co-wrote three of the songs) crafted the sound, she says, by blending "'60s and '70s Motown soul with '90s country."

"I love music that makes me move," Eden explains, "because it's not only that I'm moved in my soul, but I physically cannot stop my body from dancing."

Now, as she starts planning to perform the EP on tour, the musician is reflecting on the past 18 months with pride — and looking forward with a sense of anticipation.

A major highlight last year was a groundbreaking performance with Trisha Yearwood on the Grand Ole Opry stage. The country icon, 57, helped Eden make a gender switch on the chorus of her 1991 signature song "She's in Love With the Boy" — an idea Yearwood hatched to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

Brooke Eden
Brooke Eden

Ford Fairchild Brooke Eden

"Love is love," Yearwood, who's married to Garth Brooks, said that night on the Opry stage. "You can't just say it. You gotta mean it. So I think we should sing this song for you guys tonight, because she's in love with the girl. I'm in love with the boy. Let's just sing it for everybody."

Eden savors the memory. "It said so much for Trisha [and] the Opry to want to take that stance with me," she says. "I didn't know what to expect because the Opry is an eclectic crowd — lots of older people from small towns. I think that even being in that room, I was really nervous. Trisha told me afterward that she was really nervous. But to actually feel the love back from the crowd and the energy that night was so rewarding.

"You just feel you're in this new wave of acceptance," she adds. "I grew up on country music, and I didn't feel invited to the party once I got older. And now I feel like I'm invited to the party."

Eden is buoyed by the growing number of openly gay country artists, including TJ Osborne, in addition to "the support that you see from the country music community." But she also knows many doors remain left for her to open — including country radio's. So far, her new music is widely available on streaming services, though her label has yet to release a new radio single.

RELATED: Carrie Underwood Speaks Out About Lack of Female Representation in Country Radio: 'That's BS'

Eden is staying patient, knowing she's in the same boat as other up-and-comers competing for airplay.

"Everyone is dealing with the same thing," she says. "At this point, if something doesn't go viral [online], nobody plays your songs. I understand the process behind it, and I'm okay with it. I'm really happy with where I am right now. My life is so good. I really believe that when you're living in your truth, timing works out the way it's supposed to. However it's supposed to work out, it will."

In the meantime, Eden is taking advantage of a new opportunity to spread her messages of self-discovery, self-love and the power of music as an emissary for the Recording Industry Association of America. Working with the advocacy organization on a voluntary basis, she carries the banner for Music Matters, an initiative that offers her a platform both in the media and in front of civic groups to perform and discuss how music can heal and build community.

She's also in the thick of wedding planning with Hoover, who recently left her radio-promotion career to become Eden's tour manager. Engaged since May 2021 — after twin proposals — the couple has set an October wedding date in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

RELATED: Twice the Engagement Joy! Brooke Eden and Girlfriend Hilary Hoover Pull Off Twin Surprise Proposals

Complementary dresses have been picked out with the help of a stylist and both women's mothers, so Eden and Hoover will still get their "first look" on their wedding day. They both plan to walk down the aisle on the arms of their parents, and Eden has already written a song for their first dance. Hoover, insecure with her dancing abilities, secretly took lessons so she could surprise her more nimble fiancée, who's been dancing since childhood.

"She taught me how to waltz, and then we went to salsa dancing lessons together," Eden says. "It was a huge moment for our relationship because I was like, 'Wow, she's really willing to go the extra mile and get out of her comfort zone so that we can connect in a different way.'"

So far, 140 family members and friends have confirmed they'll attend the wedding, and Eden and Hoover are looking forward to a week of celebration and relaxation with loved ones.

There will also be a few nerves along the way, says Eden, who confesses she's "terrified" she won't be able to get through her vows without turning into a blubbering mess.

"I get so overwhelmed with happiness that I just cry," she says. "If I even talk about vows now, I start crying!"