Allison Iraheta has come a long way since her awkward first interview with Ryan Seacrest.
The spunky 17-year-old singer, who stuttered and stammered when the “American Idol” host prodded her about school at the beginning of the eighth season, went on to win rave reviews from the judges throughout the competition, standing out early on with a rendition of Heart’s “Alone” and leaving a lasting impression with her take on Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby.”
It wasn’t enough to win; Iraheta placed fourth behind Kris Allen, Adam Lambert and Danny Gokey on the Fox network show. Yet she still snagged a record deal with “Idol” label 19 Recordings and Jive Records. Her album, “Just Like You,” will be in stores Tuesday. The redhead —who’s added purple and pink streaks to her memorable coif — says her pop-rock collection accents her innate edginess.
Unlike other teen “Idols” such as David Archuleta and Jordin Sparks, the plucky Los Angeles native is unapologetic when she speaks, breaking out into goofy voices and using language not found on the Disney Channel. In a recent interview, Iraheta talked about recording her album, gaining confidence and collaborating with another fourth-place “Idol” finisher.
The Associated Press: It seems like yesterday we were at the finale, and now you have an album. How does it feel?
Allison Iraheta: I’m obviously excited, finally getting the album out. (It’s) something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time, just getting to work with awesome producers, doing songs that I can really relate to and just get out there, finally living the dream that I’ve always wanted to but never really thought I would.
AP: What was the creative process like when you were recording this album?
Iraheta: The process is crazy, especially when I was on the “Idol” tour. Time was very limited. They would send me songs. I’d take a listen, and if I liked it or not, I’d let them know. I’d be like, “I definitely do not want to do this. This is not me. What’s wrong with you?” I was lucky enough to get some great songs, record ‘em and get ‘em done.
AP: When you’re only 17 and working with established producers and songwriters, how do you fight for your voice?
Iraheta: I think you have to come out strong, and show them who you are as an artist. I think I’ve accomplished that. I pretty much let them know how I want to do this. They really helped me with that. It was all about getting the right songs for me.
AP: What was something you didn’t like?
Iraheta: They actually sent one of the songs from the album called “Don’t Waste the Pretty.” Before Howard Benson did his magic, it was a song that I was totally like, “Ehhhhh. That’s not for me.” The way it was melodically, the song had no rock edge to it. There was just none of that until we took it to Howard Benson, and he totally, totally flipped it.
AP: How would you describe your album?
Iraheta: It’s definitely a pop record with a rock edge over it. There’s just a variety of different sounds. It’s kind of crazy. At first, people were asking me, “What’s up with you coming out with a single that’s straight poppy? What happened to rocker Allison?”
AP: What’s your favorite song on the album?
Iraheta: “No One Else,” the one that Pink and Kara (DioGuardi) wrote. … It’s just something that I really related to. I related to all of the songs but definitely that one the most. It’s such a heartfelt song. You could pretty much dedicate that to anyone.
AP: What was it like working with Chris Daughtry on the album? You both came in fourth place on different seasons of “Idol.”
Iraheta: We kept talking about how crazy it was we both came in fourth place. He was telling me how, when he got cut, he was so bummed but that everything worked out. I was like, “I felt that way too, man!” He’s cool.
AP: How is your life different now after the tour and recording the album? Did you go back to school?
Iraheta: I’m still doing independent studies. It’s a little hard. I’m trying to get it out of the way. My life is totally different. People know who I am now. Not only do people stare at me because of the redness in my hair, but they act like they know me, even if they don’t remember my name. They’ll say, “Hey, it’s that redheaded girl from ‘Idol.’”