Haley Reinhart releases 'Better' album Friday, plays Palatine benefit Saturday
It keeps getting "Better" for Haley Reinhart. Years after making her mark on the 10th season of "American Idol" with passionate covers of Led Zeppelin and Elton John songs, the 25-year-old Wheeling native has stepped back into the spotlight with her latest redux, a take on Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love." The whispery piano ballad became a runaway hit after being placed in an Extra Gum commercial and is the first single from "Better," Reinhart's much-anticipated sophomore album.
"To me, the word is about improvement and positivity and evolvement," she says of naming the record, which will be released Friday, April 29, the day before she headlines the "Better" Benefit Concert at Durty Nellie's in Palatine. The show will be a fundraiser for the Chicago-based PAVE foundation, which aims to break the silence of sexual violence.
"I've always wanted to be a part of an organization like this that has many amazing women involved in the cause and sharing their stories," she says. "It just seemed fitting because I like to write songs geared toward (female) empowerment."
She also takes her own advice. In the five years since starring on "Idol" and signing to (and later being dumped by) Interscope Records for her 2012 debut "Listen Up!" Reinhart says she's become a take-charge businesswoman just as much as she is a singer and songwriter.
"I've put all my skill sets to work. I've really been able to identify what my brand is and build my own empire as well as a solid team around me to be represented the right way," she says. "I think that all the momentum has led up to now. I've had these songs in my pocket for three to four years, and I'm very ready to get them off my chest, so to speak."
Though the album's 11 tracks are a natural progression from "Listen Up!" with Reinhart's perfect marriage of funk, soul and rock 'n' roll, the record also features horn and strings.
"Everything is a little more evolved and cinematic," Reinhart says. "I've been even more hands-on and explored my abilities as a producer."
There's also been a lot of life that has happened, which ultimately influenced her songwriting. Reinhart moved to Los Angeles, found work in television (she voices the character of Bill Murphy in Netflix's "F is for Family"), and has traveled the world playing shows both solo and tagging along with modern jazz collective Postmodern Jukebox.
The group often features Casey Abrams, Reinhart's self-proclaimed "musical soul mate" she bonded with on "Idol" as a fellow jazz band nerd. The two met at the grand piano in the "Idol" mansion and have remained collaborators ever since.
"I believe it will always be that way," admits Reinhart, speaking Abrams' praises, especially for some of the work he did on "Better," including the understated piano parts on "Can't Helping Falling in Love."
Another new collaborator on the album was Harry Reinhart, her father. He plays guitar on several of the tracks and will also be part of her backing band for select dates, including the "Better" Benefit and likely another headlining show at Chicago's Lincoln Hall June 14.
"I blame my parents for all of this," she jokes. "I basically lived the rock 'n' roll life as a kid, roaming around festivals and being exposed to bars and clubs at a very young age, and that stuff seeps into your veins."
Haley's mother, Patti Miller-Reinhart, and Harry have been longtime members of the local blues-rock band Midnight that early on set the foundation for their daughter's love of '60s and '70s culture.
"I never felt like I was born in the right time period," she says, hinting at her connection to the impressive and unlikely covers that often got her labeled as the risk taker on "Idol" (Led Zeppelin even personally called into the show to grant her permission to their catalog).
"I do think I'm still a risk taker," she admits. "With every different project I take on they are completely diverse, and I love that. I believe artists should be able to expose versatility as much as possible and shouldn't be compressed into any box. It's important to follow your intuition so that risks don't become risks anymore."
Haley Reinhart's 'Better' Benefit ConcertWhen: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 30
Where: Durty Nellie's, 180 N. Smith St., Palatine, (847) 358-9150 or durtynellies.com/