Josh Gracin's new album 'Redemption' is a colossal effort that's over three years in the making. He describes it as his most personal album to date, a somewhat obvious assessment as he helped write all 17 songs. His previous record was three. One senses that musically and professionally the singer is just becoming comfortable with sharing his stories, his beliefs and his inner artist.

'Enough' is a song that Gracin says is the most revealing, yet when pressed to explain what or who it was about he avoids specifics. That's fine, as fans learn plenty about what makes the 31-year-old tick on his first album with the very open-minded Average Joe's Entertainment. He's much more comfortable talking about the hero that inspired 'Can't Say Goodbye' and how his time in the Marines shaped his country music career. In many ways, this project is a new beginning for the one-time 'American Idol' contestant.

There's a variety of styles on 'Redemption': country, blues, R&B and rock.
Yes, there is. That was a cool thing about being over at Average Joe's is they let me co-produce as well as write everything on the album. I really got to figure out a way to incorporate all the music that I loved listening to growing up, and make it country.

There's a couple of more traditional country songs on the album, but towards the end of the song we find some way to kind of modernize it a little bit. So it was a lot of fun making the record.

Talk about the song 'Catastrophe' that you wrote with [fellow 'American Idol' Season 2 contestant] Ruben Studdard.
I had completed a song but I felt like there was something missing. so I was on Twitter and saw Ruben pop up talking back to his Twitter people, and so I sent him a message via Twitter and told him, "Hey, I got this song that I finished but I don't want to cheese it up and try to add a bridge to it so I thought if you're available, why don't I drive down" because he lives in Birmingham. So I drove down there, we met up, and he helped me finish the song and I love it. I love the way it came out. It's very different.

Have you and Ruben stayed close since 'American Idol?'
We've kept in contact with what each other is doing. I think pretty much that's what all of us do, from the second season. But definitely in this business it's hard to keep track of phone numbers when they change and places where they live, so we just try to pay attention to [social media] and try to get a hold of each other through that.

When did you start becoming comfortable enough with songs you had written to include them on albums and share them with fans?
I think when I wrote a song called 'Enough' that's on the new album. I'd written 'Unbelievable' on my own, which is on 'We Weren't Crazy,' and then I wrote 'We Weren't Crazy' with Bobby Pinson and Tony Lopacinski. And then I also wrote a song called 'Let Me Fall' with two other band members on the second record. I still wasn't 100 percent confident about where my writing was at, and so I wrote 'Enough,' which is the first song I actually wrote that ended up on the new record. Just lyrically, I think it's one of the strongest songs I've written to date and one of the more lyrically strong on the entire record. It's about me, it's about my personal experience, it's about something that I went through at a very young age that I was trying to figure out and trying to overcome. You know I bashed myself in the chorus. I call myself a loser in the chorus. You don't hear that in country music. You don't hear the word "loser" in a big ballad in the chorus.

What personal experience did you go through that inspired 'Enough?'
Questioning my relationship at a young age, a very young age. Questioning, "Was it the right decision? Should I have went in a direction? Temptation is always in front of me, always around me every time you look. What's keeping me from doing that and getting involved with that." It's a very, very personal song and everything kind of came out and opened the flood gates as far as my writing going to the next level.

Do you miss the Marines?
I absolutely do. I think about it all the time. I still have my uniform. I can't fit in it right now but I still have it [laughs]. Of course that's always something that's going to stick with me and never leave because it put me where I'm at now. It gave me the tools and the experience I need to do this type of career. This type of career is very brutal. You get beat around a lot and perceptions get made about you and they're usually almost always off. You definitely have to have a strong head and a strong sense of self and just have a drive to want to keep pushing forward. I think that's why a lot of artists that go through a down period, it's kind of the music business' way of weeding them out -- to see who's gonna fight to stick around and who's gonna go the other way.

When you wrote and recorded 'Can't Say Goodbye' was there someone you served with that was killed on the battle field that you had in your mind, even though the song is a tribute to Army SFC Ofren Arrechaga and his family?
Yeah, I hadn't lost anybody in my life close to me for 30 years. I've been kind of fortunate not to have to deal with that. But this past year I lost three people very close to me, one right after the other. I lost a good friend of mine who was ... in the Marine Corp. He was killed in a car accident and I found out an hour before I was supposed to step onstage and perform. And then I found out that my grandpa passed away in the hospital due to hospital negligence. And then Tony Lopacinski, who I wrote 'We Weren't Crazy' with and who was a guitar player for five years -- and [I] definitely looked up to him in every way possible as far as music went -- he passed away from a long fight with cancer.

When they brought this project to me, I immediately jumped on it but wanted to do it in a way that everybody could relate to it. So I had long conversations with Seana, the widow of Seargant A.C. who the song is about, and the first thing out of her mouth was, "I don't want this song to be 100 percent about me." She feels it would alienate people listening to it, and she wants people that are going through the same thing -- whether it's somebody that was in the military that was killed or somebody that was killed in an unfortunate event -- she wanted them to be able to relate to it and to use it and draw from it and to heal from it. That's why I wrote the song very universal.

What are you kids asking for for Christmas?
Anything and everything they see on TV. That's pretty much what they're asking for. But we've learned not to just buy a bunch of toys because they're toys and they fit their age group. We actually learned to take some time to figure out what they'll actually play with and use. And then every year we go upstairs and we take out all the old toys and we donate them and we get new stuff for them.

Any chance you'll have a fifth child?
I wouldn't mind, but the wife has cut me off. She's not allowing it anymore.

Four is enough, and you guys had them quick too, one after the other.
I did and she looks at it like, you know, 10 years from now when we're 40, all our kids will be grown and be able to watch themselves and will do more things together -- and that's the way that she looks at it.

Watch Josh Gracin Perform 'Long Way to Go' Live