Lauren Alaina isn’t the first precocious teenager to set her sights on Nashville. As the 16-year-old prepares for an October 11 launch of her debut, Wildflower, she walks a path traveled by stars like Taylor Swift, Leann Rimes, Tanya Tucker, and Brenda Lee.
But Alaina is the rare teen prodigy to arrive on the scene with a fully-formed career – complete with ardent fan base, Grand Ole Opry debut, and international tour – all before her first album was even recorded. That’s thanks to American Idol’s season 10, where Alaina finished second behind fellow teenage country crooner Scotty McCreery.
American Idol is both blessing and challenge: a blessing for plucking Alaina from the obscurity of Rossville, Georgia, and setting her on a national stage; challenge as she showcases new material for fans accustomed to hearing her belt out hits by Aerosmith, Shania Twain, the Supremes and Aretha Franklin.
“On ‘American Idol’ I would have to pick songs from a certain category and find ones that fit me as an artist and who I wanted America to see me as,” she says. “That was [similar], but it was also completely different, because these would be my own songs. They’d not only have to represent me as an artist but also as a person, and say the things that I want to say to other people.”
While peers such as Taylor Swift have sung about schoolgirl crushes and first love, Wildflower addresses broader themes such as family, growing up in the South, and being a teenager. “Funny Thing About Love” is one Wildflower’s few love songs; tellingly, it was co-written by Alaina, with Brett James and Luke Laird.
“I wanted to have something of my own on there, so my fans could see my way of writing, how I put things into a song,” she says.
“The song just basically talks about how when you try to find someone, no matter what age you are, a lot of the time they’re on a different page than you, and it just makes things really complicated and it messes with you.
“As a teenage girl,” she laughs, “I’ve run across that a lot!”