Lauren Alaina once told an interviewer that she wanted to perform at the Grand Ole Opry by the time she was 16. “You’ve got high hopes,” she was told. As it turns out, she hadn’t begun to envision all that was in store for her before entering her junior year in high school.
She was the runner-up on Season 10 of American Idol, where her strong vocal performances earned comparisons to the genre’s premier vocalists, Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride. In January, The New York Times called her “the best singer so far this season.” A record-breaking 122.4 million votes were cast for Lauren and Idol winner Scotty McCreery. The final show garnered 29.3 million viewers and 38.6 million people tuned in to see the winner’s name announced.
Soon after, she made her much-anticipated Opry debut to sing her debut hit, “Like My Mother Does.” “I dreamed since I was a kid of being on that stage because my daddy grew up playing the banjo and he’s really good at it,” she says. “He always wanted me to perform at the Grand Ole Opry because he never got the chance. When I was little, he told me he wanted me to perform there and it would be as good as him getting to, and he was there. I need someone to pinch me because it was just the way it was supposed to be.”
But she barely had time to reflect on her accomplishment because the achievements are coming fast and furious. Last summer, she was a cheerleader and pizza parlor employee. This summer, she signed a record deal with Mercury Nashville/19 Recordings/Interscope, presented at the CMT Music Awards and joined Martina McBride in a duet of “Anyway” at LP Field during CMA Music Fest. She’s started recording her debut album and is now on the American Idols Live tour, which travels across the nation through September.
Although the venues and audience sizes have drastically changed in the last year, she’s still doing what she’s always done–singing for anyone who would listen whenever she got the chance.