Haley Reinhart may have been a much-loved contestant on American Idol‘s tenth season (she made it into the top three). And she may be the first A.I. alum to play at the renowned music festival Lollapalooza, which is also kind of a big deal. But these aren’t the most important things about her. And, while she’s got a crazy voice (her bluesy/R&B/country/pop sound is reminiscent is unique, and also slightly reminiscent of Joss Stone) even this isn’t the most exciting thing about her. What surprised me most during our interview was that this young starlet on the rise is deeply involved in all aspects of her music-making, and so intent on building her own name outside of American Idol. We got to chat last week about her new album Listen Up!, upcoming projects, and what it was like growing up in a family of musicians. It was so refreshing to hear a young artist speak with such passion, excitement, and intelligence about her craft. Suffice it to say, this girl’s going places, and she’s not waiting for anyone to take her there. Check out our exclusive interview with Haley Reinhart, inside.
PITNB: First off, congratulations are in order. I hear that you’re getting ready to play Lollapalooza!
Haley Reinhart: Yes, thank you!
PITNB: Which is a pretty big deal!
Haley Reinhart: Yes, it is!
PITNB: And you’ve got your debut album Listen Up! out right now, so I’m sure this is a really exciting, exhausting time.
Haley Reinhart: You got it (laughs)! It’s wonderful though.
Haley Reinhart: Now I know that you grew up in a very musical household. Can you talk a little about what that was like and how those experiences influenced you?
Haley Reinhart: I was running along with my parents and their band since I was a baby. I grew up in clubs and I was always going to different conventions and festivals with them. I was used to a more adult crowd and then I started going up on stage and singing with them like a professional—or as professional as you can get when you’re eight years-old (laughs). It was a pretty unbelievable journey with them. I learned a lot about great music and stage presence.
PITNB: Speaking of stage presence, I saw a video of you singing for a reporter, live, on the spot at an awards show. Have you always been comfortable singing live or have you learned to perform in a way that doesn’t betray any possible nervousness?
Haley Reinhart: That’s a great question. Actually I went to a GRAMMY Camp and talked on a panel to a lot of kids, and I was trying to get one of them to perform. I was telling them that—believe it or not—it’s actually harder for me to sing in front of a group of ten than in front of hundreds or even thousands. So yes, on the carpet it made me a little nervous, but I just let it flow out of me.
PITNB: I know you were rooting for Mariah Carey to come on board with American Idol. How do you feel now that it’s confirmed and she’ll officially be a judge on the show?
Haley Reinhart: I think it’s gonna be a great change! We’re gonna obviously miss the other judges, but this is such a cool time for her! Not only is it gonna be great for her career because she’s going to be able to come back and share her knowledge on the music industry and on vocals, but we also get to watch somebody with an amazing voice give kids advice, ya know?
PITNB: Absolutely. Her voice, her talent is mind-blowing, and I think people forget that sometimes.
Haley Reinhart: Exactly– who better to do this?
PITNB: I was just listening to Oh My, the song you did with B.o.B., which is such a great track. How did that collaboration happen?
Haley Reinhart: Well, thank you. Once the song was finished it was unbelievably short (laughs). So I added a little breakdown part, which is now after B.o.B.’s section, and I added an intro. And then we thought, why not put a rapper on it? This could be genius (laughs)! It would add more of a modern sound to the song, because it is very retro-sounding. So we had a couple of different people come in and B.o.B. just fit the bill perfectly.
PITNB: That’s great. So it sounds like you’re also involved in the production aspect of the music, a little bit.
Haley Reinhart: Most definitely, yes. I mean everything from making the beats to vocals, to the chords, everything you can imagine, I’m there for it. It’s all important to me.
PITNB: That’s fantastic. I’m assuming your life has changed a bit, considering everything that’s happened after American Idol. What’s been the most exciting thing about getting signed and touring and recording?
Haley Reinhart: I mean everything, like you said, has changed. Right now, I’m holding my door open and moving a huge couch into my new house, and talking with you. So there can be days like this where it just feels crazy, everything I’m doing at one time. I left my home and family in Chicago. And I’ve grown up so much in the past couple years, it’s uncanny.
PITNB: So where are you living now?
Haley Reinhart: I’m in LA now.
PITNB: Oh, so it’s really going down then!
Haley Reinhart: (Laughs) Yes. It’s a beautiful change, but I try to to get back home as much as possible. I mean it’s everything you said at the beginning of the conversation—it’s stressful, it’s crazy, it’s exciting. But I’ve been blessed and I’ve been able to create the album I always wanted.
PITNB: All good things. Now we can obviously see the positive effects American Idol has had on your career. Do you see any downside to being known as an American Idol alum?
Haley Reinhart: As amazing as it is—because yes, it is the most unbelievable platform that anybody can ask for—a lot of times it puts this name on us, this brand, and it’s hard to break out of that sometimes and be your own artist. Also, a lot of people think that we have this easy ticket or easy ride to stardom when in all actuality it is such hard work. And I’m still working my butt off!
PITNB: Sure, but you sound like you’re so hands-on and involved. So eventually your music is going to outshine anything anyone assumes about the American Idol label.
Haley Reinhart: Thank you! I mean the whole point of American Idol is to get you to come out and be your own unique artist, so I just try to come out with a new sound, not rush anything but come out and say, ‘this is me!’
PITNB: Who are some of your major old school influences? And I know you listen to a lot of soul, but are there any contemporary artists as well that you’re digging?
Haley Reinhart: Oh yeah, well as far as old school I love the Stones; The Beatles are probably my biggest influence. Definitely Joplin. In the R&B world, The Jackson Five, Michael Jackson, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, I mean I‘ve really grown up with all this stuff. I think I know it more than I know some of the new stuff! But I am getting the lowdown because I’m touring and doing radio for top 40 so I’m much more aware now. And there are some new acts that are really great, like Gotye and Fun and Janelle Monae and The Black Keys. I love the new wave of rock n’ roll. It’s a cool time.
PITNB: Definitely! Well, Haley I’ve so enjoyed listening to your music over the last couple of days. I’m a new fan, but I’m definitely a fan!
Haley Reinhart: Oh, thank you so much! That’s what I love to hear.
PITNB: Best of luck to you, Haley.
Haley Reinhart: Thank you!
You can download Haley‘s debut album, Listen Up! on iTunes.