Louisiana native Laine Hardy has always been a performer. The southern rocker started playing guitar at the age of 8, and by 14 he was performing in a band. When a friend asked him to come with her to audition for the singing competition American Idol, he went along for the ride. The judges saw something in him and eventually he went on to audition himself; a journey that took him all the way to earning the top spot as season 17 Idol winner. New Orleans Magazine caught up with Hardy on his spring virtual tour.

Q: Who or what inspired you to audition for American Idol? The first time I was on the show, my mom encouraged me to try out. The second time, I guess you could say, Luke, Katy and Lionel get the credit. I was just there to help play for a friend.

Q: What was that moment like when you were announced as the winner of American Idol? It is still one big blur. At times it just seems like yesterday that this all started. It has been such a wild ride since Hollywood.

Q: How did growing up in Louisiana influence you and your music? The people here, the people I have grown up around, are so real and have a lot of heart. I try to be true to that in my music.

Q: You’ve said that you’ve been inspired by Elvis; are there any Louisiana musicians you grew up listening to and being inspired by? I think, being exposed to a big mix of music made in Louisiana has influenced me, from jazz to zydeco to rockabilly, it’s all got something to do with who I am and the songs I play and sing.

Q: What was it like to be able to shoot your latest video for the song “Ground I Grew Up On” right here in your home state?  It was the best way possible to shoot my first video with family and friends doing what we do, hanging out and being together on the water. That’s my older brother in the boat with me and my drummer/cousin Trent in the other.

Q: What inspired your two latest releases, “Ground I Grew Up On” and “Let There Be Country?”  “Let There Be Country” is my favorite to play live. That song just talks about what we do, and it rocks. I can’t believe how much “Ground I Grew Up On” describes my upbringing and life here in Louisiana. When my producer Michael Knox played it for me, I knew we needed to cut it.

Q: What has it been like launching a virtual tour as opposed to touring live and in person? Live touring and being in the same room is always the best, but we are all in this together and understand we’ve had to make sacrifices. Luckily, we have ways to stay connected to fans and still play shows through the vTour.

Q: Has it been strange to adjust to life as an Idol? Home always keeps me grounded and inspired. I can take any adjustments when I have the support system I have back here.

Q: What have been some of your favorite places to play live music? We had an awesome show at Six Seconds Saloon in Indy last years on tour.

Q: Where are you looking forward to performing when it’s safe to play live again? Everywhere. The list is long. Texas, Tennessee, Oregon, Ohio, Montana, so many more, and especially here in Louisiana.

Born/raised: Livingston, LA
Education: French Settlement High School.
Favorite movie: Hercules is my favorite Disney movie and I love all of the Rambo and Rocky Series.
Favorite streaming show: Outerbanks.
Book you are reading right now: Bible.
Favorite place to listen to live music: Any one of our great places on the river.
Poor boy, dressed or plain: Dressed.
Favorite crawfish boil vegetable: Corn.

True confession: I am pretty shy.