In October of 2018, country music songbird Lauren Alaina watched as her beloved stepfather Sam Ramker lost his battle with cancer. In January of 2019, she and her longtime love Alex Hopkins broke off their engagement. And in September of 2019, on the very same day she took the stage on the hit TV reality/competition series “Dancing With the Stars” for the very first time, Alaina revealed that she and new boyfriend John Crist had broken up.
And then, she took a deep breath.
And then, she danced.
And then, she was forever changed.
“I grew so much personally,” she says of her time on the popular dance competition show. “But it was definitely a time of intense growth for me. I was away from home and away from my family and everything I knew. It was just a very emotionally charged time for me. It totally took me out of my comfort zone.”
Soon, Alaina would find herself taking the stage not to sing about what was going on in her personal life, but to dance to its memory. Her contemporary dance to her song, “The Other Side,” paid tribute to the story of her stepfather’s death. She danced the foxtrot as a tribute to her cousin who was dealing with some serious health issues at the time. And despite the heartbreak that seemed to be following her, Alaina danced the Paso Doble to the inspiring hit “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by fellow “American Idol” alum Kelly Clarkson.
And with every move, the Georgia native’s heart began to heal.
“It was so fun to dance and express myself through something else than writing songs,” says Alaina, who ended up coming home in fourth place on “DWTS” alongside pro partner Gleb Savchenko. “I was able to go through what was happening in my life through dance, while, at the same time, entertaining others.”
And now, Alaina says she is ready to make some changes.
“I’ve always been the kind of person that’s planning what’s next and a person that just sets a lot of goals for herself,” she says. “I’m always looking for more, but I have learned that it’s good to be still sometimes. Whether you are in the middle of the hard times or the good times, you just have to be present. You have to be in the right now. That is my message that I’m personally hanging onto right now.”
Of course, some things never change, and one of those things for Alaina is the chance to perform for her fans.
“Just to think that I’m headlining this show gives me a serious case of the chills,” says Alaina, who is set to make a Jan. 24 stop in Rosemont as part of her That Girl Was Me Tour. “I’ve done so much in my career, from ‘American Idol’ to ‘DWTS’ to going out on the road with people like Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean. This tour brings all of those pieces together like never before.”
Telling her story through songs such like her No. 1 hit “Road Less Traveled” and her chart-topping collaboration with Kane Brown on “What Ifs,” Alaina says this tour will show off her personal and professional growth and all the emotion that came with it.
“It’s definitely the most production we have ever done,” she says. “I honestly feel like I tell my story through the songs. It’s a really emotionally charged set list.”
It’s a set list that will inevitably harken back to her personal life.
“I have had some major upsets in the love department, and that is very difficult to do publicly,” she says quietly. “To go through that and have millions of people talking about it — it wasn’t easy. I mean, there was a time when I wanted to get married and have kids and find a job that gave me good health insurance. There was a time when I couldn’t even imagine not getting married.”
She stops for a moment.
“[Former fiance] Alex [Hopkins] and I were together for seven years and then we got engaged and then we were supposed to get married and then we realized that we might not be best for one another,” she recalls. “I will love him forevermore.”
But that was then. Her current single, “Getting Good,” touches on the importance of living in the now. She just purchased a new house. And yes, she is dating again.
“I’m happy being a single adult,” she says, laughing. “I go on dates but I’m really bad at it.”
Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.