What a difference a year makes for Haley Reinhart. It was just twelve months ago that she placed third on American Idol and now she's about to drop her first solo album. This week, the current crop of Idol contestants will name its two finalists, but as Haley has proven, you can make a career out of bronze medal status.
Relating closest to Phillip Phillips' outlook of staying true to who he is, Haley encourages the hopefuls to "make what you can of this platform you've been given. I seized the moment." Although all of the finalists are winners at this point, Haley pinpointed the outstanding voice of Jessica Sanchez since her initial televised audition. Had the judges not used their one save of the season, Jessica would have been eliminated weeks ago. "I couldn't agree more,” Haley approved of the panel's decision. "I called her for the win."
A similar Cinderella story emerged on The X Factor. Simon Cowell didn't originally offer winner Melanie Amaro a spot on his team, but with the urging of fellow mentors, invited her back. Speaking of The X Factor, Haley was surprised to hear about Demi Lovato and Britney Spears joining the judging desk. "I really am intrigued. I'll definitely check it out to hear Britney Spears talk a little bit," she enthused.
Video: First Look: Britney & Demi as 'X Factor' Judges
Haley found it very sensible to have successful artists such as Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler critique her on Idol. "[Steven's] been a rock star forever," she told ETonline. One of the writers who contributed to her freshman album also works with the Aerosmith leading man, so Steven personally gave his stamp of approval. Randy Jackson and J.Lo have also offered "encouraging words" and "good feedback" on the forthcoming record.
Staying grounded by her roots, Haley proudly features her beloved father on four tracks. "It's an honor that I'll always cherish forever. I just need to get my mom and sister on the next one," she said with much gratitude. The daddy's girl found it "comforting" when her patriarch memorably performed with her on the Idol stage.
Phillip has music in his family genes too, having included his brother on a song. "I wanted to be an inspiration for people," Haley said. "I was very excited seeing it become a trend."
Related: Haley Reinhart Out, Two Left on 'American Idol'
On the road to promote her album, one of Haley's premiere stops will be at Lollapalooza. "I'm going to be playing alongside legends like The Black Keys and the Shins," she reported. "I'm honored to be on the same bill." Planning to tour in the fall, the singer/songwriter would love to open for John Mayer.
Listen Up!, on which Haley co-wrote all but one of the songs, will be released on May 22. For an advanced peek, Haley will be performing a free concert at Hard Rock in Hollywood on May 21. She's also "honored" to take the stage in New York on May 18 for Girls Who Rock, a non-profit organization that sponsors girls' education in developing countries.