By Emma Sarran Webster | January 21, 2016 | People
Wheeling native Haley Reinhart spills on her reaction to the success of her tearjerker gum commercial, what it’s like to work with Vince Vaughn on F is for Family, and how she feels about American Idol ending.
It’s not often that a commercial tugs at our heartstrings and goes viral on YouTube. It’s even less often that it translates into a smash hit song. But the recent Extra gum commercial, “The Story of Sarah & Juan,” did just that—thanks to Haley Reinhart’s moving rendition of the Elvis Presley classic, “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” The commercial has more than 18 million views on YouTube and more than 88 million views on Facebook; and the American Idol alum’s sultry cover of the song, which she initially recorded for the commercial and full-length music video, has amassed more than three million streams on Spotify, and hit number one on Spotify’s Global viral chart.
The song’s success is only one of the many moving pieces that Reinhart—a Chicagoland native—is juggling right now: She’s also acting in the new animated Netflix series, F is for Family, and finalizing her new EP, which will be available this spring. We caught up with Reinhart to talk viral success, Chicago, and the end of American Idol.
What was it like taking on such a classic song like “Can’t Help Falling In Love” for the Extra commercial?
HALEY REINHART: Man, it was pretty cool because it happened [practically] overnight. Wrigley asked me to record it, and I did it the next day—thankfully I know the song; I grew up with it, and my mom [and her] sisters would all sing it when we were young. It’s a beautiful love song, so I think it perfectly fit with the love story for the commercial. I was really pleasantly surprised when I heard that they wanted me to record that one.
What was your reaction when it went viral?
HR: Well, as far as the commercial itself, it wasn’t that big of a surprise to me because, I mean, I teared up when I watched it at first, and anybody that [I] showed [it to] had the same reaction. So, I had a feeling that the commercial itself, maybe paired with my rendition, might get people’s attention. As far as the song itself, though, I didn’t imagine that it would really chart like it did, and that radio stations would start playing it without being paid to do so. Promoters just play it because they like it—it’s pretty unique.
You’re also starring in the new animated Netflix series F is for Family. Tell me a little bit about that.
HR: I’m really excited. Bill Burr is producing it, along with a few other people. It’s basically his story growing up in the ‘70s, and I am playing him as a little boy. I get to get into all kinds of trouble, and it’s a little on the adult side—I get to swear and do all kinds of little boy things—and the whole cast is pretty incredible. This is my debut as a voiceover artist, but I have Laura Dern as my mother, Justin Long as my brother, and Mo Collins… the list goes on—there’s a whole bunch of amazing people on board. I hope that everybody digs it, because it's super funny.
How did the role come about for you?
HR: I think the way that it really happened is once upon a time, I tried out to do this Peanuts movie and realized I could sound like Charlie Brown if I wanted to. They ended up taking all younger kids, but that recording was floating around and I think these folks at F is for Family picked it up and again, it was such a quick thing. They asked me to come in the next day because they really dug it. And I think this show is supposed to take place in Chicago or somewhere around there, so I think that they liked my slang too a little bit—that might have had something to do with it [too].
What was it like working with another Chicagoan, Vince Vaughn, who is an executive producer on the show?
HR: He’s a really sweet guy and the man is just a ball of energy. And we definitely have the hometown connection, so that's really great. I got to work really closely with Bill Burr and the rest of the cast [too]. [Bill has] had me open up for him at Largo in L.A. before he does his comedy act; I’ve also done improv storytelling for Mo Collins. They’re really cool people [in] that they like to take on a newer artist and really work together—it’s been a beautiful experience.
Growing up in Wheeling, did you come into the city often?
HR: Yeah, I did. I wish I got to experience the nightlife a little more because I left before I was 21, but my mom was from the south side [and] my dad was from the north side, so growing up we got a taste of a lot [of Chicago]. It’s really nice to come home. I try to get back as much as possible and do our favorite traditional things.
Any plans for this trip?
HR: My high school band director asked me to perform a few songs with the jazz band, and that’s kind of how I started really performing, aside from [singing with] my parents’ band growing up. We’re playing at the McCormick Place downtown and just doing a few numbers so it’s very sweet. [Check out the video of Haley’s performance with the band here.]
I’m [also] going to try to see both sides of the family, and all my girlfriends are still sticking around here so we definitely have to make our rounds and go to every yummy restaurant. I already stopped at Portillo’s of course, and that was great; and Bob Chinn’s [Crab House]—I live very nearby [... so] I’m going to have to make a couple of stops there.
Speaking of Chicago, you were the first American Idol alum to perform at Lollapalooza. What was that like?
HR: Oh man, that was incredible. I did it with my full band and I got my mom and my sister to sing backups as well, and my dad to get up and play guitar. I love to make it a family affair because I grew up singing with them ever since I was seven—or even younger—and it’s just really nice to bring it home. The support that the city brings is incredible; I can’t even describe it. I would love to do a heck of a lot more shows here, because [Chicagoans] just really bring it. There's nothing like it.
The final season of American Idol is coming up—how does that make you feel?
HR: It’s a very bittersweet thing. It’s had such a great, long run and I’m very thankful for the way it worked out for me and for so many other people. I don’t doubt that the show is going down in history as the originator of so many more shows like it to come, and I think that out of all of them, there’s really been so much success and so many breakout artists that have truly made their mark and just blossomed into their own artistry, and that says a lot.
Are there any other American Idol artists who have been particularly influential to you?
HR: Growing up, I definitely remembered Kelly [Clarkson] winning, and I think it was something that had a spark fly in my little head. I was like, “Well, geeze, that looks fun and maybe easy, if you can handle it.” And of course it’s not easy, but it’s an incredible experience. I bought a few of [Kelly’s] records as a younger girl—definitely very inspirational.
Your EP is going to be released next year. What can we expect from that?
HR: I’ve been putting together a lot of these songs that I’ve written over the course of three years or so, and I’m just so ready to get out new material. It’ll be pretty funky and sultry. I basically took a lot of these songs that I have [been working on] with multiple producers, and I wanted to connect those sounds, so I had a live band come in. I put together my dream band, including my dad on guitar, and I basically just fused those two sounds together. I’m just amped to get it out to everybody and put out even more.
Are you going to tour at all with this album?
HR: I plan on it, yes. That would definitely be the goal.
Hopefully you can make a couple stops in Chicago.
HR: Heck yeah!
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID WOLFF - PATRICK REDFERNS VIA GETTY IMAGES
January 4, 2019