Life After ‘Idol’: Allison Iraheta on Her Musical ‘Art Project,’ Singing Backup on ‘Despacito’

Now that “American Idol” is back, that means a new  crop of Golden Ticket-wielding hopefuls will soon be off to Hollywood. What can they expect from the journey ahead? Season eight alum Allison Iraheta, who came in fourth behind winner Kris Allen and runner-up Adam Lambert, could write the playbook on how to navigate a career beyond reality TV and into reality.

“Idol” enthusiasts remember Iraheta as a pink-haired force of nature, powering her way for weeks on end as her fellow finalists were eliminated one by one. Since the show’s 2009 run, Iraheta has a established a best-of-both-worlds situation, fronting her own band, Halo Circus, formed with her husband Matthew Hager, as well as singing as part of Rickey Minor’s house band, a gig that’s led to performances “Idol,” “Dancing with the Stars,” and “The Four.” Her backup singing gig for Minor has also given Iraheta a bird’s eye view of some of the biggest stars in music, as she did in January performing at the Clive Davis pre-Grammy gala with Beyonce and Jay-Z in the audience. It was there that the Spanish-speaking Iraheta got to join Luis Fonsi in an impromptu performance of “Despacito.”

On Friday (March 16), Iraheta’s Halo Circus will release their second album, “Robots and Wranglers.” Mixed by Craig Bauer (Rihanna, Kanye West), it’s a departure from the band’s origins as a four-piece rock outfit. Why the change? “It happened naturally,” Iraheta tells Variety. “I tell people all the time that Halo Circus is an art project. … Matthew and I discovered a very cool, interesting electronic sound.”

That sound explodes from the first track, “Oh, Money,” which Iraheta says came from her personal experience with keeping a touring band solvent. “Being a do-it-yourself kind of band, it’s interesting seeing how much of an impact money has on everything,” she says.

Another song, “Narcissist,” is an in-your-face admonishment of the public’s infatuation with social media. “I was just doing my best Eminem impression,” says Iraheta.

As Halo Circus gets ready to hit the road, and with “Idol” back on the air, Iraheta continues to count her blessings. “I have been showered in miracles in the last five years,” she says. “I’m grateful for  all of these opportunities.”

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