Five years after finishing as the runner-up on Season 10 of American Idol in 2011, Lauren Alaina has scored her first Top 20 single, “Road Less Traveled,” which is currently No. 19 on the Mediabase chart and No. 20 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart.
The anthemic tune, which was penned by Lauren, Jesse Frasure and Meghan Trainor, was released in June and explores topics of self-acceptance—a message that’s especially personal to Lauren, 22, who has been in the spotlight since her teen years on Idol and has dealt with bulimia and the divorce of her parents.
Lauren stopped by Nash Country Daily last week (Dec. 1) to talk about the success of her sixth career single and the upcoming release of her second studio album, Road Less Traveled, which drops on Jan. 27, 2017.
NCD: Congrats on your first Top 20 single. That’s really exciting.
Lauren: I’m freaking out.
That’s a nice feather in your cap after six years.
I know. I’ve been trying for six years, so it feels really good to finally . . . some people try a lot longer, and some people try a lot less time. Everybody has their time, and it just feels really good. We’re so excited to get through this year and see what happens next year.
You actually wrote the song three years ago, right?
Yeah, four probably.
That’s a long time ago, and now you have a new album, Road Less Traveled, dropping on Jan. 27.
Yeah, it’s been a really long time, but I worked on this album [Road Less Traveled] for about three or four years. I wrote close to 300 songs. This was one that really stood out the whole time. I wrote so many songs, but songs that step up and tell their story over the others are the ones that make the record. This was one of those songs. I always loved the song. We originally thought it was going to be the first single off the album, and then it wasn’t. Now, it’s in the Top 20.
“Next Boyfriend” was your first single off of the album. Do you wish it had been “Road Less Traveled” now?
Everything happens for a reason. No, because everything happens in its perfect timing, and I feel like if that hadn’t have happened, I would have come too early maybe.
Does it feel cathartic to actually have the song out after four years?
You know what’s so funny is it feels like an old song to me, and it’s brand-new to everybody else. I have to constantly remind myself of that, because I’m constantly writing as a songwriter. I’m excited about new things I’m writing now. I have to tell myself to let my fans live their lives with the music, because it’s so hard. We’re in the studio. We write the music. It’s a long process. Even when it’s a regular process, it’s still usually a year or so before people actually hear the music. Mine was just triple that, so I’ve really been sitting on this material for a long time, but I’m not tired of this song. There are some that I’m like, “Ugh.” You get tired of them, but I haven’t gotten tired of this one, maybe because I’m so excited about it. I hear it on the radio. It’s so exciting to hear myself on the radio. I Snapchat it every time. I hope I don’t look like I’m bragging, but I’m genuinely excited. I roll the window down and yell at the people. I really scared someone two days ago, I think. I was like “I’m on the radio!” in the passenger seat screaming. They were looking at me like, “Who’s this crazy girl?”
The song covers some pretty heavy subject matter, especially for a country song.
Yeah, I’ve had quite the journey with insecurities and self-worth and self-acceptance. I think a lot of people have the same problem. I wanted to write a song that addresses that because it’s a real thing. It can be really horrible if it’s severe. I struggled with an eating disorder for about five years, and so I was really sick. I had to get a lot of help and get better. I think that regardless . . . mine was weight that really held me back, I guess you could say, that I thought was holding me back. It wasn’t holding me back. I was holding me back, concentrating and over-thinking.
It’s a vicious cycle, when you get caught up in what your flaws are, I guess quote/unquote flaws. I think we all do it, regardless of what it is, the way we talk or how tall we are or the color of our skin or where we came from or where we went to school. It doesn’t matter what that thing is. I think that it’s a real thing, and we all have those things in our life that we wish weren’t there, and we think it makes us lesser than someone else. That’s so false. I wanted to write a song to address that, because I feel like that topic is really heavy in the pop world. A lot of people sing about that in the pop world, and I don’t feel like a lot of people do it in the country world. There are fans that need to hear that. I need to hear that. I love songs that lift up your spirits and make you feel good about who you are, regardless of who you are. I wanted to write a song like that. People are really responding to it, and it’s in the Top 20. I can’t believe it.
It’s such a powerful song with a powerful message. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to get help.
