Though she's now Nashville-approved after playing the Grand Ole Opry, not everyone believed in the actress's ambition when she first started out, she says in Cosmopolitan's September issue, on newsstands Aug. 12.
"So many people didn't want to touch the project with a 10-foot pole," Hale, 25, tells the magazine. "Literally, I had people laughing and saying, 'You're making an album? Good luck.' … But if you sit down and talk music with me for 10 minutes, you know that's my passion."
Not that the "You Sound Good to Me" singer is giving up on Hollywood. Over five seasons, she and Pretty Little Liars costars Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson and Shay Mitchell have turned the teen mystery into the most Tweeted about show on TV.
Matthias Vriens-McGrath / Cosmopolitan
"It was shocking, but we're all on the same page," Hale explains. "On the one hand, it's like, Great, cool! I have a job for another two and a half years. But then it's kind of weird to have your life planned out. I always try to remember how blessed I am and stay grateful."
She's also thankful for some missed career opportunities, like her unsuccessful read for Fifty Shades of Grey. (The part went to Dakota Johnson.)
"That audition was so uncomfortable! It's exactly what you thought it would be: a big monologue but very, very sexual," Hale recalls. "There were some things that I was so embarrassed to be reading out loud, but it's one of those things where you have to commit wholeheartedly or you're going to make a fool of yourself."
Still, she's not completely against the concept of baring it all – at least emotionally speaking, in her music.
"It's as vulnerable as you can get besides running naked down a hallway!" Hale jokes. "My heart is on my sleeve when I'm singing my songs."