‘American Idol’ Winner Laine Hardy Talks Returning Home for Disney Night

American Idol Laine Hardy
Eric McCandless/ABC

A year after Laine Hardy won American Idol, the rising country music star returns home to the show that started it all. Although “home” is looking a little different these days as recent events have led the singing competition to go remote.

Contestants have been performing for America’s vote from their respective residences. Next up for the top 11 is the popular “Disney Night.” In keeping with the week’s theme, Hardy will give us his rendition of Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway” covered by Rascal Flatts for the 2006 Cars movie.

“I’m really excited to get back on the show,” the singer said. “Idol has been nothing but good to me. It will be nice to connect to the fans again. I talked to the judges at a premiere event in California a while back. They were asking how I was doing. It’s the same old, same old. They are really good people. I appreciate them.”

Here, the 19-year-old boy from the Bayou updates us on what he has been up to and shares more about his Idol reunion.

Laine Hardy

(Credit: Robby Klein)

How would you sum up the past year?

Laine Hardy: It has been overwhelming, exciting, full of a rush of adrenaline. A blur basically. I didn’t feel any different personality-wise. Nothing changed for me as a person. Everything that came with the win, all these fans that voted for me and got me where I am. It’s crazy to think of. I’m still processing it all. It’s cool fans are wanting to take pictures with me, sing along at my shows. It’s truly awesome.

Did you have a say about what you’d be performing for your Idol return?

We discussed it, and I didn’t have a problem doing it. Life really is a highway. A straight highway. If you get off track, then you’re not going down the right path. That’s how I perceive the song. I’ve been practicing it, listening to Rascal Flatts, great singers. I like to think of that song and listen to it because I like to stay straight on the road. Just keep taking care of business. Keep going.

Laine Hardy

(ABC/Image Group LA)

What can viewers expect from your take on the song?

It’s a fun composition we put together. That’s all I’ll say.

How much of a Disney fan are you?

I used to watch old VHS tapes of all the Disney movies like Hercules and Cinderella and Pocahontas. Disney is really awesome.

Do you have any favorites this season?

I watch as much as I can. It’s cool how they’re doing everything and working with what they got given everything going on. I don’t really have a favorite because they are all my favorites. They are all amazing and unique in their own ways.

What kind of advice would you give them as they get closer to the end?

Have fun with it. Don’t overthink situations. When you get into a bind, try to figure it out and work it out. It’s serious, but you have to have fun. Stay who you are because you’re the only person that could be you.

You’ve released two singles “Let There Be Country” and “Ground I Grew Up On,” which one could argue has added meaning in these times.

These songs I released really take me back. People who grew up in small towns. “Ground I Grew Up On” makes me think of my childhood. Going out all the time, climbing trees, hanging out with my buddies. It’s a warm, sweet song. I relate to it in a lot of ways. I hope it connects to the people that listen to it. We shot the music video right before the quarantine was put into action. It was my first music video I ever shot. It was a great experience. I didn’t know what to expect. The video has all kinds of things I used to do and do now in it. It’s a closer look at my personal life for my fans.

Over the past few weeks you’ve been doing a virtual tour across more than 15 online stops. What has that experience been like?

The idea came from us not being able to be on the road. We decided to do this virtual tour, and I was all for it. At first, it was different. It was smooth though, and I got to connect with fans. Answer any questions they may have. Update them on my life and what I’ve been doing. If you look at it this way, a social media account is like a venue in this case.

You’re scheduled to hit the road again later this year, even performing on the same bill as Toby Keith. How do you think country music embraced you?

I opened for Toby Keith last year at the Volvo Car Stadium in South Carolina. He is a great guy. He puts on a great show. He really has a die-hard fan base. I’m excited to open up for him again with this upcoming tour after all this is over. When I went to Nashville in June of last year, I started writing songs Monday through Friday.

I was there for three months. At first, I didn’t know how to write a song. I’ve always been really curious and fascinating with song writing. It was great to learn from these amazing song writers. They were really patient and welcoming to me. I appreciated everyone I wrote with. I always asked questions about where they draw their ideas and the melodies. They taught me a lot of the things. I want to do an album in the future. I’ll be releasing more songs soon. It’s a surprise when.

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