April 28, 2016


Q&A: Haley Reinhart on 'Better,' Her First Album in Four Years

Casey Curry
Casey Curry

At the age of 20, Illinois native Haley Reinhart placed third on American Idol Season 10 (the one where Scotty McCreery won). She went on to drop Listen Up! in 2012 and finally makes her return this Friday, April 29, with Better. The soulful, jazzy, altogether genre-defying singer-songwriter spoke to Fuse about having her dad play on her album, her first voice-acting gig and dropping an album the same week as Drake and Beyoncé.

Fuse: So it's almost album time! How are you feeling?
Haley Reinhart: 
Oh my gosh, I'm just on cloud nine right now. Walking around my hometown city and visiting a lot of radio stations, just prepping for the release.

What kind of response have you gotten since putting out "Better" at the beginning of April?
It's been really great, I feel like the message I've been trying to send out with the song has really translated, especially to younger women. I just wanted to be really motivating and empowering—y'know, that goes for anybody, being able to realize your self-worth.

Do you write with that audience in mind, do you work for that connection with young women particularly?
It is really important to me. That's one of the bigger messages that I like to send out through my music, going out to the younger generation of women. I feel like I've grown up and faced my fair share of hardships in my own right, and it's made me a lot stronger of a woman today. I follow my instincts, so I encourage everybody around me to do the same and to know their self-worth and not settle.

It's been four years since your first album. It's rare to get that much time to breathe before the follow-up.
It's been a crazy experience for me. I've been wanting to get a lot of music out there much sooner, but the fact is, it all depends on the team surrounding you and behind you, and as much as I wanted to push things, everything's fallen into place now, the momentum is so great. 

What are some of the biggest changes in your life since then?
I've done a few different projects and really planted a lot of different seeds in the industry. I really wanted to build my own brand. I took some time off from management and was self-managing for about three years, actually, just doing the whole indie thing. Since then I've joined this group, Postmodern Jukebox, I've been touring with them a lot. I don't know if you know of them at all?

I follow my instincts, so I encourage everybody around me to do the same and to know their self-worth and not settle.

Haley Reinhart

I do, I love them. I was going to ask about that. Their videos have always been great.
Thanks. Yeah, so that's been really cool. Also I'm doing voice-over acting in this animated series on Netflix called F Is for Family. It's been really great to take the time and define my artistry on many different levels. It's important to not just be a one-trick pony.

I read you voice a little boy on the show?
Yes! I play Bill Burr as a 10-year-old boy. It's incredible. It's a star-studded cast, so I feel very honored to be a part of it. It's a really fun spin on a family in the '70s. It tells Bill Burr's story growing up. Very cool to be amongst the acting world and the comedy world, everybody from Laura Dern to Justin Long and Mo Collins from MADtv, and Bill—it's just been incredible to be surrounded by that kind of energy, and really genuine people.

Your cover of Elvis' "Can't Help Falling in Love" is on the album. It's such a beloved song and such a frequently covered song that I was wondering what your thought process was in doing your version, and if you knew it was going to be such a success.
I got called by the Wrigley crew, Wrigley gum, and they said, "We've got a whole slew of different people trying out for this commercial, we have different versions, but we specifically want you to do a rendition." I first did a take of it, and then I watched the commercial and approached it a little differently, way more intimate and raw. I had a feeling it would really blow up online. I'm really flabbergasted by everybody's reaction. It's great to get people's support on such a raw song, just piano and vocals.


How was it having your dad play guitar on your album?
Aw, so cool. I flew him out and it was like a dream, pretty much. It's so comforting, you know? I'm with him now and he's playing shows with me all over the Midwest for radio, and we're also playing a show on Saturday and my parents' band is backing me up. I like paying it forward, you know, because they've taught me so much about the ins and outs of the industry, especially the real live performance aspect of it all.

Did you ever have to give him a major note or have any interesting back and forth?
We aren't afraid to communicate and try different things. Most of our talks are about dynamics, but it's a total fluid conversation between us, so it's been really cool. Even though you can go at it sometimes, it's very comforting, and I trust him so much with his musicianship, so really I don't feel like I have much to worry about when we're together.

Did you consider having anyone else appear on these songs with you? Your last album opened with a B.o.B. collaboration.
That would be really cool, and I definitely love [fellow American Idol alum] Casey Abrams and we still do a lot together, and there's a lot of different musicians I love. But the fact is, these songs have been my favorites over the last four years, that I've collected. And I have a lot more to give besides these songs. I just have to get them out, I'm ready for it.

It looks like the art and photography is really thought-out here.
Yeah. So I worked with this guy Casey Curry, and he actually did all the photography as well as the music video for "Better." I wanted it to be a constant theme, and I had a lot of flowers represented throughout, a lot of roses and different floral pieces. The word "better," to me, is very positive and uplifting and about growing and constantly evolving. With flowers, I feel like they do the same thing, it's a natural progression, to bloom and thrive. I think it's a wonderful metaphor for life. 

One more thing I have to ask: You're dropping the same week as Beyoncé and Drake, two huge releases. How do you feel about it?
Ahhh! I think it's awesome. This one is for the fans. I couldn't be more excited, and especially being in good company. It's really great to be amongst some heavy hitters like that. I feel good.

Pre-order Better, available April 29, on iTunes. Her national tour begins June 3; browse the dates here.