Lauren Alaina needs to set the record straight on a few things. Number one: Her debut album, out Tuesday, may be titled Wildflower, but she’s not that wild. Two: she readily admits, everything that could have gone wrong during the American Idol summer tour, did. “I lost my voice, I got food poisoning, I twisted my ankle, my dress came unzipped on stage,” Alaina tells The Hollywood Reporter with a laugh. “Next time I go on tour, I’m ready for whatever they got coming at me!”
Three: she and American Idol winner Scotty McCreery are nothing more than competitors-turned-friends. “I get asked all the time, but we are not dating,” says Alaina. “I guess [people think that] because I kissed him at the finale, but I was just so excited for him. He’s like my brother. We are both young, we sing the same kind of music, and it would be a really cool story if it was true, but it’s not like that at all. “
“People think Scotty gets around,” jokes Alaina, catching herself. “I didn’t mean that in a bad way!”
At 16 years old, Alaina is a playful gal, and like her time on the show, she demonstrates multiple facets of that personality in her major label debut. But she was also careful not to alienate her Idol fanbase, those same viewers who helped make her finale song, “Like My Mother Does,” a top 40 country hit.
“I couldn’t sing songs that are inappropriate for young girls to hear,” she says. “The words that are around us aren’t always great, especially in high school, and I tried to pick songs that would be inspirational to young girls, and help them realize they are who they are, and that’s what we struggle with. We think that we struggle most with boys, but what we struggle with most is ourselves.”
A few songs on Wildflower touch on that very subject. The track “Growing Her Wings,” for instance, along with “She’s a Wildflower,” about a little girl who thinks she doesn’t fit in. Alaina admits she chose songs based on themes that ran parallel to her own life. “Young girls don’t know how special they are. I struggled with it so much on the show, because I watched myself on national television and I picked myself apart. It’s only natural.” Still, the season 10 runner-up gives credit to the show. “It helped me grow up and realize that I am who I am and if I don’t like something about myself, I have to change it for me. “
Although still in high school (Alaina plans to continue her studies through online courses), Alaina has already passed the first test of artistry — she wrote a song, “Funny Thing About Love,” an uptempo number with a chorus that instantly sticks in your head. Alaina’s love of radio is clear — the girl knows how to write a hook with a melody that is downright Carrie Underwood-worthy, an impressive feat in the short amount of time she’s spent in the industry.
“I’m really proud of ‘Funny Thing About Love’ because I wrote it and it made the record,” she says excitedly. “It’s really awesome that I got to have that experience.”
The song came together, says Alaina, in the final few minutes of a studio session with songwriters Brett James and Luke Laird. “We wrote a whole different song that was kind of slow and I said I wanted to write a jamming song,” she recalls. “We had five minutes left in our session because I had somewhere else to be, and he started playing this music, I started singing and it just kind of rolled off. “
Alaina said she was fortunate to work with producer, Byron Gallimore, the man responsible for Faith Hill’s breakthrough album, Breathe.
“He’s worked with Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Sugarland and tons of huge, amazing artists that I grew up listening to, that I look up to and that have influenced me as an artist,” says Alaina. “It was really comforting to have somebody that knew so much about the business and has been around such amazing artists that are so successful to complement me and be willing to work with me. We became really close, he’s like a family member now.”
Indeed, when asked to describe her experience in the music business thus far, Alaina chooses her words carefully. “Challenging, exciting, family-oriented,” she says. “Because you literally make a family out of the people around you. They are just really loving people in country music and I’m really lucky to be a part of it.”
The result is an effort she can be proud of. “My favorite song right now is ‘The Middle,’ which is really beautiful and talks about how you have to live each day to the fullest,” Alaina demurs. “I have to remember that sometimes because my life is flying by me right now, and all these amazing things are unfolding.”
Another song with extra-special significance? “Eighteen Inches,” written by Alaina’s own personal idol, Carrie Underwood (with Kelley Lovelace and Ashley Gorley). “Carrie Underwood has been a huge influence on who I am,” says Alaina. “She started out the same way I did, and she is someone that I look up to so much. The song reminds me of my friend Taylor who is married — her husband is going to college — and has a baby. I give her so much credit for that. She made the best decision she could for her family, and I’m so proud of her. That song sounds like it was written about her and I just love it. It means a lot to me. And Carrie Underwood wrote it!”
So with all the Underwood love, it begs the question: will the Season 4 champion make good on her offer to take Alaina out on the road? “I haven’t talked to her in a few months,” Alaina reveals. “I have her phone number, hopefully I’ll be seeing her pretty soon and maybe one day we’ll get to do something. I hope so.”