Haley Reinhart's new EP, "Off the Ground," keeps her focus firmly on connections and relationships in her life. // Courtesy of Max Thompson

Wheeling’s Haley Reinhart looks forward to reconnecting at hometown show

America got its first taste of Wheeling singer Haley Reinhart’s soulful tones just over a decade ago on Season 10 of “American Idol.”

But now, 11 years more confident and with four studio albums under her belt — not to mention branching out to TV, commercial and movie work — the Gold-certified performer is bouncing back from the long COVID shutdowns to tour the Midwest, including Sunday’s performance at the Des Plaines Theatre.

“As an artist and a person, I know I’m meant to spread good messages out there to the audience,” Reinhart said. “It feels like everybody just really needs that, that we need each other. We need to get back into that space where we can all just be present in the moment and feel music and the same kind of emotions together. It’s a beautiful frequency that doesn’t happen all the time, but when you’re in it, there’s nothing like it.”

Her “Off the Ground” EP, released earlier this month, reveres those connections as it touches on love and yearning, passion and desperation, evolving and growing, all with Reinhart’s hallmark sultry, smoky vocals driving the songs.

Along with three postponed headlining tours, she held the release of the EP until things felt “a bit normal” and she could put the songs out on stage.

Performing since she was 9, Wheeling’s Haley Reinhart has made the stage her second home. // Courtesy of Max Thompson

“There’s all these pieces of me that I’ve collected, and I’ve just been waiting for the right time where it felt right,” she said. “I feel like the beauty of an EP is it is really just a tasting platter, a sample platter, if you will. And I love giving people little samples of different personality traits and aspects of my musicality that let people in in a different, new way.”

While one song in particular — “Roll the Dice” — is dedicated to friends and family she’s lost recently, Reinhart says the majority of the EP is more uplifting, about being your own free spirit, giving in to love and elevating your life.

“It’s a universal message of not holding back your creativity or your personality traits or whatever makes you your authentic self,” she said. “I definitely showed a lot of sides of myself on this EP, and I feel like that’s what I would like to send out to people: to be your unique self 100% of the time. Whoever is meant to be around you in your energy, that’s just fate based around you being who you are at your core.”

In that, Reinhart talks the talk, but she also walks the walk. The EP is the latest from her own Reinhart Records label, a chance for her to gain control over her growing platform and her messaging, to still be creative but also be her own boss.

“It gives me this deeper sense of individuality and growth, and also shows those around me and whoever else is looking, ‘Wow, she’s doing it on her own, and she can!'” she said. “I want it to inspire other artists, too, because people can do it. If there was ever a time, it’s now, that people can do it on their own if that’s what they want. … It’s nice to be able to stand here and do what I’m doing.”

Coming back to town on a tour of the Midwest, Haley Reinhart said she cherishes return visits. “Whenever I get to come home and perform, it’s always a great day.” // Courtesy of Max Thompson

Reinhart acknowledges that the label — and the career as a whole — amount to a lot of hard work, but growing up surrounded by musicians in her family, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Just born and bred into musicality and basically on the stage or near the stage as an infant, you know? Hearing that music, and my mom was playing full-time, singing when she was nine months pregnant with me. So, it’s one of those things where it’s just completely, always in the veins,” she said.

“They played such cool clubs and festivals and things,” she explained. “I started to get on stage and actually perform for hundreds of people at an international tattoo convention. That was my first, on my 9th birthday, and I’ll never forget. It was one of those ‘Aha!’ moments where I was just like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m never doing anything else ever.’ A guy looking like ZZ Top rolled up a $20 and threw it my way, and I’m just like, ‘This is cool. This is too cool!'”

Reinhart found success through her releases and collaborations with the musical act Postmodern Jukebox. And her twist on Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” recorded for a gum commercial, ended up as a chart-topping radio hit, earned a gold plaque from the RIAA and netted more than 335 million Spotify streams and 100 million YouTube views within a few years of its release. And she also had the honor of being the first “American Idol” competitor to play Chicago’s Lollapalooza, a feat she pulled off in 2012.

But the performing bug has also taken her elsewhere, as voice-over work landed her a role in the animated Netflix series “F Is for Family” and her acting led to a role in director Robert Rodriguez’s film “We Can Be Heroes” and its forthcoming sequel. She also worked with Rodriguez for a short film/music video for “Off the Ground,” the new EP’s title track.

So is all this what Haley Reinhart expected when she first stepped on that “American Idol” stage?

“Yeah, honestly, it’s exactly what I had hoped for. I think I always wanted to pave my own way after ‘Idol.’ Having that cool platform, I wanted to be grateful for all those steppingstones and then just kind of break out and find some unique lane,” she said. “It feels really good to be in a place where I can do it on my own and find that opportunities are finding me. … This is all the exact kind of stuff that I dreamed of doing as a kid.”

• • •

Haley Reinhart

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18
Where: Des Plaines Theatre, 1476 Miner St., Des Plaines, desplainestheatre.com
Tickets: $39-$89

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