On September 22, 2017, singer/songwriter Haley Reinhart will release What’s That Sound?, her debut release for Concord Records, where she recently signed as a recording artist. The album finds Reinhart digging into her rich musical heritage and reimagining some of rock-and-roll’s most legendary songs.
Hailing from the Chicago area, Reinhart has previously shown her rare gift as a song interpreter with her certified-gold remake of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (a 2015 release whose video has amassed over 20 million YouTube views). The L.A.-based 26-year-old has also emerged as the leading artist on Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, with her jazzed-up versions of tracks like Radiohead’s “Creep” earning more than 112 million views to date.
What’s That Sound? features 11 renditions of classic songs from the 1960s, as well as three original tracks from Reinhart. A captivating vocalist who started singing in her parents’ rock band when she was just seven, Reinhart purposely honed in on songs originally released between 1966 and 1969.
“There is an undeniable connection between the late ’60s and now,” says Reinhart. “They’re both turbulent, yet hopeful times. As I thought of what songs I’d like to reinterpret, I wanted to bring these similarities to the forefront. I also feel the urge to spread the revolutionary idea of people coming together through love and music.”
In co-producing What’s That Sound? with GRAMMY Award-winner John Burk, Reinhart stayed remarkably authentic to the sonic landscape of the ’60s. Made at the historic Sunset Sound, the album was recorded to tape in order to achieve a warm, vibrant feel true to the era. According to Reinhart, the thrill and challenge of analog recording brought a potent energy to the production of What’s That Sound?.
“We recorded each song live as a band and there’s something special that happens when everyone’s all grooving together like that,” says Reinhart. “There’s no way to replicate the feeling—so even though I thought I’d go back and re-cut the vocals later on, I ended up keeping most of the raw takes. I think it really fits this record and reflects my roots.”
Mixed by Bill Schnee (a GRAMMY winner known for his work with Marvin Gaye, Rod Stewart, and Steely Dan), What’s That Sound? was also recorded using solely vintage instruments. Much of that gear was personally supplied by Reinhart’s lineup of veteran musicians, a cadre that includes her father (Harry Reinhart) on guitar and her mother (Patti Miller-Reinhart) on backup vocals.
Also joining Reinhart on What’s That Sound? is her Postmodern Jukebox collaborator Scott Bradlee, who plays piano on her masterful covers of The Beatles’ “Oh! Darling”, The Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon”, and The Mamas & The Papas’ “Words of Love”. In addition, Reinhart’s longtime musical cohort Casey Abrams appears as a vocalist and bassist on her glorious update of The Zombies’ “Time of the Season”, Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” and her anthemic original “Bring the Love Back Home”.
Right from its first featured cover, What’s That Sound? shows the full force of Reinhart’s formidable vocal work. A longtime staple of her live set, “Baby It’s You” proves her knack for powerful belting. Although the song was originally recorded by The Shirelles, Reinhart’s horn-backed and sweetly gritty version draws inspiration from a rendition by blues/psych-rock band Smith—a track that, in a serendipitous twist, was mixed by Bill Schnee back in 1969.
Another song spotlighting Reinhart’s stunning vocal range, her fiery cover of The Box Tops’ “The Letter” finds her brilliantly matching Alex Chilton’s moody growl. “He has such a guttural, raspy tone to his voice, and I wanted to try to create the girl version of that,” says Reinhart. “It ended up coming way more naturally to me than I even thought it would.”
The era-defining track that gave What’s That Sound? its title, “For What It’s Worth” opens with a quietly haunting intro before unfolding into a full-fledged anthem. With its stirring string accompaniment (courtesy of esteemed composer Tom Scott), the song reveals Reinhart’s supreme vocal command as she lends new weight to Buffalo Springfield’s ever-poignant lyrics.
In each of the original tracks featured on What’s That Sound?, Reinhart’s timeless sensibilities are found to closely inform her own songcraft. Those gracefully arranged pieces include the album-opening “Let’s Start”, which gives a breezy nod to Brazilian music with its bright harmonies and tropicalia-inspired rhythms.
From her sorrowful howl on “Oh! Darling” to the steely intonation of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”, What’s That Sound? exudes a vocal confidence that Reinhart’s honed through a lifetime of singing. Thanks to her parents’ long-running band Midnight, she grew up on rock-and-roll, jazz, funk, and blues and began mastering each genre in early childhood. Along with joining Midnight onstage throughout her youth, Reinhart studied jazz in college and played in jazz festivals across Europe while still a teenager. After finishing in third place on season 10 of American Idol at age 20, she released her acclaimed 2012 debut Listen Up! via Interscope Records. Arriving in 2016, Reinhart sophomore album Better featured “Can’t Help Falling in Love”—a spirited remake that’s garnered over 56 million streams on Spotify.
In addition to collaborating and touring with Postmodern Jukebox since 2015, Reinhart recently ventured into voice-acting by starring alongside Bill Burr, Laura Dern and Justin Long in F Is for Family (a Netflix original animated series whose second season premieres May 30). Also known for her impassioned live performance, she had her first solo headlining tour of the U.S. last summer and recently completed her first solo headlining European tour.
For Reinhart, creating What’s That Sound? ultimately deepened her connection to the music that’s long colored her world. “The beauty in the simplicity of these songs hit me more than ever while recording,” she says. “Most of the original versions aren’t even three minutes long, but there’s so much power in their words and melodies — they leave you wanting more.”
In introducing each song to a new generation, Reinhart hopes that power will have a lasting impact on listeners. “I’d love for people to hear this album and think about how it relates to our modern world,” she says of What’s That Sound?. “Even though we’re all faced with challenges, it’s also a chance for us to become more aware and more in tune with each other. Hopefully these songs will move people in a positive way and help them realize that good things will happen when we stick together.”