By Phyllis Stark. CREATED Dec 22, 2013
At 19-years-old, Lauren Alaina took a big step in her life and career this month when she moved into a Nashville apartment, and away from her family and hometown near Chattanooga, Tenn.
The singer, who took second place (behind fellow teen country singer Scotty McCreery) when she competed on season 10 of “American Idol,” has been breaking away gradually ever since, first getting an apartment in Chattanooga when she turned 18. But the singer, who is working on her second album for Mercury/19/Interscope Records, tells Nashville Edge, “I knew that I was going to have to move to Nashville eventually. I needed to be here before now, but it’s just hard to find a place that you feel like is going to be your home.”
Before a holiday ski vacation with her family—her first time trying the sport—Lauren organized a small group of friends and media to go door-to-door Christmas caroling in a Nashville neighborhood last week. She dubbed the group “The Hallelaina Chorus” and at one home was told by a friendly but unsuspecting woman. “You’re really good. You should audition for ‘American Idol.’” Lauren responded with a straight face, “I probably wouldn’t win.”
Afterwards, she told Nashville Edge that wasn’t an isolated incident. “I never stop singing, ever,” she says. “I sing more than I talk, and I talk a lot. [So] she’s not the first person that’s ever said that to me. It’s always just kind of really awkward. I don’t know the right way to respond. If I say, “Well I WAS on ‘American Idol’ they’re going to be really embarrassed.”
Lauren recently channeled her considerable energy and vocal talent into recording a holiday song, “Grown Up Christmas List,” which is available now at iTunes, with all proceeds going to Special Olympics, an organization for which she serves as an ambassador. The release coincides with the 26th anniversary of the Special Olympics’ “A Very Special Christmas” holiday music series, which has generated more $116 million in royalties in support of Special Olympics programs since it began in 1987.
Lauren remembers being obsessed as a child by the version of “My Grown Up Christmas List” sung by season one “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson, and she felt the song’s inspiring message was a natural choice for Special Olympics.
Watch Lauren and producer Nathan Chapman work on and discuss the track in the video above.
Lauren has been involved with Special Olympics since she started with her local hometown chapter at just 11-years-old. In her more recent role as an ambassador, she spent a week last year in PyeongChang, South Korea, to participate in the Special Olympics Winter Games.
Growing up with a cousin with an intellectual disability first sparked Lauren’s interest in Special Olympics. In middle school, she befriended two students who also had intellectual challenges after she noticed they took their lunch trays to a classroom rather then eating in the cafeteria with other students.
“It kind of made me mad,” she says, “so I started skipping my lunch and eating with them. I just immediately formed a bond with them, and I still have a bond with them . . . They’re some of my best friends in the entire world.”
Consequently, she says, “I try to do as much as I can to spread the word and make people more aware of Special Olympics and what it’s all about . . . It’s been one of the most incredible things I’ve ever been a part of, and if I can share that with other people, then I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do in life.”
Special Olympics isn’t the only charity Lauren supports. On Dec. 17 she made a surprise visit to Nashville’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt as part of the charity Musicians On Call’s weekly bedside performance programs. She spent time with several patient families, and performed a mini-concert of holiday standards.