Whether it’s on her first no. 1, 2017’s ‘Road Less Traveled’, or her chart-topping collaborations with Kane Brown (the 5x multi-platinum hit ‘What Ifs’) and HARDY (the recent no. 1 ‘One Beer’), Georgia native Lauren Alaina has the kind of powerhouse vocal chops that lend extra verve and a commanding presence to any song.
A vocalist and songwriter in equal measure, Alaina had a hand in writing every song on her recent EP, traversing heartbreak and healing over the course of six songs. She collaborated with Lukas Graham on the vulnerable ballad ‘What Do You Think Of?’ and welcomed Jon Pardi on the EP’s title track, ‘Getting Over Him’ – a track that represents a season of freedom and possibility for Alaina, having weathered a pair of fizzled relationships. “I was like, ‘I need to get out and have a good time,’ which I didn’t really know how to do, because I've been in the public eye since I was 16. But I had one little season when I got home from [competing on] Dancing with the Stars where I would hang out and be flirty. I've still never kissed a boy in a bar. But the idea of that is what this song is about”.
Sitting down with Holler, Alaina chatted about the powerful, unique voices that inspired her own musical journey - from American Idol runner-up to chart-topping artist. “You know what I just realized?” she ponders, “They’re all women. I didn’t even do that on purpose. But it makes sense, because they’re women speaking truth to other women, which I think we need.”
Detailing how the music of Christina Aguilera and Martina McBride taught her to sing, and how she has her own ‘Coat of Many Colors’, here Lauren Alaina picks the five defining tracks and albums that have inspired and influence her artistry for Cuts, The Deepest.
I grew up in a very humble environment. My family did not have very much at all, but we had a ton of love, I’ll tell you that. My parents both worked really hard to raise my brother and I. My dad worked swing shifts at a chemical plant and my mom was a waitress; they just had to work for everything that we ever had. That song is part of what’s so wonderful about Dolly Parton; she really gives a voice to working-class people. My great-grandmother had her own coat of many colors, and now I own it. It’s in my closet, and there’s a little hat that matches it. I remember my Nana telling me, “You’re going to get this coat someday.” I’ve always had a very special connection with that song, and it’s all about making the best of your situation, basically. I think that’s probably why [Dolly] is my favorite of all time. She’s just pure class in every sense of the word.
I love every song on Wide Open Spaces. The first time my parents ever heard me sing [was when] my mom was driving. My brother and I were in our car seats, going to my grandmother’s diner, and my mom was listening to The Chicks. When we got there, she turned the car off and then checked it again because she thought the radio was still playing. But it was me, at like three years old, singing every word to ‘You Were Mine’. They took me into the diner, put me up on the counter and I sang in front of everyone at my grandmother’s diner. I was the karaoke queen of Roswell, Georgia and I sang every Chicks song you can ever think of. They had such a unique style. A lot of my voice inflections, like the way I yodel up at the end of my lines and stuff - I do this little flip at the end - are little signature things of mine. I learned them from the Chicks.
Arguably my favorite album of all time. Not just songs like ‘Teenage Dream’ and ‘Last Friday Night’; I knew every song on the album. What I think is so cool about that album is that it was for women, but men love it too. My bandleader loves that album. I was like 15 when it came out - I was a young girl needing that album and it came along at the perfect time.
I wore this record out. It’s funny, I was in a pageant one time, but I didn’t do the pageant portion, just the talent portion. I picked ‘Genie in a Bottle’ to sing. I’d sung that song a million times, but my mother said when I was onstage at like seven or eight years old, singing that song, that’s when she realized for the first time what that song was about, and she was like, “Oh, my gosh”. I did not have any idea what it was about at the time. I had a little CD player and I would sit in my room and sing and sing until I could hit the notes, like on Christina’s song ‘I Turn To You’, and then I would go downstairs and tell my family what I could do.
Martina McBride and Christina Aguilera pretty much taught me how to sing. I learned how to sing runs from Christina and I learned how to be a country singer from Martina. I'm not saying I'm as good a singer as them, but I will say that they taught me how to do what I do.
Lauren Alaina's new single 'Getting Over Him', featuring John Pardi, is out now. Her latest EP, Getting Over Him, is out now via 19 Recordings / Mercury Nashville.
Photography by Katie Kauss.