WednesdayJan 15, 20209:00 PM
It's tempting to imagine Alaina as the small-town girl who appears in her 2011 song "Growing Her Wings," locked in a bedroom and dreaming of bigger things. But in truth, this Rossville, Georgia, native took flight at a very young age. She began singing at three and did so pretty much anywhere she could: churches, restaurants, karaoke, family gatherings and, by age eight, talent shows. She won one after another between trips to perform in Nashville, so it shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone who knew her that, as a teen, Alaina would step away from serving pizza at CiCi's to try out for Idol. Though she was the Season 10 runner-up, she scored big with a Mercury Nashville record deal, then repaid the favor with her first LP, 2011's Wildflower, the best-selling debut from a female country star since 2006. While that set featured big, crisp production, it was fueled by laid-back grooves, driving Southern rock and the occasional banjo strum. Alaina's long-awaited follow-up, 2016's Road Less Traveled, carried that same feeling forward but with more modern flourishes (producer busbee is as much known for his work with Shakira as Maren Morris). The songs also brought new insight into Alaina's personal life, as she sang about family struggles, romantic troubles and, most importantly, making it to the other side.