"It finally feels real," Lea Michele tells Billboard about the upcoming release of her debut album, "Louder." Years after the "Glee" star first started contemplating her studio debut, "Louder" is finally coming -- on March 4, through Columbia Records -- and after first single "Cannonball" splashed onto Top 40 last month, the album's non-single title track is now premiering exclusively on Billboard.com ahead of its Jan. 14 release.
Michele says that she worked on "Louder's" title track toward the end of the recording process, after realizing that her "very pop-heavy" full-length needed to take a few dramatic turns. "It's a song that, no matter what, I can play in my car with the windows down," she says of "Louder," which was written by Colin Munroe, Jaden Michaels and Anne Preven. "But at the same time, I feel like it shows off my voice as a singer, which is really important to me, because that's what I do. I want to make sure that every song on my record is fun and enjoyable, but also, you hear my voice in them."
As for how "Louder" turned out to be the title of the 11-track album, Michele explains, "I always think it's so important to live your life to the fullest, and love as hard as you can love, and fight as hard as you can fight. Be loud, be bold, be yourself, whether or not people understand that message. That's what I think of when I think of the song and album."
Before the 27-year-old began starring on "Glee" in 2009, making chart history with the show's blockbuster soundtracks and even before becoming a Broadway regular during her teen years, Michele was listening to music in her house with her parents, dancing around to songs by Wilson Phillips and Queen and dreaming of releasing her own album someday. After years of enchanting Gleeks and promising her own batch of original material, Michele officially set to work on "Louder" in the fall of 2012, and finished recording last June.
"It's more than just an album to me -- it's a piece of my life that I'm so glad is here for me to have for the rest of my life," says Michele.
Since its premiere last Thursday (Jan. 9), the official music video for "Cannonball" has earned 2.3 million YouTube views. Fans of Michele, meanwhile, can look forward to more collaborations with songwriting expert Sia on the album, along with contributions from Christina Perri and The Messengers (the album track "Battlefield" is also available now on iTunes).
"I really feel like, for such a long time, people were so sick of me, and were like, 'Yeah right, when is this album you're talking about actually going to happen?'" says Michele. "Now that it's really coming out, it's unbelievable. I've been playing these songs for my friends and family for a year now, and now that everyone's going to get to hear the songs. I'm like, 'Holy shit! People are going to actually listen to this!'"
"Louder's" title track will be released to iTunes on Tuesday (Jan. 14). Click here to pre-order Michele's full-length debut.