A vintage soul: Q&A with Haley Reinhart

Musician talks Anderson .Paak, "What's That Sound?" and more


The ’60s haven’t ended yet, at least not until Haley Reinhart puts down the microphone.

The “American Idol” alum and Postmodern Jukebox singer just released her third studio album, “What’s That Sound?” on Sept. 22. The record is a classy and tasteful collection of cover songs and originals, all featuring Reinhart’s golden voice.

At 27 years old, Reinhart’s career is just beginning. “American Idol” gave her the tools for success in 2011, but Reinhart is embarking on her own journey to the past.

The singer discussed her musical adventure, new album and touring the world in an exclusive interview with The Spectrum.

Q: Before we get into your new music, I want to address the fact that you’re so gifted vocally. At what moment did you realize you had this gift?

A: Thanks. I remember being really young and hearing another young artist, LeAnn Rimes, singing on TV. I remember telling my parents that I could sing like that. Once I showed them, they started getting me on the big stage when I was really young; around 7 years old. And I always had a passion for it for sure.

Q: So you were on “American Idol” in 2011. I’m sure the main objective “American Idol” contestants have is to win. Oftentimes winners get automatic record deals. Do you think that coming in third place gave you more free-roam for your career?

A: It’s interesting to think back to, but I think it really does help to separate you a little bit from the show. As grateful as I am for it all, I also really wanted to create my own kind of space to write a record that’s original and which set me apart.

Q: After “Idol,” when you started touring in 2012, you had auditions to put a band together. You ultimately chose Anderson .Paak as your drummer. Do you remember his audition for the part? And did you have any idea that he’d wind up with his own blossoming career?

A: It was crazy. Everybody that tried out turned out to be super successful. Anderson, we called him Breezy – Breezy Lovejoy – he was so special. I knew in my head that there was no other drummer at the audition [like him]. I remember having my parents on the phone. When he walked in, he definitely had a presence and a light around him. The way he played was so colorful and dynamic. I was like “wow, this kid is super special.” I knew he was doing music – mixtapes and stuff – but he could’ve done whatever he wanted. I had no idea that this would happen the way it did. I’m super happy and proud of him.

Q: “What’s That Sound?” is your second album in two years. When creating music, do you feel that there should ever be a time frame, or do you feel like the creative juices should just flow naturally?

A: I think it should happen naturally, but I’m so glad that I’ve gotten these last two out fairly close together. I waited like four years after the first one. You know, there has to be strategy involved if you want to put things out. Pick a good timeline. But if you have all this material, you want to make sure you get it out before you’re in another place mentally or vibe wise. It’s important to get it out when you feel the time’s right.

Q: So your album consists of covers of ’60s classics as well as originals. I was completely thrown for a loop when I found out your track “Let’s Start” was an original. Did you plan on having an all-cover album or did you anticipate incorporating your own tunes?

A: Thank you. I just signed to Concord Records and I was looking forward to putting out another original album. It was kind of their idea to do a record and we went through different themes. I just realized it would be not only easier to do the ’60s but it would be so much fun because it’s my favorite decade for sure. I love the style of the music, the whole movement of that time and just the whole love and united nature in the people back then. These are songs I grew up with. So it was cool to just pick out songs that spoke to me over the years and were the soundtrack to my childhood.

Q: Even your covers on the album are so unique compared to their originals. The same can obviously be said for your work with Postmodern Jukebox. Do you think it’s important that listeners can hear music in completely different perspectives?

A: My whole point is to show people that you don’t have to be put in a box. I grew up with so much around me. So much to offer. So much to love. Why not be able to showcase as much of that as possible? As much as I love doing different things all the time, I try to reel it back in and make things connect vocally. I’m doing things authentically with this record. I [recorded] it with all-vintage gear. I definitely want to be able to bring in specific things that people can remember me by.

Q: If you could pick one artist from today and one from the ’60s to collaborate with, who would they be?

A: Whenever anybody asks me that, I always say Paul McCartney. So maybe we could go with Paul and Anderson [.Paak].

Q: You’re currently on your “What’s That Sound?” Tour. What is it like touring the world and seeing all these places?

A: Right now we’re on a bus on the way to the next city. It’s crazy taking random pit stops. We just walked into this really random truck stop gas station in the middle of nowhere in Minneapolis. I realized that I got one of my favorite Native American-looking jackets here. It’s fun being on the road and having fun with this group. My band is awesome and I really enjoy being on the road.

Q: Finally, what do you think separates Haley Reinhart from anyone out there today?

A: I’m sure there are other artists who are completely living out their dreams. I feel really honored to not only do that, but to include my family in a lot of stuff. This has become a huge album for me. Not only is this my first vinyl, but my dad plays guitar on it and my mom does background vocals on it as well. It’s really special.

Reinhart will be touring the Northeast this week, stopping in New York City on Thursday. Her new album, “What’s That Sound?” is available across all platforms and streaming services.

Brenton Blanchet is the arts desk editor and can be reached at brenton.blanchet@ubspectrum.com.


Brenton J. Blanchet is the 2019-20 editor-in-chief of The Spectrum. His work has appeared in Billboard, Clash Magazine, DJBooth, PopCrush, The Face and more. Ask him about Mariah Carey.