Before country singer Laine Hardy puts Louisiana in his rearview mirror again to resume touring, he's soaking up as much of springtime in his home state as possible.
The 20-year-old former "American Idol" winner is taking the boat out on the river, riding his side by side (probably barefoot) and most importantly, spending time with family, friends and girlfriend Gracie Lee.
On a recent Friday afternoon, after a quick trip to Stine for lumber, the self-professed Livingston country boy was working on his new backyard music studio.
"It's 10 feet off the ground," Hardy said, birds chirping in the background.
The building's elevated to ensure against flooding, a drawback of living in the largely low-lying area. Also a versatile musician, Hardy has 15-18 guitars, including two favorites — a Gibson Les Paul and a Fender Strat(ocaster) — that he'd hate to lose.
On Wednesday evening, he traded his typical shorts and a T-shirt for one of his flashy suits to accept his "Louisiana ambassador" honor from Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser on behalf of the Louisiana Office of Tourism. Hardy performed his new song, "Other LA," for the audience at the National Travel and Tourism Week event.
Hardy's wardrobe while competing on ABC singing competition series "Idol" in 2019 often prompted judge/Grammy-winning singer Lionel Richie, now 71, to ask the teen, "Have you been in my closet?" In a Facebook post in April, Hardy was seen sporting a cheetah print suit to escort Lee to the French Settlement High School prom.
As an ambassador, Hardy will be the face of the Office of Tourism's new advertising campaign as the industry regroups with the COVID-19 pandemic's easing.
For the last few months, Hardy's also been in Nashville, Tennessee, off and on preparing for the upcoming tour. He'll be headlining shows starting May 14 at The Stockyard in Holiday, Florida, as well as opening for chart-topping artist Toby Keith on select dates.
"We're just getting ready, practicing, finding out what our route's gonna be," Hardy said. "I just got back from Michigan like two days ago. I played a few shows, private shows out there."
Hardy's new team includes Waco, Texas, siblings Nate and James Wallace (Nate is tour manager and sound director; James plays bass; harmonica and banjo); original band member Aaron Adair on lead guitar; and drummer Gabe Balltzglier.
"My shows are at theaters, festivals, fairs and stuff," Hardy, who'll turn 21 on Sept. 12 during a tour break, explained. "I open for Toby Keith in the other show.
"I played for him (Keith) one time. I opened for him in Charleston, South Carolina, at the Volvo Car Stadium. He's a cool dude. We got to meet him after that show. He's the most down-to-earth dude."
Much like Hardy himself, who, in spite of the Hollywood whirlwind during and after "American Idol," has managed to maintain his down-home charm.
Asked about his swelling, ultraloyal fan base (including multiple Facebook fan groups) and how he wraps his head around all the hoopla, the still-shy Hardy replied, "I can't, that's the thing. I think it's really funny. I always get a giggle every day."
Earlier this year, Hardy had the opportunity to take his music to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to perform for U.S. soldiers stationed there.
"Being able to play to the troops was just humbling," he said. "It was like a 13-hour flight. I got to experience all kinds of cool stuff, and see all these cool planes, and get inside of them.
"In Saudi Arabia, members of one of the U.S. Army bands got on stage and we all did a song together."
As for when his own album will be released, Hardy said, " Probably early fall, but you never know, it might be earlier. But definitely this year sometime."
And will fans see Hardy again on 'Idol' this season?
"Hmmmm, I'm just going to say I don't know to that," he said, "I'm just going to say no and yes."
For more about the singer, visit hardymusic.com.