Haley Reinhart had pretty much gotten used to rehearsing and recording songs at a whirlwind pace last year while performing on American Idol as well as on the Idol Live! concert tour that followed.
However, when it came time to begin work on her debut album, Listen Up! (out today on 19/Interscope), she didn't want to rush it—and she let her label know. Reinhart remembers, "I told them, 'I want to wait ‘til after the tour to write part of my first album. You guys are giving me the experience of a lifetime, the opportunity of a lifetime. So I want to make the very most out of that, and be able to be a part of it all.'"
With the blessing of Idol mentor and Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine—asked in jest if the notoriously mercurial mogul has driven her to a nervous breakdown yet, she slyly quips, "Not even close," without missing a beat—Reinhart got her wish.
And the album was worth the wait. Sounding, she aptly describes, as "retro yet very modern at the same time," Listen Up! boasts a bunch of funky-fun, irresistible grooves.
"I’ve grown up with good music. I don't take it lightly," says Reinhart, whose parents frequently had classic rock and soul records spinning on the family turntable during her childhood. "It sticks with me and I’m influenced by it."
While Reinhart has dabbled in writing over the years—"everything from poetry to song lyrics," she notes—for Listen Up! she teamed up with various co-writers and producers who, she maintains, helped her to fully realize her stylistic and sonic objectives.
Despite having never collaborated with anyone in such a capacity before, she insists that any anxieties she may have felt prior were ultimately superseded by the more creatively rewarding task at hand. What’s more, she says, "I'm open-minded and I expect or at least hope for the writers and the co-writers to be the same way and vice versa. I’m sure they expect that and hope that for me."
Start to finish, from composing the songs to recording and producing them, the album took a mere three months to complete. "We plowed through it," Reinhart affirms. "It was very smooth."
So smooth, in fact, that the original demos basically ended up being the final masters, give or take a few tweaks and embellishments. “For the most part I left the vocals, I left the way that we produced it, and it was done,” she says with a sense of purpose that should serve her well as her music career unfolds.
"A lot of people nowadays, they like to be pointed in a certain direction. They like to be told which moves to make when," Reinhart insists. "As for me, I know exactly where I want to go."