C2C Diary: Lauren Alaina

Lauren Alaina is a name that will already be known to a lot of country music fans, partly thanks to her time in hit US television show American Idol. The Georgian native country singer-songwriter has been steadily adding to that initial fan base over the past few years and has just finished a few performances in the UK and Europe as part of the Country To Country Festival.

I caught up with Lauren earlier today to ask her some questions...

Who would you describe as your influences?
Um gosh I have so many different ones...I grew up singing a lot of soul and R&B music like Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight and then on the country side I grew up listening to Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire and Shania Twain and The Dixie Chicks and obviously Carrie Underwood as I got a little bit older because she came out when I was a little bit older but I would say that those are my main influences for sure - and Loretta Lynn!
What drew you to country rather than R&B?
Well I really appreciated the melodies of R&B and it was more of a challenge for me to sing those songs, they just spoke to a different part of me. I grew up singing in Church which is R&B music and church music as far as the kind I grew up on is very similar so I think that's kind of what drew me to that. Country music my go-to music and I just think it has a beautiful way of telling a story, you can just be so honest. As a song-writer there's no better genre to write for because you can literally just tell the truth [laughs] and it's accepted.
You came through American Idol, how do you feel that helped you as an artist?
It really set me up nicely, it's almost like it's training camp. I had to sit through interviews all day long and I was singing hours after hours after hours and just not getting a lot of sleep, doing everything I do now! So it definitely prepared me for the workload. I was fifteen so it was really good for me to learn that then, when you're so impressionable, you kind of just take everything in at that age. I feel like it really prepared me for the workload and everything that I was going to be doing and of course the instant fans! It's crazy about American Idol, it's like you're no-one, you're just a regular person - I was from a really small town in Georgia - and then suddenly I couldn't even go outside without people taking pictures of me! [laughs] I was really fortunate, I think there were like a hundred million votes the finale night that I was on there so a lot of votes! [laughs] It was really crazy but I got to go out on tour with Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan and Sugarland and Alan Jackson who I'm actually on tour with right now. I landed some really big gigs that I would have never gotten if I were just a normal new artist. So it definitely has it's perks! [laughs]
You only co-wrote one of the tracks on your debut album, can we expect to see you write more on your next full release?
I think I'm going to have written all of the songs. We have one song that we cut that's outside and we're still trying to figure all of that out, the album process, putting it together is such a tricky process. We've recorded twelve songs for this new project and I wrote eleven of them. I've been writing since I was like nine years old it's just when you go on American Idol they pretty much make you record that first album in about two months and put it together and that doesn't leave a lot of time to write material or do anything really other than listen to...I got sent about five CDs worth of songs and picked my favourites and put it together. So it was very fast but this one I got to really take my time on and I wrote over two hundred songs for it. I really got to kind of dig in and figure out what I wanted to say and write through all the things that were going on in my life and figure it all out so it was nice. It's been a very different process this time.
Your latest EP has quite a different sound from your debut album, was that a conscious decision?
I think a lot of it probably has to do with the fact that I wrote all of the songs on the EP. I think as an artist and a song-writer, when you combine the two...I can write for other people but when I write for myself I hear things in my head that I would say and how I want them to sound so I think this one's a little bit more my style and how I would do it. 
Which song do you wish you'd written and why?
Oh my goodness...there are so many great ones...there's this song by Tim McGraw called "Don't Take The Girl" and it is like the perfect country song, I love it so much. I listen to it all the time, it came out when I was a kid I think but it is so good and it's got such a great story and it just really represents what country music is I think. I know that's probably an unexpected answer because it's a male artist but I didn't necessarily say I would have recorded the song, I just wish I'd written it! [laughs] 
How do you decide which tracks to release? Do you find everything comes together easily?
It's funny you know, when I wrote the two hundred songs there were twenty five stand outs and you kind of have to look at the twenty five stand outs and say okay what makes sense as an album, how do these songs go together and what kind of stories do they tell? You don't want to have two heartbreaking sad breakup songs that sound similar. When you narrow them down enough you start to piece it together and what makes sense. On this album especially I felt like I didn't really get to tell who I am so much on the first album because they were outside cut songs - which I love and adore and I'm super proud of and I wouldn't change anything about that album it's just this one is more me, more who I am and I wanted to tell that story from front to back. So there are songs about my family, there are songs about my insecurities and there are songs about my boyfriend and my ex-boyfriends [laughs] so I wanted to kind of cover all the bases on who I am as an artist. When you're figuring that out it's not the easiest thing in the world to do obviously because it's art and you're so close to it, it's hard to pick the right one at the end of the day. I'm not looking at two hundred songs saying oh my gosh I want to put all two hundred of these songs on my album [laughs] which would be a big problem! That would probably take a while! Worst case scenario I could just put a few albums together [laughs]
You've spent the last few days playing in the UK and Europe as part of this year's Country To Country, how has the response been?
I was really pleasantly surprised because I had no idea people even knew who I am over here! [laughs] I was on American Idol and I know that some places get it and some places don't, some people have seen the show and some people haven't but I feel like I had lots of fans! I was so surprised. People came and knew the music and I'm sure they stream it on-line or have the EP or whatever else but it made me feel so so good. I can't wait to come back, we've already started talking about how we have to come back here, we had no idea that it was even a market for us. It was a nice surprise, I'm so glad that we were able to come out for this C2C and discover that! I was hoping to kind of meet all of these people and just cross my fingers that they liked the music but it was kind of surprising that a lot of them already knew it! So I was like well I'll take that! It's been really great, we started out in Sweden then we went to Norway and we were opening up for Carrie Underwood who I adore and is a friend of mine, she's so talented and it's so awesome to open up for her and then get to watch her, she's just amazing, I don't know if you've seen her live but it's really awesome. Then we went to Dublin and did some promo stuff and then we came over to London and we did three shows I think here. Two really out in the public shows and then like a more internal business showcase with CMA and I was so pleasantly surprised. We're just so excited about it because we were just so excited to come over here and then to have people really receive us so well and make us feel so welcome and sing the music to us, there's no better feeling than that in the world but it was just like a different achievement for me because I'm in a completely different country that I've never been to before and have no expectations whatsoever and all of a sudden I was like oh my goodness we have got to come back! These people know my music here! So it's very exciting.
What made you decide you wanted to be part of the festival this year?
It just kind of worked out. I have a new single out called "Next Boyfriend" and I've been doing a promotional tour over in the States since July so I haven't really been on an actual tour, I've been on my own promotional tour, going to radio stations, doing smaller events with country radio to promote the song. I'm kind of in that in-between phase, we're going out with Alan Jackson, I'm going to be home like forty-eight hours and then we have a show with Alan Jackson [laughs] I hope that jet lag isn't too rough on me! So it just kind of worked out and it made sense because we were just preparing for the new tour that we're going out with Alan. We were going to be in Nashville doing rehearsals and then this opportunity came up and we said well we'll just skip the rehearsals because we're going to Europe! But it just kind of happened, it was just one of those things that my label presented to us and we were like yes we want to go, absolutely! 
You touched upon it but can we expect to see you return to play a full UK tour of your own at any point?
The conversation has just started because we didn't know that it was going to be so awesome but yeah, we are going to try to come back in the fall, which I think people here call autumn, no-one know's what I'm talking about when I say the fall! [laughs] We don't have any solidified plans or anything but we are definitely starting the conversation so hopefully we can get the rolling and figure out some venues to come back and just try to out and see how it goes.

Thank you to Lauren for her time! Her website here will give you all the details about her tour with Alan Jackson and hopefully we will get to see her back in the UK and Europe sooner rather than later!