Laine Hardy performs in Lake Charles

Former “American Idol” winner and Livingston Parish native Laine Hardy performs during the Salty Catch Trout Shootout & Festival in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Saturday, June 5, 2021.

For a few hours this month, Laine Hardy brought his nationwide tour back home.

The former “American Idol” winner and Livingston Parish native headlined the Salty Catch Trout Shootout & Festival in Lake Charles on Saturday, June 5.

A portion of the proceeds were set aside to benefit flood victims of southwest Louisiana.

Hardy, who was recently named an official Louisiana ambassador, performed at the Lake Charles Civic Center. He first entertained a VIP audience before taking the amphitheater stage in front of a few hundred fans.

And they were ready for a Hardy Party.

Though many in attendance hailed from Louisiana, there were several who came from outside the state, including Mississippi, Texas, and Florida. Two even said they drove from as far away as Ohio and Michigan.

A slew of fans sat directly in front of the stage, with many wearing Laine Hardy-themed T-shirts. At one point, they chanted his name — “We want Laine! We want Laine!” — before erupting in applause when Hardy walked on stage and grabbed a guitar.

Wearing a green-button down, blue jeans, and a pair of sunglasses on a hot day, Hardy smiled and waved at the crowd before he and the band began playing. 

“Who’s glad to be out here today?” Hardy asked the crowd. “I sure am.”

Hardy played all of his original singles, which he told the crowd will be on his debut album that should be released sometime later this year.

Over the last year, Hardy has released four singles, most recently “Memorize You,” a summer-time groove written by Michael Tyler, Eric Arjes and Steven Dale Jones. The song was produced by Michael Knox, who has worked with Jason Aldean and Thomas Rhett.

“Let's go!” Hardy said of the new song. “I've been so excited to get this out since the moment I heard the mix. I've been asking and asking when we could put it out. Well, it's here and it's time to hit the road to play it for the fans.”

During his Lake Charles show, Hardy also played his other singles “Tiny Town,” “Ground I Grew Up On,” and “Let There Be Country,” which many fans sang along to. He also performed some covers from his “American Idol” days, such as his show-stopping rendition of “Johnny B. Goode.”

Hardy’s performance was part of a larger family-friendly event, presented by Hook & Barrel magazine. Along with the concert, the event featured a fishing tournament and a Southwest Louisiana Cornhole Association tournament as well as food, general concessions, and professional vendors on-site throughout the day.

Event-goers were invited to browse local offerings from participants such as Henderson Implements, Lake Charles Tackle, BNB Detailing, Hurricane Off-road, Bayou Surface Drive, Kicks 96, Navarre Auto Group, Big South Inflatables, Fish on Tackle, Hook & Barrel, Penn, and many others.

“After a pandemic and two hurricanes, we are very excited to bring something fun to Lake Charles,” said Crystal LaFosse, festival coordinator, in a statement. “We invite everyone to come out to this fun-filled day for the entire family.”

Known for his stylish suits and gravelly voice, Hardy is currently in the midst of a nationwide tour that will feature nearly 30 stops over the next six months.

The tour kicked off May 14-15 with back-to-back shows in Florida. Along with solo shows, Hardy will perform alongside fellow country artists Jimmie Allen, Matt Stell and Chris Bandi as well as be an opening act for country superstar Toby Keith.

This month’s show in Lake Charles was one of Hardy’s two scheduled performances in his home state this summer.

The tour is welcome news for Hardy, who said via social media he “can’t wait to be back” in front of an audience. Other than a 20-stop tour in 2019 following his American Idol victory, Hardy has had hardly any live performances, with dates over the last year mostly cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But Hardy made up for the lack of live performances with an online tour that has generated more than 2 million views over the last year. The tour coincided with the release of his first singles.

Hardy also released his own version of the Christmas classic, “Please Come Home For Christmas,” and he has plans for new music this year. He just hopes to perform it in front of a screaming audience.

“I sure do miss the stage and singing with y’all,” Hardy wrote via social media. “Can’t wait to be back!”

Though most of his shows over the last 12 months were cancelled or converted to a virtual format, Hardy and his band made their inaugural trip overseas to entertain U.S. troops. The full band performed some of Hardy’s singles — including “Ground I Grew Up On” and “Tiny Town” — at Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi in the Persian Gulf.

Despite the lack of physical interaction with fans, they haven’t let the Hardy Party die down. Earlier this year, Hardy was named American Country Music Chatter’s 2021 New Artist of the Year following a fan vote.

He took to social media April 7 to thank his legion of fans — more than 1.3 million followers — for their support.

“Thanks for supporting me and my music,” Hardy said.

In early May, Hardy, a graduate of French Settlement High, was named a new “Louisiana Ambassador, an honor that was presented by Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser. During the ceremony, Hardy performed his song “Other LA” — one of several original songs that pay homage to his home state — for the audience at the National Travel and Tourism Week event.

As a Louisiana ambassador, Hardy will promote the Office of Tourism’s new advertising campaign as the industry tries to bounce back from the hit taken during the coronavirus pandemic.

On his social media feeds, Hardy said he felt “honored” to be selected “to help spread the word about all this great state has to offer.”

“I am so proud to officially represent the great state of Louisiana as an Ambassador and excited to help spread the word about all my home state has to offer as part of the ‘Louisiana Is A Trip’ campaign,” Hardy said.

For more information on Hardy, who was also a “premier artist to watch” for Taste of Country, the No. 1 country music online site, visit LaineHardyMusic.com or send a text to (225) 307-8214.

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