'The Voice' Alum Cassadee Pope Ready to Take Next Step With Boyfriend Sam Palladio

Cassadee Pope and Sam Palladio have been dating for more than a year, and now the couple is ready to take the next step in their relationship – by owning a pet together! But not just any pet. The couple, whose first date was taking their dogs to the dog park, have another, slightly less cuddly, pet in mind for their first joint parenting role.

“We’re talking about getting a tortoise,” Pope confided to PEOPLE. “I just love the idea of telling people that we have a tortoise.”

Pope leaned on Palladio as she was readying the release of her latest Stages album. The bold record, which includes her current single, "If My Heart Had a Heart," was released in February, when Palladio was scheduled to still be in his native England. Pope asked him to return to Nashville, as much for support if the record tanked as to toast its success, which he gladly obliged.

“It was a really good thing because it ended up being amazing," Pope recalled. "If it had been bad, then I would have wanted him to be there to comfort me. But even on the positive side, I would have wanted him to be there to celebrate with him. So yeah, it was really sweet that he was here.”

Stages was a brave move for Pope, who intentionally chose songs that resonated with her, without worrying about whether they had the potential for any commercial success. It was a big change from how she used to consider songs to record.

“‘Will this song offend this demographic?’” Pope used to wonder. “‘Will this song connect with the mom in Boise, Idaho?’ There were just a lot of cooks in the kitchen, finding different reasons for it to not work. And in my head I’m thinking, I would rather have a smaller fan base who is really loyal and who will give me a career than be safe and everybody kinda likes my music. That’s not the career I want.”

So far, Pope's risks have paid off, but even if they hadn't, she would still be proud of the project she made.

“I think the album is making a good enough splash to where people are saying, okay, we want to be involved,” Pope acknowledged. “It’s scary, but I feel good about it.”

Stages became much more autobiographical than anything she has previously released – a testament to how comfortable she feels with every aspect of her life right now.

"Honestly, I’m in such a good place, and I think if anything, I can sing them with more emotion because I know that I’m not going to tip over and go into a dark place and start crying everywhere," said the singer. "If I was still in that place, I would have to really hold back and just focus on singing the song. Now I can get into it and emote. It feels like an alter-ego almost, even though everything’s really personal. So I’m actually emoting more having been out of that emotion for so long.”

“Every song is a very specific stage,” Pope added. “It’s all over the spectrum. It’s happy, it’s sad, it’s heartbreaking, it’s exciting.”

Whether or not any of the songs on Stages land at the top of the charts, the 29-year-old is grateful for what she learned with the record.

“Without taking those risks and taking those chances, you don’t ever reap the benefits,” Pope conceded. “I went with my gut and how good it feels when you succeed. For me, I already feel successful knowing that I did what I wanted to do.”

Pope is currently on the road with Maren Morris, serving as the opening act on Morris' Girl: The World Tour. The chance to join Morris was one Pope initiated, unaware that Morris had the same idea.

"Last year I was looking at my 2019, and although I knew I was going to have an album out and everything I was like, 'Oh I don't have any tours lined up. Damn it,'" Pope recalled to PopCulture.com. "And so, I started thinking, it would be so fun just to go out with a friend. I texted Maren and I just said, 'Are you headlining a tour next year? Do you need an opener for any dates?'

"'I'm down to just go acoustic and like drive in my car, I don't care," she continued. "I just want to play in some shows.' And she's like, 'That's so funny, I just finished drafting a proposal for you with my team to open for me."

Find tour dates, and purchase Stages, at her official website.

Photo Credit: Getty images/Erika Goldring