It’s been over five years since Katharine McPhee has released an album, but in that time, the singer has been flexing her writing muscles with some of the music industry’s biggest players.

The former American Idol contestant had the opportunity to write with Sia and Florence & the Machine’s Isabella Machine while working on her forthcoming album, Hysteria. “I loved working with Sia,” McPhee tells EW. “I got in with her when she first started wanting to write with pop artists.” The pair penned two songs together, one of which will appear on Hysteria, due out July 24.

McPhee names Machine, who co-wrote her single “Lick My Lips,” her “biggest cheerleader,” and says Machine incorporated some of the bold freedom of Florence’s music into her new collection.

McPhee started working on the record during Smash‘s run on NBC from 2012-13, and rushed back into the studio when her latest acting project, CBS’ Scorpion, took a hiatus from filming. “It was frustrating at times because sometimes you just want something to be out,” the singer admits. It was Hysteria‘s executive producer, Teresa LaBarbera Whites, who does A&R for Beyonce, who helped McPhee stay calm throughout the lengthy album-making process.

She met another collaborator, OneRepublic’s Ryan Tetter, while on set at Smash. Together, they wrote one song. “He started a song and then I was able to finish it,” McPhee says.

Despite early ideas of releasing a record on the heels of Smash or Scorpion, McPhee says waiting allowed her to “put out an album that felt like came from me.” As for what fans can expect when Hysteria drops next month, McPhee says Hysteria is a pop album with a “mature vibe” and “old influences.”

“The songs that I wrote [for Hysteria] were about things either people around me were going through, or I was going through,” the singer says, “and I turned them into pop songs.”

Hysteria‘s surge of pop represents a return to her roots for McPhee. “I love pop music,” she says. “There’s so many different styles that I’m fortunate enough to able to sing being from a musical theater background. I grew up singing pop music.”

So while fans haven’t gotten a new album from McPhee since 2010, that’s because McPhee says she simply had to live life. “It took some time because you have to have inspiration. That means you also have to live. You have to go and experience stuff. That’s what I did.”

As a result, McPhee believes Hysteria will be “the most artist-centric” record she’s ever released: “I felt inspired for the first time.”