Haley Reinhart finally feels free.
Her fourth album, the sultry throwback "Lo-Fi Soul," is the first she's released without major label backing. It's also the first record where she's coproduced and co-written every song.
"The whole record was such a growing and learning experience for me," says Reinhart, who had a hand in each aspect of "Lo-Fi Soul," from choosing the vinyl packaging to working with photographer Dana Trippe for the album's promo shots.
"Sometimes the back and forth with a label can be a little tedious, plus I really don't like to waste time," she says. But on this album "I feel like I never compromised my vision, which was incredibly important to me."
The result is Reinhart's most mature record to date, one in which she moves seamlessly between genres such as neo-soul on tracks such as "Deep Water" and "Honey, There's The Door" to electro-funk rockers like "Shook." Fans will get to hear her live when the 28-year-old Wheeling native performs Sunday, April 14, at Chicago's Park West.
"This process has been such a crazy whirlwind of creativity, but I wouldn't change a single moment of it," Reinhart says of the new album.
Reinhart rose to fame on the reality-TV show "American Idol," where she placed third in the
show's 10th season. Since then she's performed in nearly every genre -- from rocking out with Slash to a jazzy turn with actor Jeff Goldblum.
While Reinhart caught viewers ears' with her takes on classics such as "House of the Rising Sun" and "Bennie and the Jets," "Lo-Fi Soul" finds Reinhart relying more on her own voice.
"Most folks know me from covers," she says. "And that's cool, I have tons of respect for the old tunes. But coming off a cover record (2017's "What's That Sound"), I was ready to go in a different direction. I really wanted to have control and ownership on this one."
After nearly 10 years in the music business, Reinhart knew exactly whom she wanted to work with on "Lo-Fi Soul."
She brought back producer Rob Kleiner, who produced tracks on her previous three albums including "Oh My" and "Better."
Fellow "Idol" alum and friend Casey Abrams even makes a cameo playing piano on the searing ballad "Some Way, Some How." And while this is the first album her musical parents haven't appeared on, Chicago is still very much in her soul.
"Some Way, Some How" and the gospel-laden "Lay Me Down" were written nearly eight years ago, shortly after her time on "Idol" ended.
"I had these beautiful gems that I was holding close to my heart," Reinhart says. "They were written years ago, but a good song is a good song."
Former "Idol" judge and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler continues to be a good friend and mentor. Reinhart says the two reconnected last summer after she opened for him at Naperville's Ribfest.
"Steven has always been so prevalent in my career and so supportive," Reinhart says. "He's always such a good reminder to be present, say focused in the moment. And of course, he's been in the business forever. It's something to aspire to."
Reinhart is eager to take her new tunes on the road for a mini-tour, including this weekend's concert at the Park West in Chicago. Although her parents don't play on the record, she hopes to include them in the hometown show.
"I've been spending over a year with these songs," she says. "I want to take them out and breathe a bit. It's such a different energy when you play them live."
As for the future, Reinhart has always loved the mentoring aspect of the business and now that she's seen an album through from genesis to release, she feels as if she has invaluable experience to share.
She'd love to return to her "Idol" roots as a judge one day. She also isn't ruling out nurturing her own label of up-and-coming artists.
"Reinhart Records. That has a pretty nifty ring to it, wouldn't you say?"