LOS ANGELES-As she prepares for the release of her debut album, former Fifth Harmony singer Camila Cabello speaks to the BBC about the “nerve-wracking” process of flying solo.

Few of us would like our careers to be defined by what we were doing at the age of 18. But when you’ve been discovered on national TV and been a member of one of the biggest girl groups in the world, it’s difficult to step out of their shadow.

It would be a daunting prospect for most - but that’s exactly what Camila Cabello is doing. Six months on from her somewhat difficult exit from Fifth Harmony, the 20-year-old is gearing up for the release of her debut solo album.

“I’m at this stage where I feel like people are seeing me as myself for the first time, so I’m constantly trying to push my boundaries,” she tells the BBC.

“But my motto is always to just jump into stuff, because if you don’t do it now, you’re always going to find an excuse not to do it.”

Jumping into stuff has certainly paid off so far.

Camila’s debut solo single Crying in the Club is climbing the charts and radio playlists alike and momentum is building ahead of the release of her first album - The Hurting, The Healing, The Loving.

It’s an exciting time for any new artist, but you don’t have to look far beyond her album and song titles to realise her music is laced with pain.

Many of the candid lyrics are a reflection of the “overwhelming” few years she’s just experienced - not just her experiences with the band, but personal relationships and the pressures of growing up in the spotlight.

“This process has taught me not to be afraid to feel,” she says.

“Feeling sad is a part of life. Grief is a part of life. Heartbreak is a part of life just as much as falling in love is a part of life. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that those emotions are bad. They are just as necessary as the happy ones.

“And so don’t be afraid of them, welcome them, let them in. Because as soon as you accept it, talk about it, accept that it’s happening, the sooner you’ll be able to move on from it.”

She adds: “I felt like this whole process really opened me up again and helped me let go of all the pain I was feeling. I felt like it healed me to the point where I was good again.”

“[The songwriting] has definitely been therapeutic. I’d gotten disconnected from myself for a little bit because I was overwhelmed and I didn’t know how to talk about my emotions anymore, I was numb,” she says.

Camila auditioned for The X Factor USA at the age of 15 as a soloist, but didn’t get through the bootcamp stages.

But, in a similar process that led to the creation of One Direction and Little Mix in the UK series, she was asked if she wanted to club together with some other contestants to form a group.

Fifth Harmony went on to finish in third place and have had massive success worldwide. Their biggest hit Work From Home notched up a quite astonishing 1.6 billion views on YouTube, making it one of the most-watched videos on the site, like, ever.

But Cabello left the band in December after four years, amid reports that she and the other members weren’t getting along. (Lauren, Ally, Dinah and Normani claimed they’d attempted group counselling to smooth out the differences.)

After she exited the group, Camila announced she would be flying solo and releasing material of her own.

She gave fans a taster of what to expect by appearing as a guest vocalist on songs by Machine Gun Kelly, Pitbull and Major Lazer.

It wasn’t long before she settled on what her own solo lead single would be.

“My friend Benny Blanco sent me the demo of Crying In The Club, which had been written by Sia, and I loved it, I knew it was the perfect piece of the puzzle,” she explains.

“So I wrote the bridge and added my own bits to it and that’s how that song came about.”

Speaking about the album more widely, she says: “I’m consciously trying to make it sound as cohesive as possible, but at the same time keep it interesting, because I draw from so many different genres.”

Could a solo tour now potentially follow the solo album? “Definitely,” Cabello says. “I can’t really say anything right now but there’s definitely stuff coming up.”

We finish by talking about her five years in the music industry - some aspects of which have already left her feeling somewhat jaded.

“Artists always talk about music bringing people together, but ironically I feel like a lot of the time artists are so competitive with each other in our own industry,” she says.

“We want to do that for the world but we don’t do it between ourselves.

“I remember when I went to an awards show for the first time and I expected for everybody to be like, ‘Hey how are you’, but everybody was with their own team and unless you’re already friends nobody really talks to each other.

“If we’re trying to unify the world, why can’t we just start with the room we’re in?”