Haley Reinhart has come a long way from her days on the national stage of American Idol.
The singer has reinvented herself — eschewing the immediate (and sometimes fleeting) pop superstardom for a more deliberate, old school approach to her career. She’s performed one-off shows, toured with the popular tribue act Postmodern Jukebox, and now she’s headlining her own solo tour.
On June 26, Reinhart will perform at Asbury Park’s newest venue, House of Independents. We caught up with her while she was on the road in the Midwest to talk about her new album, American Idol, and more.
This is your first solo headlining tour. You’ve had previous tours with the American Idol crew, and with Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Jukebox. However, now you’re on your own — you’re the reason people will be coming to see the show. Can you describe how you felt when you first embarked on this tour?
I’ve been so incredibly excited. I’m not nervous like I thought I might be. I’ve put so much work and dedication into it from the beginning. These are all my songs so it’s more natural than I anticipated especially because [my touring] band is incredible. I had a lot of ideas going into the tour — interludes, mash-ups, songs going into covers — things I’ve wanted to put into play, and now I finally am.
You’ve been more active than most American Idol alums — you did the Postmodern Jukebox tour, you’re doing shows constantly. Do you think this helped ease the nerves into going into the tour as well?
To be honest man, I’ve been waiting for five years to get a tour like this together. I feel like I’ve been ready for it my whole life. I grew up on live music. The timing is right, now. It’s been cool for me to do Postmodern Jukebox, and one-offs, and create more music and redefine my brand outside of American Idol. Now, I think the momentum is pretty great, and I can stand solo.
Your new album Better has had an interesting journey — it started as an EP, then took a few years to evolve into an album. Can you talk about the journey of the record?
I put it out with my publishing company Ole! They really invested in me and my craft. In my head, I always envisioned Better to be a full length record. But then certain people involved thought they we should just put it out as an EP. I played the game for a while, but I had four other songs I could easily slap onto this album. I figured we needed to get them on this record because [these songs were written in a] the state of mind that I was in the the past four years. So I’m really glad people were on my side. I’m kind of old school. If I’m going to release something, and I want it to be a full body of work, and a bang for the people’s buck.
It seems like you have an old school approach to music? It’s been touring, working on music, and taking the road of many Idol alumni and going for the big hit immediately.
I can’t relate to that lifestyle all, even though I live in L.A., and have a full team. I’m really lucky to have my parents both in a band. I learned the music industry from a real street level. Just being out there in the clubs, putting in the hard work, and doing it the right way. I’d rather take a little more time, and take the right steps.
American Idol is a huge part of your career — what was the biggest lesson you learned from the show once the cameras stopped rolling?
There’s been countless lessons from the show, and that was the point of it — to gain the experience of a lifetime. One of the coolest things to realize is how incredibly important it is to live in the moment, and fully enjoy yourself when you’re on stage. I don’t tend on taking anything for granted.
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome by being on the show?
It’s a constant battle of trying to remove the stigma. I know where I came from, and respect the show completely. Then again the show is built to have singers hone in on their artistry, and become successful. I’m working hard to separate myself from the show, and I’ve been able to cross a lot of hurdles already. I’ve done Lollapalooza and a lot of shows other alumni haven’t done.
What is something you want to accomplish with this tour? What do you want people to get from seeing you perform? Is it establishing yourself as a solo artist? Is it promoting the record? Is it breaking away from the show?
It’s all those things and more. I’m just going to do me and let it stand for itself. The band I’ve put together, the song arrangement — it’s a very dynamic experience for everybody. I like to talk before songs like “Love is Worth Fighting For” and “Listen” and talk about how we can come together and unite to improve the world. I have the opportunity to send out positive messages.
Haley Reinhart performs on Sunday June 26 at House of Independents in Asbury Park. Click here for tickets.