Haley Reinhart is a child of the 1990s, but her heart is happily grounded in the music of the 1960s.
Now 27, the Illinois-born vocal dynamo is equally well-known for her jazz-drenched singing in the proudly retro group Postmodern Jukebox and on “American Idol,” where she placed third behind Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina during the show’s 10th season in 2011.
Reinhart’s affinity for songs written and recorded decades before her birth was clear on “Idol.” She earned standing ovations from the judges for her performances of The Animals’ version of the vintage blues chestnut “The House of the Rising Sun,” Ben E. King’s “I (Who Have Nothing)” and Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be.”
Now, on her third and newest album – “What’s That Sound?” on Concord Records – Reinhart immerses herself in the music of the 1960s with new passion.
Eleven of the 14 selections are songs recorded by various rock, pop and soul greats in the late 1960s. They include The Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon,” Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” The Zombies’ “Time of the Season,” Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” (whose lyrics also provide the title of “What’s That Sound?”) and The Beatles’ “Oh, Darling!” (which she fared well with on “Idol”).
“Writing my own songs is important,” Reinhart said.
“But when Concord mentioned the idea of doing a covers album, I realized some of my deepest memories and musical loves are for classic-rock. And many of these songs were in the repertoire of my parents’ band, Midnight, which I started singing with when I was 7.
“My new album feature most of my favorite classic-rock and pop songs, and they’re all from between 1967 and 1969.”
Their allure, she explained, goes beyond the music.
“We wanted to pinpoint the songs and the album to a time – and to the lifestyle and fashion of the time,” she said, speaking from Los Angeles.
“There were a lot of social and political movements going on then, and protests. We wanted to show people how similar it is to the times we’re living in now, and bring it all together. Not only to focus on all the craziness in the world, but also people coming together and becoming hyper-aware – and better people.”
If the album is a commercial success, it won’t be the first time Reinhart has introduced younger fans to songs from a previous era.
The video for her hit 2015 version of the 1961 Elvis Presley chestnut “Can’t Help Falling in Love” has amassed more than 100 million views online.
That was the same year her alternately hushed and bluesy torch-ballad reinvention of Radiohead’s “Creep” with Postmodern Jukebox began a more than yearlong stay on Billboard’s digital jazz charts.
The first “Idol” alum to perform (in 2012) at the Lollapalooza festival, Reinhardt was also the first (and only) “Idol” contestant to perform Lambert, Hendricks & Ross’ ebullient version of the Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers gem “Moanin’.” She later duetted on the show with Tony Bennett on “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” and held her own.
“A lot of the younger generation told me: ‘You introduced me to jazz – and I never thought I could like this genre,’ “ Reinhart recalled. “I think everybody, given the opportunity, has the capacity to learn, grow and broaden their horizons.”
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