Following her set early in the afternoon on Friday, 8/3/12 on the BMI stage at Lollapalooza, I had the chance to sit down with American Idol alumni Haley Reinhart for a brief chat about her American Idol fanbase, the recent release of her major label debut album Listen Up! as well as the pop star's feelings on playing one of the most influential music festivals in America...
As the first American Idol alumni to perform at Lollapalooza, Haley Reinhart is in both a unique and envious position. In year's past, the Lollapalooza stage has been an early home to several pop artists who would eventually go on to major stardom (I.E. Lady Gaga in 2007).
While the words "American Idol" are probably enough to make some festivalgoers cringe before even hearing Reinhart's music, it's interesting to note that the Wheeling native's major label debut (available in deluxe form with extra songs at iTunes) is drenched in old rock and soul influences and is one of the more interesting post-Idol album releases. With such a range of influences, a full rock band surrounding her, the endorsement of artists like Jimmy Page and Robert Plant and that undeniable voice, Reinhart's has the possibility to be one of the more intriguing post-Idol careerpaths to watch unfold.
Friday on the Lollapalooza stage, backed by most of her immediate family in some fashion, she performed songs from the new album admirably, ultimately closing her set with a slowed down, soulful and ultimately barely recognizable take on the traditional folk song and Animals hit, "House of the Rising Sun."
I chatted with Haley Reinhart Friday afternoon about the entire Lollapalooza experience as well as what it's like for her trying to navigate her own route amidst the expectations and often stormy conditions that can accompany any post-Idol career...
Q. How did it feel being back in Chicago today?
Haley Reinhart: It feels great to be home and it feels great to be part of the coolest fest ever in my opinion and in a lot of other’s opinions. I mean, such a family affair today. Had em all up there: My mom and my sister doing backup vocals and my dad playing guitar. A lot of friends and family out in the crowd that I could see and I could see people for days so it felt really, really good to see a huge crowd like that. I haven’t played… well, any fests like this! So it felt wonderful to see people mouthing the words to the songs and just a really great experience.
Q. Well, "a family affair" is definitely the way to put it. What was it like being up onstage with your family?
HR: There’s nothing more comforting for me than to have them onstage with me. I mean, my band is incredible. I’m really lucky to have them and I’m even luckier to have a family like I do. I’m very proud of where I came from and I love to give back to my parents and now to bring my sister along… You know, like you said, keep it all in the family, keep it going, the mini Partridge family!
Q. Have you ever been to Lollapalooza before?
HR: I have always wanted to and planned on it but timing was always off so I always missed out. So it’s crazy... but at the same time, I think it was all meant for a reason because it’s happening now and I’m not only here but I’ve been watching other people and I’m performing.
Q. Did you catch anyone else perform today?
HR: Not yet! They ripped me off the stage and it was right in to an interview! But that comes with the territory I guess. I have another show tonight at the Hard Rock Hotel but I’m gonna try and make it to see at least a little of Black Sabbath and Black Keys and they’re playing later so I might be able to catch some. There’s The Shins tonight… a lot of more underground bands that I really want to see. A lot of bands have already played so we’ll see what happens.
Q. Are you sticking around at all the rest of the weekend for any sets?
HR: Yeah, I’ll be coming back around and checking out the Chili Peppers and Alabama Shakes, JJ Grey & Mofro. There’s a lot of people playing and I can’t wait to hang out.
Q. So the new album is out and you mentioned today onstage that you’ve only played some of these songs literally once or twice live…
HR: Yeah, there’s a batch of about four or five of those tunes that we’ve only just rehearsed… Because the rest of them, I’ve been going on a promo tour and performing like the same five tunes. So, I’ve been waiting for so long to bring out these new songs and be able to rip them out with the full band and it just felt great.
Q. How’s response to the album been so far?
HR: Its been great! I’ve had a lot of great reviews since the very beginning so that’s really great to hear. My fans are very, very excited and it’s only growing…
Q. Yeah, they were pretty crazy over there earlier today when you performed (on the BMI stage at Lollapalooza)…
HR: Yeah! There’s a great fanbase that I’ve had since Idol and now this is such a great opportunity with Lollapalooza to gain a whole lot of listeners that may never have known what I was doing.
Q. Obviously, American Idol has been a great thing for you, it’s gotten you here… But is it kind of difficult at times too? Do you think people kind of have preconceived notions where they hear the words “American Idol” and they just have a certain expectation, whether it's bad or good?
HR: Sure! I’m not gonna doubt that at all. Everybody’s different and it’s hard to break a lot of the wall down, break those barriers. And this just proves that I did it. And Lollapalooza is such a huge deal so I’m happy to be a guiding force in that sense.
Q. Any plans for a tour now once you’re done with the festival?
HR: There are some tour dates coming into plan. I feel like more and more are going to be coming out this fall so keep a lookout!
- This interview was conducted by Jim Ryan.