Lauren Alaina’s debut album, Wildflower, is a vibrant bouquet of compelling stories, powerful emotions and soaring vocals that is as irresistible and delightful as Lauren herself.
Lauren captured America’s heart when she appeared on American Idol earlier this year and revealed her enthusiasm, humor and warmth, as well as a commanding voice with an impressive range that has been compared to the genre’s premier vocalists, including Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride. She helped make the show one of the most popular yet. A record-breaking 122.4 million votes were cast for the finale, which garnered 29.3 million viewers, as well as 38.6 million who tuned in to see the winner’s name announced. She signed her record deal shortly thereafter and began recording her debut album with producer Byron Gallimore.
The result is a fitting musical portrait of the 16 year old’s personality, optimism and life experiences. There’s sauce and sentimentality, as well as an unwavering hope for the future and a belief in true love. “Wildflower is the perfect name for my first album,” she says. “I would consider myself a wildflower because wildflowers are sweet, but then they have a little bit of spunk to them – they are ‘wildflowers,’” she says. “I like to have a lot of fun and I’m really sassy.
“I tried to get songs that were all different so everyone would have a part that they liked because people are different,” she says. “I tried to make it so that it would please everyone. It’s just me; that is what the album is: it’s Lauren Alaina. That is the common thread.”
Lauren’s inimitable spirit is showcased in “Georgia Peaches,” a fun celebration of Southern girls that proclaims, “Love to dance and we love to flirt, ain’t afraid of a little dirt.” Lauren says, “I am a Georgia peach. Even if you aren’t from Georgia, you can appreciate it because it’s the type of song that will get you up off of your feet and dancing.”
Lauren co-wrote “Funny Thing About Love” with Brett James and Luke Laird after discussing her own romantic experiences with them. “I feel like it turned out really great and I’m excited to see how people will respond to my own style of writing, as well as my style of music, period. It’s about when you like someone and they don’t like you, and when you don’t like them anymore, they like you. Timing is everything. When you are young, it never really works out. You are always on a different page.”
“Growing Her Wings” explores the coming-of-age quest for independence through the tale of a teenage girl who reads Cosmopolitan magazine, against her mother’s wishes, after she’s grounded for kissing the boy next door. “She’s growing her wings behind closed doors and she’s ready to fly away,” Lauren says. “I felt like that is who I was six months ago and I’ve formed my wings and I’m flying.”
In “She’s a Wildflower,” she encourages girls to believe in themselves by recognizing the beauty they possess. “As a teenage girl, you are your own worst critic,” says Lauren, who admits that she hasn’t been immune to self-doubt. “When I first heard the song, it made me want to cry because I know what it was like to be the freckled-face girl with a gap in her teeth,” she says. “Girls always put themselves down when they are really wildflowers and need to go for it.”
While she’s always 100 percent pro-girl, she’s not afraid to put flashy and shallow boys in their place, as she does in “I’m Not One of Them.” But she describes the innocence of young love in “Tupelo” and sings the praises of nice guys in “One Of Those Boys,” in which she reveals a weakness for jeans-wearin’ country boys who mind her curfew and love their mamas. “I am singing about a boy who is perfect, but he has all of these flaws that make me love him.”
“The Locket” is a poignant song about the power of love, both between a man and a woman and a grandmother and her granddaughter. “The grandmother has Alzheimer’s and she is starting to forget things and the granddaughter is reading out of a diary what has happened in her life,” she says. “It tells this beautiful story about these two people who fell in love when they were young kids and they grow old together.”
Lauren was surrounded by love and music as she was raised in Rossville, Ga., by her father, J.J., a chemical technician, and mother, Kristy, a transcriptionist. Her mother and older brother, Tyler, sang and her father is a multi-instrumentalist. Her parents played country and rock music in the house and Lauren favored music to television, especially Shania Twain, Aerosmith and the Dixie Chicks.
When she was 3, her mother was listening to the Dixie Chicks’ “When You Were Mine” until she turned the car off, but Lauren kept singing, hitting every note and word perfectly. Her mother bought the karaoke version of the Dixie Chicks for Lauren to sing to as she sat on the bar where they ate breakfast at Lauren’s grandmother’s restaurant.
Her first public performances came with a kids’ choir as well as an annual vacation spot that offered karaoke. Word soon spread about her talent and she began receiving invitations to perform. Beginning in elementary school, she routinely landed the lead roles in school plays.
At age nine, she wrote her first song, “She’s a Miracle,” after her aunt was in a car wreck. She sang in church, restaurants, family holiday gatherings and anywhere else. Says Lauren, “I would grab up every opportunity I could,” Lauren says. “I would go karaoke at any place within a 30-mile radius of where I lived. I would drive an hour just to sing. Any competition I would hear about I would enter.”
At age 8, she entered the talent competition of the Southern Stars Pageant and won, and the next year was selected to perform on the Kids talent stage at Chattanooga’s Riverbend Festival. She continued to perform on that stage annually until age 12, when she won the competition that allowed her to perform on the festival’s big stage. At age 10, she won the American Model and Talent Competition in Orlando, beating out 1,500 kids. She later joined the Georgia Country Gospel Music Association’s children’s group that performed at places such as Six Flags.
“I started coming to Nashville when I was about 12,” says Lauren, who enjoyed a normal childhood of playing softball, cheerleading and working at a pizza parlor. “I would go into the bars on Broadway before 6 p.m. and walk up to the people on the stage and ask if I could sing and they would let me.” Offstage, she was continuing to develop as a songwriter. Little did she know that she would be returning to Nashville to sign a major label record deal.
It was during Idol that she first heard her debut single and first hit, “Like My Mother Does.” “When they started playing it for me, I started crying because I went through this whole crazy journey and the only person who was there for me every step of the way was my mom. She didn’t get any praises for it and I got all of the attention. I thought the song would be a great way to say thank you for her for all that she does for me. When she came in and heard it, she cried. It was a sign. Everybody was crying, even the piano player.”
This year has been one of the most incredible and emotional years of her life. "When you are 16, you change a lot from the time you are 16 to 17 to 18. I got to change on national television, so everybody watched me grow up over the past year.
"I feel like people are going to continue to get to watch me grow up. It's cool that I have been able to meet so many people that I otherwise would have never been able to meet. I have been able to accomplish so many goals, like being on American Idol and releasing a single and now my first album. I know there is more to come in the future and I can't wait to see how everything unfolds."