''Before I was on 'American Idol,' I thought it would be so easy," says Lauren Alaina, the "American Idol" season 10 runner-up. "It was so shocking to me how much hard work I had to put into it. I'm so glad it wasn't as easy as I expected because it prepared me -- I feel like no matter what comes at me, I'll be able to handle it."
Now, the 16-year-old Georgia native is preparing to release her debut album, "Wildflower," Oct. 11 through 19/Interscope/Mercury Nashville. It was recorded during the summer while Alaina was on the American Idols Live! tour. "I was singing at night and waking up and recording my album," she says. "[Producer] Byron Gallimore would fly to where I was and we'd do it there." Recording sessions took place in cities including Chicago, Atlanta and Nashville. "I was really lucky because there were good studios around," Alaina says. "We would just drive over to the studio and get to business."
In selecting songs, the high school junior, who plans to take classes online this year, kept her fan base in mind by picking material that was ageb-- and lyrically appropriate. "I have adult fans too, but I feel like the adults would respect me more for singing songs that are appropriate for my age than singing grown-up songs," she says.
She says the title track was a perfect fit. "That's my personality. I'm a wildflower." And the lead single, "Like My Mother Does," is also autobiographical. "I fell in love with it because me and my mom are best friends," she says of the song, which peaked at No. 2 on Billboard's Country Digital Songs chart and is No. 39 this week on Hot Country Songs. "We do pretty much everything together... My mom and I have always been so close, but being on 'American Idol,' I feel like it brought us even closer."
Alaina, who's been writing songs since she was 9, co-wrote "Funny Thing About Love" with Brett James and Luke Laird. "We actually wrote another song first and then we just started randomly jamming and came up with the music, then I started spitting out words for it," she says. "We put together a chorus and then I called them four or five days later and we [finished] the song."
The album also includes a tune by one of Alaina's heroes, Carrie Underwood, who co-wrote "Eighteen Inches" with Kelley Lovelace and Ashley Gorley.
In June, 19/Interscope/Mercury Nashville released the "American Idol Season 10 Highlights: Lauren Alaina" EP exclusively to Walmart to whet fans' appetites (the project peaked at No. 6 on Top Country Albums), and "Wildflower" has been promoted through a presale campaign on Alaina's website and postcards announcing the street date that were handed out during the American Idols Live! tour. Additional support will come from advertising at radio, TV and print outlets.
In a strategic move by the labels involved, the debut album from "American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery, "Clear As Day," arrived Oct. 4 (also on 19/Interscope/Mercury Nashville), one week before "Wildflower."
"They do share a fan base together by nature of sharing the 'American Idol' experience together," Universal Music Group Nashville VP of marketing Tom Lord says of Alaina and McCreery. "This allows us to message both releases to the fan base, so people going to retail to buy one will see the other positioned at retail at the same time."
"We went one week apart from each other so that they can each have their own street date," Lord adds, "and so that they wouldn't be competing with each other for similar media bookings in the same week."
"It's really cool that our careers are being laid out around the same time," Alaina says of McCreery. "We went through this whole experience together. That's a bond we don't have with anyone else."