Lauren Alaina is having a banner year, and it’s about darn time. After waiting nearly six years between her debut record Wildflowers and her latest effort Road Less Traveled, the American Idol runner-up is seeing her hard work pay off, racking up #1s, country music awards and nominations, and huge tours with country heavyweights like Luke Bryan and Martina McBride.
“It seems to be my year to break out,” Alaina says during a spare moment on her current cross-Canada tour with Canuck country star Dallas Smith. At the time of our interview, Alaina is sitting pretty at the top of the Billboard Country Songs chart with her Kane Brown duet “What Ifs.” It’s her second number one this year after “Road Less Traveled” conquered the charts in back in April, a remarkable accomplishment for an artist who endured what she endured and remained true to herself despite the cutthroat world of the Nashville star-making machine.
“The last few years were a really hard few years,” she says. Between albums, Alaina’s personal life was in a state of upheaval. She watched her parents divorce and re-marry, saw her father enter rehab for alcoholism, and overcame her own battle with bulimia. It’s the kind of hard-earned life experience that would make for an excellent country song.
Alaina, however, made an entire album.
Unlike most stars coming out of Music City, Alaina is not only a powerhouse performer, but a gifted songwriter, who chronicled her journey and personal struggles throughout Road Less Traveled. “Songwriting is how I express myself, how I explain myself, how I work through my thoughts,” she says, “Getting the songs out and sharing them was a big release for me because I felt like I spent too long trying to be this perfect girl with this perfect body and perfect hair and I just never felt like I was good enough. I gave away all those expectations and decided to be myself with this record.”
I felt like I spent too long trying to be this perfect girl with this perfect body and perfect hair and I just never felt like I was good enough. I gave away all those expectations and decided to be myself with this record.
The decision paid off, as Road Less Traveled is filled with songs that shine with her personality and huge pop-country hooks to boot. The self-titled single is a rallying cry for the rebel-hearted (“You won’t make yourself a name if you follow the rules / History gets made when you’re making a fool”). Album closer “Pretty” is an self-empowerment anthem reminding listeners “beautiful is who you are.” “Three,” her personal favourite from the record, chronicles her journey from a child with a big dream to the woman she is today. “It’s me, it’s my story,” she says, “It’s what I’ve gone through to make my dreams happen. I think it’s my favourite song I’ve ever written.”
Road Less Traveled is a remarkable record and the industry is taking notice. This year, she earned her first ACM nomination for New Female Vocalist of the Year, won “Breakthrough Video of the Year” at the CMT Awards, and is nominated for Best New Artist at the CMAs, which happen to fall on her birthday (“It’ll be a good day,” she beams). She’s even starring in her very own film titled Road Less Traveled, premiering November 10th on CMT. The experience made her consider working in film a viable pursuit. “I fell in love with acting,” she says, “It’s obviously second to singing, but I would love to take breaks to act.”