Lauren Alaina is turning 18 on Nov. 8, a rite of passage for any teenager on the verge of adulthood.
She’s celebrating by taking on an 18-city tour to promote her third single “18 Inches.” (18 inches means the distance between the heart and the head.) And it was co-written by Carrie Underwood, something Alaina didn’t know when she first heard the song.
I caught up with her in her tour bus behind Wild Bill’s before sound check for her Oct. 4 concert opening for Rodney Atkins. (It was priced to sell at just $10, courtesy of 94.9/The Bull.)
She was with her tour manager, her manager and her mom. Though she ostensibly attends Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School in Fort Oglethorpe, GA as a senior, she’s really doing all her schoolwork on the road after attending a week in person in August.
“I forgot to how to be a student,” Alaina said. “I’m used to working on my computer on the road. It was nice to see everybody and I will be able to graduate with my friends in May and walk across the stage.” (Her school principal Terri Vandiver keeps track of her studies to make sure she keeps up. She says she’s a good student.)
Alaina’s not sure where she’ll live after she graduates, but odds are pretty good she’ll pick Nashville, since that’s where a vast number of active country artists reside – and it’s not too far from her home of Rossville, GA.
Her past year since the end of the “Idol” has been a whirlwind of appearances and concerts, including four (four!) visits to the Grand Ol’ Opry. “I don’t normally get nervous but the first time I got up there, I was shaking. It was ridiculous!” On stage the first time, she she sang, “Like My Mother Does” and the classic “Blue.”
“It was my dad’s dream to play up there with his banjo,” she said. She hasn’t been able to get him to join her yet though. “He’s really shy now.”
She’s also gotten to open for seemingly every big Georgia artist out there not named Zac Brown: Alan Jackson, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Sugarland. She’s also shared a bill with Chris Young, Hunter Hayes and Trace Adkins.
During the final date with Bryan, she said she ran on stage during “Country Girl, Shake It For Me” and shook her moneymaker. “I love to dance,” she says. “We have dance parties on the bus. I’ll stand on the couch.”
She’s done plenty of TV. Her favorite: “Country Fried Flicks” with Hazel Smith on CMT, a cooking show. “I make a mean turkey wrap,” she said. Inspired, she got up and made a turkey wrap.
She hasn’t seen much of winner Scotty McCreery, who she says is is going to North Carolina State University. She isn’t planning to go to college immediately after graduation.
Her current favorite song is not country. It’s Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake.” Then she sang the chorus. She is also a fan of “Cruise” by Florida-Georgia Line.
She said she’s preparing a second album that will pursue more mature subjects. “Now I’ve had a boyfriend. I’ve just grown up a lot,” she said. “I can be more believable singing about heartbreak at age 18 than when I was 16.”
Although Lauren appears relatively unaffected by the fame and fortune stemming from her new career, she said folks in her town that are not her close friends or family act in awe. “They take pictures of me while I’m eating dinner,’ she said. “It happens everywhere but I notice more when I’m at home.”
And though her mother Kristy Suddeth is no longer obligated to stay with her once Lauren hits 18 in three weeks, Lauren isn’t kicking her off the bus. “She’s going to be with me forever,” Lauren said. “We’re best friends.”
Season 7 “Idol” finalist Michael Johns makes his annual sojourn to Tin Roof Cantina in homage to his old Buckhead days of yore. I attended the beer-sodden soiree last year. It’s great, sweaty fun and Michael resurrects many of the Pearl Jam, Tom Petty and Sublime songs he sang back in the day.