Laine Hardy, the 2019 “American Idol” champ, is taking that next big step in his still-young career. He’s releasing his first new music since winning that national “Idol” title, a pair of singles titled “Ground I Grew Up On” and “Let There Be Country.” As an extra bonus, the music video for “Ground I Grew Up On” is now playing on CMT and CMT Music. Throw in a just-launched virtual tour and the 19-year-old Hardy is going to be quite visible in the next few months.
As visible as can be allowed, of course. Like all of us, Hardy has been hunkered down, in this case at his home in Livingston, Louisiana, following the shelter guidelines of COVID-19. “I’m hanging out with my family a little bit,” he says. “And I’ve been trying to get some inspiration for writing.” In a way, it’s fitting that he’s back home, as the two current singles directly relate to his Louisiana roots, even though Hardy did not have a hand in writing them.
“Ground I Grew Up On,” written by Brandon Kinney, Josh Thompson, and Brett Beavers, centers around a young buy showing his girl around his hometown – and the pride he takes in his roots. “Might look like nothin’ but gravel roads/ And tractors rollin’ over them fields,” as the chorus states. “But that’s the ground I grew up on.” Hardy instantly gravitated to the song’s message. “I started working with [producer] Michael Knox and we were going through what songs we might record,” he recalls. “When ‘Ground’ came along, I listened to it over and over again. It was so relatable. The lyrics were spot on. It sounded like how I grew up.” The accompanying video, filmed on the bayou in his home state, will give fans an up-close glimpse into Hardy’s real-life roots. “In the video, you see all the things that I do when I’m home and every aspect of my life,” he says. “It felt natural. I didn’t really have to do a whole lot of acting,” Hardy adds with a slight laugh.
The single “Let There Be Country” is an all-out swamp rocker, written by Jason Afable, Steve Moakler, and Tim Nichols. As with “Ground I Grew Up On,” Hardy felt an immediate and close connection. “That was an awesome song,” he raves. “I heard the first few lines and it was like, ‘Wow!’ We need to record that.” The song kicks off with screaming guitars and has a funky, down-on-the -bayou feel, which would seem more appropriate for a seasoned artist than a fresh-faced newcomer like Hardy. But he pulls it off with credibility and some rootsy chops of his own. He can thank his across-the-board musical taste for that.
“I grew up listening to a variety of music,” Hardy explains. “My mom listened to the Commodores, Temptations, and a lot of the Motown acts. Then, I got into Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, and some of the Southern rock stuff like Lynyrd Skynyrd. I listened to a lot of 60s and 70s music, rock and country. I think I use a little influence from all of them and I’ve started to add those influences to the sounds of my music.”
Hardy will be playing those new songs and others on his “Ground I Grew Up On Virtual Tour,” a series of 15 intimate concerts on various online platforms. Hardy will perform and also chat with fans on each stop of the virtual tour, which runs through May. Here are a few upcoming notable dates: April 14th on CMT, April 15th on “Live With Kelly and Ryan,” and April 19th on ABC’s “American Idol,” the show that started the ball rolling for Hardy.
Hopefully, Hardy will be able to fulfill some of the scheduled live concert shows that had been planned for the year, including dates where he’ll open for Toby Keith. He was booked to play CMA Music Fest in Nashville this June, but that event has already been canceled out of concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was at CMA Fest in 2017 on the Budweiser Stage – Jamie O’Neal brought me up to sing a song with her,” Hardy says. “But this would have been my first time as a headliner on a stage. It’s disappointing,” he adds, “but we understand why it happened. I hope we can get back out on the road real soon and have fun with the fans again.”
Laine Hardy’s singles “Ground I Grew Up On” and “Let There Be Country” are available now on various platforms. For more on Hardy, please visit his website and follow him on social media.