In a mesmerising new video for her latest single, Canberra's Hayley Jensen sings of being in a past abusive relationship, trapped and "torn apart".
Young Years is an achingly heartfelt song which defines Jensen's honest and introspective efforts on her latest EP Past Tense and Present Peace. The EP debuted this week at No.1 on the iTunes country album charts and No.17 on the all-genre album charts.
Her father, Rod Thomas, who died last year, is also honoured in the album, which she describes as "a very personal collection of songs that are really coming from a very private place".
Waking up see that the EP had hit the charts at No. 1 was "absolutely a dream come true", she said.
"The last 12 months have been an incredible high, musically, but also the most heartbreaking of my life after losing my dad, my biggest musical supporter. I vowed that I would make him proud. I could really feel him smiling down on me and celebrating with me that day," she said.
The album is about sharing the dark moments of her past but also the happiness of her present, having become engaged to her partner Kris Severijns, who works in IT, late last year.
The couple stopped off in New York, after a work visit to Nashville, where he popped the question on the Brooklyn Bridge.
"We've been together four years. I've found my soulmate," she said.
"I'm so lucky to find someone so supportive and understanding."
The singer-songwriter said Young Years was about a previous relationship and hoped it would help others who felt they were trapped in a relationship, a job or way of life they felt they couldn't escape.
"It is my own experience and it's my perspective and I think too many people have been in a relationship where, had it been with anyone else, they might not have had that experience. But it was about two people clashing and that's the consequence."
Jensen, who also works part-time for Family and Community Services in Sydney, said she did not want to condemn anyone through Young Years , but for listeners to relate their own experiences to it.
She said women could see themselves in the song but she'd also had men in tears after they related it to years they gave the army, or years they gave to a job they felt trapped in.
"I sat down at my keyboard to write and Young Years came out," she said.
"I thought, 'Oh my God, what am I going to do with this song because it's so full-on'. I played it to a few people and they said I had to release it because every good song has come from an authentic, real place.
"It is just a story that needs to be told, not just for me, but for people in that situation and might empower people to get out."
The 34-year-old got her big break after finishing fourth in the second season of Australian Idol in 2004.
"Idol propelled me into knowing that this is all I want to do with my life," Jensen said. "Songwriting and performing are like breathing to me."
Also a past contestant on The Voice, Jensen felt like coming home after deciding to focus on country music, listening to it with her parents as she grew up in Wamboin.
"Country music has evolved so much that it's not just your traditional ding-de-de-ding-ding," she said, with a laugh.
"The old-school traditional has its place and people love it and that's great but there's so much new music coming now which has more of an American, Nashville sound to it or just that crossover with pop, singer-songwriter sound, which is obviously more where my music lives.
"There's a whole new genre of music is opening up here in Australia. It's an exciting time to be in the industry."
Jensen plans to return to Nashville to do more recording. Before then, she will tour Past Tense and Present Peace, playing in Canberra at The Street Theatre on May 26.
She is "on the hunt" for a Canberra performer to share the bill.
"I really want to shine a light on Canberra-based talent, there are so many wonderful performers there," she said. "I'm really looking forward to this show in Canberra, I can't wait."
* For more details go to http://www.hayleyjensen.net/