Imagine this: It’s the week after your "American Idol" elimination, the top 2 are about to take the stage at the Nokia Theater for the first of a two-part finale when you get a tug on the arm from an "Idol" minder telling you to be ready — it might be you on that stage instead.
Such was Haley Reinhart’s Tuesday afternoon on May 24, which started out with one simple responsibility, a nice smile as the camera panned on the top 11 finalists, and ended with a flurry of drama as finalist Lauren Alaina blew a vocal cord and, for a minute there, looked like she might not compete.
Of course, we know how things turned out, with Scotty McCreery as the last one standing, but, it sure was fun getting to that result. We caught up with Haley two days after the finale to recap season 10’s final hours and to look ahead to her own future as a recording artist.
Those of us covering the finale heard about Lauren’s voice going out 30 minutes before showtime, when were you first informed that you might need to step in?
Haley Reinhart: Like everything else, it was pretty last-minute. Literally, maybe a half an hour before stuff was getting rolling. I was rushing to get ready, and they pulled me aside and said, “Here's what's going on.” They gave me the lowdown.
THR: What was your reaction?
Reinhart: It freaked me out a little bit, I'm not gonna lie. It was huge, and I almost just fell to my feet, I was just really shocked. But I knew she would pull through. Lauren wouldn't let that happen — she probably would have regretted it for the rest of her life, so I'm glad she was able to get up there. I didn't want to take that from her.
THR: You had two songs ready to go, including “Benny and the Jets,” which many considered your breakthrough performance…Slideshow: ‘American Idol’ season 10 finale (on this page)
Reinhart: I actually practiced three songs that I had already done on the show. But I knew in my heart it wouldn't happen. I didn't even want it to. I thought, on one hand, it's an honor to be able to get that opportunity and how it's never happened before. On the other, it was hers to win or to lose. I already had my time to say goodbye.
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THR: Lauren’s situation aside, there was talk of you singing an original song on Wednesday’s show, as your parents revealed at a concert in Wheeling, IL...
Reinhart: That was going to happen. And then Bono came in and it was taken away.
THR: So you have a single?'Idol' feud between DeWyze and Lythgoe
Reinhart: Probably not now, but it was an option when I was let go. They had said that it was going to happen, and like everything else in this business, it’s all subject to change. I was excited about it, but then again, I think I'd like to wait and come up with something that's very me. Everything happens for a reason, so it's all good.
THR: And you did get to perform with Tony Bennett. How much time were you able to spend rehearsing with him?
Reinhart: We went through different songs before I met him, and we'd already changed songs a couple times, but we ended up with "Steppin' Out With My Baby," which is actually the first jazz tune I ever learned in high school. He came in and we rehearsed it a couple times in a really small room with him and his quartet. It was absolutely amazing. He made it such a comfortable experience. He was just very cool, calm and collected. I was just in shock a little bit.
Rodney Jerkins had mentioned that he was worried the stars would outshine the "Idol" finalists. Was it intimidating performing with a jazz legend?
Reinhart: It might have been in other situations, but I just felt comfortable around him. It was definitely his demeanor, because he's a sweet man, as well as the quartet, and as well as jazz in general. It's more natural for me. So it just came out.
THR: The group number with Beyonce required a lot of dancing, what was that like?
Reinhart: It was fun. I'm so glad we worked it out, because we didn't have that much time to learn it all and everything. We had a blast with it. And she's a sweetheart as well.
THR: Did you see the video of her singing "1 + 1" in the "Idol" dressing room? No gimmicks, no effects and Beyonce just kills it.
I haven’t seen it, but I wouldn't doubt it. She's amazing. That performance at the Billboard Awards, she sounded so magnificent. Like, how do you do something like that?
THR: What have you learned about the music business so far?
Reinhart: Probably a million and one things. How much advice you should take in, and when you should really listen to yourself. That’s probably the most important thing: to remember to stay true and stick up when need be, and to take a step back and soak everything in at the same time.
THR: Are you an Interscope artist now?
Reinhart: No, not as of yet, but there's time. I'm very, very eager to see what happens.
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THR: Do you think Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson should be back next year or should they change up the judges’ table "X Factor"-style?
Reinhart: There's a lot of other vocal shows that are out right now, and I think because of the versatility that they've brought this season, why not keep it going as long as they can? This was such a success.
THR: Where do you see yourself in a year?
Reinhart: I see myself with an album out that hopefully reflects exactly who I am, and just performing in front of crowds like I've grown up doing. That would be fulfilling my biggest passion.
Copyright 2012 The Hollywood Reporter