You recorded a whole other album before this one and scrapped the material, saying it didn’t feel right. What felt right about these songs?
It was really a lifesaver record for me. It wasn’t until I had to go through the worst tragedy that it really opened up a channel for me to be like, “God gave me a gift. I’m going to use it now. Because if I don’t, I’m going to die.”
Are you offended when the media focus on the men in your life [ex-husband Gavin Rossdale and new beau Blake Shelton] and not your career?
This new tabloid fame that I’ve got definitely came from being on TV–that just takes it to a different place. I’m just so grateful for [The Voice]. To be on a show where I got to step outside of myself and coach and think about my own career really helped me find my confidence again and feel reborn.
Your label was at one point concerned that the songs were too personal. Did they forgot that No Doubt’s breakout hit, “Don’t Speak,” was also about a breakup?
They really knocked the wind out of me. How do you say it’s too personal? That’s ridiculous. The next day I wrote “Used to Love You.” I was like, “I’m going to write a really personal song now.” They called me the same day and were like, “We think you have a hit.” That’s the first time anyone’s ever said that to me.
Some fans suspect your new song “Send Me a Picture” is about sexting. Is it?
I’ve never sexted before. What’s sexting? No, I will not confirm or deny that. [Laughs.] You can think what you want. That’s what’s so cool about all these songs. “Hollaback Girl” is a perfect example. People still ask me all the time what that song’s about. I’ll never tell anyone.
This appears in the April 04, 2016 issue of TIME.