After becoming the runner-up on American Idol's 10th season in 2011, Alaina's future might have looked bright, but she shares it was equally scary. The then-16-year-old debuted her first album, Wildflower a few short months later and one of three singles that would crack the Top 20 with "Like My Mother Does."
But while she was meeting with much success, Alaina began navigating through the often-unpredictable business side of music.
"It was a crazy few years, and a lot of life-changing things happened. I felt like I was drowning at one point," she said. "So I just started writing songs about those things. And then, suddenly, I woke up one day, and I was like, 'I think I've written my album about all of these things,' and then we went in and recorded it."
The 22-year-old shares that she channeled most of her struggles in the 12-track record, Road Less Traveled.
"It's crazy, because I feel like I'm so much more honest with this music," Alaina said. "And maybe that's why people are connecting with it more, because I connect with it more."
“I had a lot of things change in my personal life — everything pretty much changed.”
What many might not realize is that growing up, Alaina dealt with a lot in her life, including overcoming an eating disorder shortly after Idol and witnessing her father's battle with alcoholism.
"My parents got divorced and they both remarried other people. My dad's an alcoholic and he went through rehab. I had an eating disorder that I overcame. I had vocal cord surgery," the Georgia native continues. "I live country songs every single day of my life, so thank goodness I decided that was my passion!"
"I had a lot of things change in my personal life — everything pretty much changed," Alaina said. She adds that she wrote over 300 songs for the album, but had to only chose 12.
“I got to know myself a lot more because of those five years of writing.”
When Alaina's debut record released, there was only one songwriting credit to her name with the track, "Funny Thing About Love." But as she reveals to The Boot, learning the craft of songwriting was initially a challenge.
But it was one she was certainly up for as she reached out to icons in the business, like busbee, Emily Weisband and Victoria Banks to help convey her thoughts and emotions to lyrics
"It was really fun for me to kind of dive in as a songwriter and as an artist," Alaina said. "Just as a person, I got to know myself a lot more because of those five years of writing. And I feel like now, people are getting to know me a lot more because of those five years of writing."
Alaina goes on to say she learned a lot about what it takes to be a songwriter, especially one in Nashville — and it might have been a rude awakening, to say the least.
"I found out that I was the least-talented person in town and had to work my way up, because you had to write with people that were better than you in order to get better. So that's what I did," Alaina said.
“Once I started learning how to write songs, I had to learn how to write songs about me.”
Alaina goes on to reveal that she wrote with "all of the best people in town" and took something from each person when diving deep into the experience.
"Once I started learning how to write songs, I had to learn how to write songs about me," she revealed. "And then when I started doing that, I wrote my record, and it was kind of an accident."
Perhaps a bittersweet one as Road Less Traveled was a tough decision for Alaina to release, especially after five previous singles that didn't become hot singles on radio. But after fans kept asking for new music, she felt it was necessary to deliver.
"That was super scary, because a lot of people wait until their song is in the Top 3, at least, to release an album, but I didn't know [Road Less Traveled] was even going to go into the Top 3, and so we put it out anyway," she said.
Alaina adds that it was "really scary to do that, because you want to do it in a moment when you have a lot of momentum and there's a lot going on."
Thankfully and through hard work, Alaina earned her first number one hit, giving her the confidence to keep moving forward — something she reiterates was not easy.
"We didn't know that the song was going to be climbing the charts or what the plan was for that. But it was cool because it's helped me so much on the road, just connecting with people and being able to talk to people about the music," she said.
“I just couldn’t give up. It wasn’t an option for me.”
Earlier this summer, Alaina picked up the CMT Music Award for Breakthrough Video of the Year, a honor presented by the legendary, Reba. In her speech, Alaina said through tears, "I'm not good at this. I don't know what to do. Reba McEntire just gave me an award so that's pretty crazy."
With her creating quite a stir in the business after all these years, it is one she does not take for granted, telling The Boot that anytime you can get music into people's hands, it's rewarding despite the fears.
"I didn't have a song in the Top 3 at the time, but it was really cool," she said. "Now they're coming to the shows and they're singing it, and that's pretty awesome."
Alaina might have faced a slew of hurdles and setbacks since her Idol days, but she tells The Boot she is grateful for all she endured.
"There were lots of ups and downs for me. It was pretty crazy. I was a little bit all over the place. At one point, I never even thought this album would come out," Alaina said. "But I just had a dream. And when you feel the way I feel about music and about the vision I have for my future, I just couldn't give up. It wasn't an option for me."0comments
She goes on to say that she "needed to write those songs," adding, "[If I didn't], I probably would have been put in a hospital or something and needed doctors to evaluate me non-stop, because I was losing it a little bit, and writing about it saved me."
Photo credit: Twitter / @countrymusicbeeprev