Hardy, Arkansas’ Lauren Gray impressed judges so much on “American Idol” this season that Jennifer Lopez told her, “You’re one of the best female voices we’ve heard.” During her unforgettable audition she sang Adele’s “One and Only,” prompting Lopez to end the day with, “I have two words for today: Lauren Gray.”
Before “American Idol,” Lauren worked in her family’s one-stop wedding shop, and sang in her father’s southern rock band every weekend. Lauren almost made it to the Top 24 — her time on the show has definitely launched her music career into overdrive. She’s back home with her family now, but since the show she has appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” performed numerous shows locally, and started getting ready for an American Idol tour this summer. Lauren takes a break from recording to talk about her musical influences, her time on “American Idol,” and her plans for the future.
You perform in a band with your father. Growing up, did your dad make sure music was something the family was involved in together?
Lauren: There are three of us … my brother and my sister as well. We were all very involved in my dad’s career. We got to be involved in concerts and outdoor festivals. He got us involved in everything he did in music and that’s what makes us so close.
In your audition, Jennifer Lopez said, “You’re one of the best female voices we’ve heard?” A lot of people were upset that they let you go. What do you think happened?
Lauren: Honestly, I think it’s because they knew I wasn’t very competitive. And I’m not. I never have been. I’ve always done music because I loved it and because it’s the first thing on my mind. There were people there who were very competitive. They were headstrong and competitive and they knew what they wanted. Of course, I’ve always known what I wanted. I just want to sing and do music. I believe they saw that in me. They just saw how laid back I was. Maybe the competition wasn’t what I needed. I still think they believed in me or they wouldn’t have done what they did for me. I kind of think that maybe that was their point in saying we can see what we can do for you by putting you out there and showing this much of you. Even though you didn’t make it to the end, how well can you do? That’s kind of how I think about it.
On your final performance, the judges said you needed to believe in yourself and you agreed. Did you not believe you could make it to the end?
Lauren: Well, every time I made it through a round I was kind of shocked. I know I’m a great singer and I have passion for what I do, but I have never been involved in something that big. Every time I made it through a round, I thought, thank God. I can’t believe this is happening to me. No, I don’t believe I didn’t believe in myself.
When you were in Hollywood for the taping, what did you miss most from back home?
Lauren: I missed my family. Nobody was able to come and see me for the journey. The worst thing about it was if I got upset, I had no one there to calm me down or talk to me. I did call my mom and dad but all you can do is talk to them on the phone. So that was the worst part. Being lonely at night and missing your family.
What have you been up to since the show?
Lauren: As soon as I came back home I started singing. Whatever I could do — if it’s a benefit for school … I want to be involved. Whatever I can do around here to help out, I am all for it. We’ve been recording, and my dad and I have been writing music. And I went on Ellen DeGeneres. That was very exciting. I was hoping out of everything that happened that Ellen would want me to be on her show, and she did and that just blew my mind. I am so happy about that.
Do you plan on releasing an album anytime soon?
Lauren: I am under contract with American Idol until the show is over. So I can’t do too much right now. We’re hoping to release an album. We’ve got two songs put down now and they are wonderful.
Will this be your own album or with American Idol?
Lauren: This album will be more of my own album. I am working with Doug Deforest. He works with Ron Geslin from RCA. They are working together to see what they can come up with for me. My dad has put down guitar and harp on a couple of tracks. I believe it should be out by the end of the year.
Are you going on tour this summer with American Idol?
Lauren: It’s the new tour they started last year called “Far From Idol World Tour.” Last year it was called “Far From Idol World Tour Japan.” There are three different tours. I chose the middle leg of the tour and it’s about a month long. We are touring Egypt, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. I can’t wait. It’s going to be amazing.
With who is left on the show, who do you think has a chance at winning?
Lauren: My personal take would be Joshua. He’s from Westlake, Louisiana, and he and I actually lived very close to each other. He’s just a great guy. I hope he wins it.
When your audition aired on TV, Ryan Seacrest said “Eight years ago Carrie Underwood launched her career in St. Louis. Maybe this is the start for Lauren Gray.” Where do you see yourself in 8 years?
Lauren: Hopefully with an album out and doing a big tour across the world. I just hope that everyone keeps up with me. A lot of times that happens with American Idol. Sometimes you really like someone and then you never hear from them again. I just hope I can promote myself well. I just want people to hear and know my music. That’s all I ever really wanted.
Who are your musical influences?
Lauren: My favorite artist is Jonny Lang. He’s a young blues artist kind of like myself. I like Joss Stone, Aretha Franklin, Pink and Adele.
What would your fans be surprised to learn about you?
Lauren: Honestly at how natural I really am. I don’t wear a lot of makeup. Sometimes I walk around barefoot in my yard. My environment has been a big part of who I am. I go fishing, hunting, swimming, canoeing, and kayaking. I’m just natural and outdoorsy.
Check out Lauren Gray’s official website for a tour schedule and the latest news.