Although American Idol has officially ended its run, there are a few names that still resonate with you after all these years. Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson… Oh, and now, Haley Reinhart. She blew up the Internet and pulled on your heartstrings when she performed the much slower rendition of Elvis Presley’s “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” during an Extra Gum commercial. But don’t stop listening just yet. With her new EP Better out now, Reinhart leaves us all wanting to hear more and more of her voice.
Cliché: Let’s start from the very beginning. What was your life like growing up and how did your childhood help you decide music will be your career path?
Haley Reinhart: I was a little flower child, traveling with my parents’ band around Chicago land. I got to hang out with the adults and get up on stage once I got the guts… around 8 years young. Music has always been my happy place. I was lucky enough to learn the “good stuff” at an early age and carry those eclectic influences over and into my own writing.
With you being born and raised in Chicago but now living in Los Angeles, what’s something you wish Los Angeles had that Chicago has?
Hmm… Bob Chinn’s, Comiskey Park aka The Cell, more genuine folk, humid summer nights, all the colors of fall, and of course, my family and friends. L.A.’s alright though.
You had HUGE success on American Idol and since you were a mentor on the last season, what was it like for you to be on the other end of the spectrum? What advice would you have wanted to give your young American Idol self, after knowing what you know now?
It was neat bringing it full circle. I could relax and laugh a lot more this time around, that’s for sure. I always wanted to go back and mentor contestants, so I’m honored they asked me to do so. My advice would be to take more videos, so I could remember more of the unique experiences.
For someone going onto a competition show and eager to get in the music industry, what’s something they should be prepared for that they would never expect?
Expect a grueling schedule and a million opinions floating around you… At the end of the day, you gotta go with your gut.
It took me a while to realize you’re the voice that covered some of my favorite songs with Postmodern Jukebox! How did that collaboration come about? What song do you wish to cover in the future?
Nice! They asked me to sit in with them at a club, “Hyde,” in L.A. It’s been magic ever since. We just filmed another video a few days ago, shot in Raphael Saadiq’s studio. It’s oh so dreamy and so very special.
Since you did tour a bit with them overseas, what did you learn while being on the road with them that you may want to remember for your upcoming tour?
Alone time is a thing to be cherished. So is a good shower, and sleep. [Laughs] Sightseeing is a must; put down the electronics.
Congratulations on your sophomore album! Since there’s a 4-year gap since Listen Up!, what can your fans expect to hear on this new one?
It’s funky, it’s rockin’, and it’s real. I think there’s a tasty sound bite for everyone! I’ve written all the material with some amazing writers, producers, and friends. I’m ecstatic to get it out there.
With your album being released independently, is there a specific reason you wanted to go that route rather than through a record label?
I’ve rebuilt my team over the last few years. I think every artist should go indie at least one point in their career. I may find a happy home eventually, but this project (my baby) was all me! And although it can be quite the struggle at times, that makes me even more proud of the finished product that is Better.
Since this will be your very own headlining tour, how has the preparation process been? Will anyone be joining you on stage?
I’d love to get my pops up at Lincoln Hall (June 14) in Chicago. We’ll see! I start rehearsing with the band in a few weeks, and I’m so amped! Expect to hear some raw grooves and soulful vocals.
We have to talk about the viral commercial that crushed everyone’s heart: The Story of Sarah & Juan from Extra Gum. How were you approached with that opportunity and did you have any idea of how much of an emotional rollercoaster it would be?
Folks from Wrigley and BBDO wanted me specifically to record my own rendition of the classic love song. I had a feeling the commercial would blow up, but I never expected it to get picked up at radio, completely organically, and chart for 13 or so straight weeks. I’m so grateful to be a part of it and its success.
With your album out now, a tour on the way, and season 2 of F is for Family confirmed, we’re not even halfway through the year yet! What else do you have coming up soon for all your fans to get excited for?
I can’t wait for all this and more! Look out for a new Postmodern Jukebox video and hopefully some more music videos for tracks on my new record Better in the near future!
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Haley Reinhart is Better Than Ever: Photographed by Casey Curry