You might say Lauren Alaina has become a familiar face at the York Fairgrounds.
She headlined the Jingle Bell Jam there in December of 2011, returned to York for an autograph session at the York Revolution Fanfest the next spring, then performed on the WGTY Great Country Radio Stage last September.
Thursday night, she’ll return to that stage, performing a show that’s free with admission to the York Fair and that will also feature country singer Canaan Smith.
And fans are likely to hear some new music from Lauren, who’s working on the followup album to her highly successful “Wildflower” debut.
That album peaked at number five on the Billboard 200, hit number two on Billboard’s country albums chart and yielded a trio of top 40 country singles.
Last week, I talked to the Season 10 American Idol runner-up about her new music and her upcoming show. Here’s the interview.
Idol Chatter: Tell me about your most recent single, “Barefoot and Buckwild,” the inspiration behind the song and how it became the lead single off the upcoming album.
Lauren: I wrote the song with Chris DeStefano and Jon Nite. We were writing this other song, and it walked all over another song I had already written, and you can’t have two songs that are a lot alike. So I said, ‘Maybe we’d better come up with another idea, because this isn’t going to work.’ So we kept writing and eventually I said, ‘How about barefoot and buckwild.’ They said it sounded like a cool title, so we wrote the song around the title. There wasn’t any specific meaning to the song. We just wrote it to be a fun song after hitting a dead end. When we submitted it, everyone got really excited about it.
Idol Chatter: Are there any other new songs you’re excited about that fans should be sure to listen for at the York Fair show?
Lauren: I have another new song that I’m really excited about. It’s not a single or anything. It’s just a song that means a lot to me. It’s a beautiful song. It’s called “Breakdown.” I’m sure we’ll do that song. It’s opposite of “Barefoot and Buckwild.” That’s kind of in-your-face and a dance-y kind of song, “Breakdown” is more of an emotional power ballad. (Robins and Morgan)
Idol Chatter: Tell me about that song. What’s it about and why does it mean so much to you?
Lauren: In the beginning process of the album, when I was beginning to get material, I was going through a really bad breakup, and that’s what the song is about. It’s about the unknown, basically. When you’re in a relationship and you’re kind of not doing great and you don’t know if you’re going to make it over that hump or if it’s going to end everything for you. The hook of the song says “how many times are we going to break down before we break up.” It’s really well-written (by Heather Morgan and Jimmy Robbins), and from a different perspective than most breakup songs.
Idol Chatter: So, how is that second album coming? Do you have any idea when it might be out?
Lauren: It’s coming along. I know my fans think it’s taking forever because my first album — well, coming off American Idol, you have to record it, master it and release it in four months, and I’ve been able to kind of take my time and refine my craft and get everything together for this one. So my fans, I can kind of tell on Facebook and Twitter, they’re getting a little bit anxious, but I just want to make sure it’s right.
Idol Chatter: And is there any timetable at all for a release date?
Lauren: We felt probably December-ish and now we’re talking about maybe a later release date because we have some really cool stuff coming up that no one knows about. So we’re working out all of that stuff along with the album. We’re not in any rush.Idol Chatter: Now, second albums can be tricky. Is there anything you’re going to try to do differently with this one or any particular strategy you’re taking to make sure it’s a success?
Lauren: My first album did really well, a lot better than I expected. I worked really, really fast on the first album. I didn’t really know anything about myself at the time because my head was spinning around in circles and I was trying to keep up with everything going on after American Idol. I’ve kind of gotten my feet on the ground and I’m trying to create a specific sound for me. I’m still going to sound like me. It’s not going to be a huge, drastic change, but it’s just going to be a more mature and developed sound than the first one.
And it’s all about finding undeniably great songs that everyone can relate to — men, women, little girls, teenage girls, younger men — and putting that together and releasing it. They have to be songs everyone can relate to, not just me and where I am. But I have to be able to relate to them as well. So it’s a very tricky process. I’d rather take my time and make the right choices that I’m 100 percent sure on than rushing it and it not working. Because that’s not an option for me. I’m going to do everything I possibly can to stay relevant in the country music world and to be the best artist I can be.
Idol Chatter: You had one song-writing credit on your first album. Do you think you’ll have a hand in writing more of the material for the next one?
Lauren: Absolutely. I’ve written over 50 songs for it. And there’s only going to be 12 on the album. So surely I’ll make a few slots.Idol Chatter: And I read that you’ve moved or are moving to Nashville. How’s that going?
Lauren: I’m moving there in the next month or so. We’re looking for a place now. It’s just where I need to be to take my career seriously. I want to be at the base of it all and learn everything I can every single day and get involved as much as I can. This is what I want to do the rest of my life, so I’ve got to be where it’s at.
Lauren will take the WTGY Great Country Radio Stage Thursday night after a 6:15 p.m. opening performance by Canaan Smith.
Check back that evening for a story and photos from the show.