Chatting with some of the country music industry’s best and brightest isn’t an everyday occurrence but talking with the insanely punny Lauren Alaina (seriously, have you seen her Instagram account) feels like a girly chat with an old friend—if your old friend was a runner-up on "American Idol," performed on "Dancing With the Stars" and was just inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, that is. We had the chance to talk with her ahead of her May 13 show at Stoney's Rockin' Country—if you missed it, never fear. She'll be back in July with Brett Eldredge on the "Songs About You" Tour.
Lauren Alaina on Touring, Nashville and Blackjack
WT: You’re just a few weeks off your top of the world tour. Have you had a chance to take a breather and relax?
Alaina: You know, I did. I actually got to go on vacation with my mom. So that was pretty fun! We went to Jamaica. We’ve been hitting it pretty hard since the beginning of the year, so it was nice to have a little break in the middle and have a little vacation.
But we are very ready to be back! I love touring; I’m really proud of this tour. The set is so fun and different from any set I’ve ever done. It’s a lot of high energy, a lot of new music, and a lot of throwbacks. We’re ready to get back out there and play it!
WT: Do you have any favorite cities you like to play? Do you ever get a chance to explore, or are you constantly moving on tour?
Alaina: I do like to get out and explore; I try my best. I really like Chicago; I like playing in Nashville because I usually get to sleep in my bed afterward, which is really cool. I’m a big fan of Georgia shows because that’s my home state, so I love getting to go back there because my family gets to come. I would say my favorite places to play would be Nashville or Georgia.
But I’m excited to come to Vegas because I’m actually right now in Hollywood, Florida. And I played blackjack the night before last. I put $50 down, and I walked away with $850. So I’ve found my game! And I think that y’all have a lot of blackjack in Vegas, so I’ll be hitting that up pretty hard!
WT: Is there anywhere you like to come to when you’re in Vegas?
Alaina: I’m obsessed with the Fountains at Bellagio. I love them. And there’s a restaurant that literally—it’s a sushi restaurant; I went there for my birthday one year. The patio backs up to the fountains, and while you’re eating your dinner, you can watch the show. I loved that restaurant. I’m going to have to go there!
WT: Was it Yellowtail?
Alaina: Yes! Yellowtail!
WT: You wrote a book! That is so amazing! You’ve obviously had so many great experiences in the last decade, but what was that like?
Alaina: It was very therapeutic. I really loved it. It made me very proud when I was done writing it. It made me proud of my journey so far and all I’ve overcome and achieved. I loved it; I had a great time doing it.
WT: Congratulations on becoming a Grand Ole Opry member!
Alaina: Thank you! That was huge. I did not see it coming, and it is the highest honor of my career—as a country artist, there is no higher honor. So I’m like, so proud!
WT: Did you have any inkling that it was going to happen?
Alaina: No. Nope. I was absolutely surprised, and that was rare. Very few times in my life have I genuinely, truly been surprised, and that was one of them. I had no idea.
WT: You’ve had so many experiences on reality TV with “Dancing With the Stars,” “Beyond the Edge and,” of course, “American Idol.” How do you think living those experiences in front of the camera has shaped you?
Alaina: Well, I love being on camera. I’ve done three reality shows now. For me, I don’t know if I’m necessarily a different person; I think it helps me showcase the person that I am. I’ve got a really loud, big bubbly personality which usually works really well on TV.
I just like to think outside the box. I want to have my own journey, and I want it to be unique. And I think that reality TV is a really good tool for me to connect with people. With my “American Idol” background, I came from TV, and it worked out for me the first time, so I just continue to do it!
WT: Is there anything you always take with you on tour that reminds you of home?
Alaina: I take my pillow!
WT: What’s your routine like when you’re back home in Nashville, you’re not on tour, and you can just breathe?
Alaina: Well, I have a boyfriend, and we have two dogs, so we spend a lot of time taking them to play. We spend a lot of time outside with the pups. I like to have game nights with my friends. I try to get them all together, and my friends know Mondays and Tuesdays are my nights at home to hang out with them. I prioritize spending time with friends and family when I’m home, and I do a lot of puzzles. I like to read. I just like to relax, hang out at home and hang out outside. I like to cook!
WT: If a fan was hoping for a Nashville sighting of you, where would you suggest they go?
Alaina: They’re probably going to have to come to my house! I’m kind of a homebody. I go to O-Ku a lot. It’s a restaurant, a sushi restaurant. It’s my favorite restaurant in Nashville. So maybe there!