Raised in a strict Christian household in Memphis, Tennessee, the Pretty Little Liars actress happened to catch a glimpse of Spears' racy ". . . Baby One More Time" music video. "I was like, 'Who is this really pretty girl in pigtails?" Hale, 23, says in the December/January issue of NYLON. "And why is her stomach showing and what is she doing and why do I want to be like that?"
Like Spears, who competed on Star Search in 1992, Hale first found fame as a contestant on FOX's short-lived American Idol spinoff, American Juniors, in 2003. Though she worked for many years an actress, Hale will release her first country music album in the summer of 2013.
"It's absolutely terrifying," she admits. "You only get one album. You only get one single. You get one shot in music. But I have a million different dreams. Why can't I go out and try to achieve them all? Who are you to say I can't?"
"It'll be raw," Hale says of the album's sound. "That's definitely the joy of songwriting."
One of the topics Hale will likely cover is heartbreak; she split with The Secret Circle's Chris Zylka, 27, in September after a nine-month courtship. "Every relationship I've had, I've learned something good and positive," she tells NYLON. "I'm a woman, but I'm not fully the person that I think I will be. We're all just trying to figure it out. Some of us just have to do it publicly."
Hale also revealed how she hopes ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars will wrap up. "I want it to be a Bonnie and Clyde thing. Where Aria and Ezra are in it together. Or Spencer and Toby. But something romantic, where you root for them [even though] they're the bad guys."