Yeah. Regardless of what it is, even if it’s something small. If it’s bothering you, then talk to someone about it. That’s the hardest part, is being honest with other people. I lost weight very quickly. I dropped 40 pounds in a matter of eight weeks. Then, I just kept getting smaller. I was obsessed with working out, and I had bulimia. I did every trendy diet you could do. I was putting my body through extreme stress. It wasn’t good for my body. I think that I eventually was forced into getting help, because it affected my health so much that I had to go to a doctor. It was bad. People don’t have to let it get to that point. I was in the public eye. I had lots of people looking at me.
The expectations that you think other people are placing on you are false, because no one looks at you and says, “Oh, well, I would like her more if her hair was two shade blonder or if she was three inches taller and 20 pounds lighter.” You don’t look at other people and think that. You just don’t. You do that to yourself, and you put those expectations on yourself. No one else is doing that. You don’t base your friends or how much you love your family on the way they look. That was a hard thing for me to get.
There are also external pressures from . . .
Social media. I am obsessed with social media. I love it. I will never bash it, but it was one of the biggest things that affected my health at that time, because people are not always nice. They’re just not. Usually, that stems from their own insecurities and their own issues that they’re dealing with. Yeah, and they can say things, and they think you don’t read them. I think that honestly some of the things that are said aren’t meant to hurt your feelings. I think people put things on my pages, and they don’t think that I actually run those pages. I run all of my social media. Occasionally, my team will post for me, but they put on there that they’ve posted for me. That is really, really rare. I do all of it myself, so I see all the comments. When I was a 16-year-old girl, someone saying that, “She looks fat in that dress” as just a statement. They weren’t saying, “Lauren, you’re fat and ugly,” but that’s what I heard when I saw that. Even if they just said that, “That’s not a flattering dress. She doesn’t look good …”
Any kind of small comment, when you’re insecure about something, it’s a direct hit to that. I think that we all need to be more aware of that. I’ve learned to ignore it. I laugh at those things now, or I just delete them and move on. I feel like it’s gotten to be a lot less, or I just don’t notice them. I don’t know.
Girls in high school and guys in high school who are being bullied online, and it’s just so easy for people to have access to that now. Social media is a beautiful thing if it’s used correctly, and it’s not always. I love it. I love the direct connection I have with my fans and how I get to share what I want to share of my life with them. They get to share with me as well. It’s a really cool thing, but it can be a bad thing as well. It’s like everything.
You’re going on tour with Martina McBride in February as part of the CMT Next Women of Country Love Unleashed Tour.
It’s freaking awesome, because she is awesome. She’s so kind, and I’ve done a few shows with her. She’s a good person, and she’s Martina McBride, so that’s pretty helpful as well. I’m very excited about that, and I think it will be cool for us. A lot of her fans are female, and a lot of my fans are female. It will be interesting to see if there . . . we’ll have the same fans, and I’ll bring some that she wouldn’t, and she’ll bring some that I wouldn’t. We have male fans, too, but mostly women. I think it’s going to be so fun. The tour is celebrating women. I’m really excited about it.
Are you going to be able to take a little bit of downtime for Christmas to celebrate?
Yeah, I work until probably December 20. Then, I’ll be off for probably a week or so, which is great. A week off, I start getting the itch to leave again. It’s nice when it’s the holidays.
Road Less Traveled Track Listing
1. Doin’ Fine (Lauren Alaina, Emily Shackleton, busbee)
2. My Kinda People (Lauren Alaina, Emily Weisband, busbee)
3. Three (Lauren Alaina, Seth Ennis, Jordan Reynolds)
4. Road Less Traveled (Lauren Alaina, Jesse Frasure, Meghan Trainor)
5. Queen of Hearts (Lauren Alaina, Lindsey Lee, Victoria Banks)
6. Think Outside the Boy (Lauren Alaina, Emily Shackleton)
7. Painting Pillows (Lauren Alaina, Lindsay Jack Rimes, Alex Masters)
8. Next Boyfriend (Lauren Alaina, Emily Weisband, Matt McVaney)
9. Crashin’ the Boys Club (Lauren Alaina, Emily Weisband, Johan Fransson)
10. Sam Day Different Bottle (Lauren Alaina, Caitlyn Smith, Dan Couch)
11. Holding the Other (Lauren Alaina, Emily Weisband, Eric Olson)
12. Pretty (Lauren Alaina, Felicia Barton, Emily Weisband)