MAUREPAS -- Livingston singer Laine Hardy knew he’d be cringing when he saw himself on television Monday night.
He may have been the only one.
Hardy, a 17-year-old senior from French Settlement High, made his debut on Season 16 of “American Idol,” wowing judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan with an acoustic rendition of “Hurricane” by Band of Heathens.
More than 50 people attended a watch party at Sarita’s Grill and Cantina in Maurepas in honor of Hardy, the quiet, untrained blues/country singer who punched his ticket to the Hollywood round of the popular television series last fall.
Hardy’s budding celebrity had already started to grow well before the Livingston Parish native appeared on television Monday night as snippets of his audition aired in many “American Idol” promos.
His face flashed on commercials during the “American Music Awards” and the Super Bowl, and a large clip of his New Orleans audition at Mardi Gras World was featured on a recent episode of ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Hardy’s Facebook and Instagram following has grown as a result of the exposure, with messages of support and well wishes flooding his inboxes.
He’s also getting the fanfare outside of social media: Earlier Monday, Hardy said a pizza man delivered an order to his sister and asked, ‘is this where Laine Hardy lives.’” Once Hardy’s sister, Brittany Banta, said yes, the man responded, ‘I can’t believe I delivered pizza to a famous person.’”
After finally appearing on the nationally televised singing competition, Hardy’s star is bound to reach new heights, and he plans to enjoy every second of it.
“So far, it’s been hectic and crazy, but I like it,” he said while seated at a table next to his mother, Cindy. “I didn’t think this was gonna happen, but it’s happened, and seeing all these people come here and be happy to see me when they come means a lot.”
Hardy was plenty busy before Monday’s show aired. Dressed casually in a long-sleeve blue shirt, light blue jeans, a pair of brown leather boots, and a hat pulled low, he made his way around the restaurant to thank people for coming out. He shook hands, exchanged hugs, took pictures, and even signed some autographs.
Though “Idol” began at 7 p.m., Hardy didn’t appear until an hour into the show, and the long wait had the shy, nervous teenager bouncing around the room as he and everyone else there anxiously awaited his television debut.
“It’s gonna be weird watching me on T.V.,” Hardy said. “I know I’m gonna be cringing.”
People in the room went crazy when their young star appeared on two flat screens hanging in the restaurant’s party room, with a couple people shouting “there he is” and “look at that hair.”
In the near 6-minute clip, Hardy talked about his recent start to singing and his musical inspiration Elvis Presley, whom the teenager “always wanted to be.” He also talked about his hobbies, which are no different from other boy who “grows up on the swamps.”
“Fishing, kayaking, alligator hunting — anything you want to do,” Hardy said as the clip switched to him chasing a turkey.
Hardy’s parents, who were also interviewed for the segment, discussed their surprise that their youngest child started singing in the first place.
“When he started singing a year and a half ago, we couldn’t believe it,” Hardy’s father Barry said in the clip. “He would just ride down the road and just park where no one could hear him. He was in the woods alone playing guitar and singing.”
All voices in Sarita’s died down once Hardy started singing on television in front of the three “American Idol” judges, who seemed to be as impressed as anyone watching from the Maurepas restaurant.
Lionel Richie closed his eyes and smiled as Hardy began the song, shortly before Hardy hit a note that made Bryan give his fellow judges an astonished look.
The three judges didn’t need to take a vote after this audition.
“I think if you ain’t careful, you might win American Idol,” Bryan told Hardy, who covered his mouth in shock.
“You’re in,” Katy Perry said before later adding that “he looks like a young Elvis.”
“You’ve got fire in those vocal chords,” said Richie as he handed Hardy his golden ticket to the Hollywood round.
Hardy’s friends and family members erupted in applause at the conclusion of his appearance on “Idol,” forcing the bashful teenager to get in front and take a bow.
“Laine’s going to Hollywood!” shouted his older brother Kyle while everyone cheered from behind.
Hardy’s next appearance on “American Idol” will come in the Hollywood round, the next obstacle for the shy FSHS senior. He said he’s still working on overcoming his nerves — you could see sweat on his face as he sang in front of Richie, Perry and Bryan — but he added that he already feels like he’s come a long way in a short time.
Being on television in front of millions of people certainly helps.
“This experience has helped me come out of my shell a little bit more,” he said. “I’m not as shy as I used to be.”