Laine Hardy is an American Idol favorite from Louisiana who you may recognize from the 2018 season of the ABC reality show, but you may not. The 18-year-old is a new man in Season 17.

Hardy turned up during auditions to play guitar for his friend Ashton Gill, but judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie convinced him to sing a song for old time's sake. He nonchalantly performed "The Weight" by the Band and couldn't say no when Richie tempted him with a Golden Ticket to Hollywood.

The often-barefoot Livingston, La., teenager reached the Hollywood Round as a high school senior in 2018 and was a large part of the promotion of Idol's first season on ABC before he auditioned with Band of Heathens' "Hurricane." While charming and talented, the judges felt he lacked confidence, so he didn't get past the Top 50. One year made such a difference that it's not unfair for even longtime viewers of the show to ask, "Who is Laine Hardy?"

Not only did Hardy comport himself with self-assurance this time around, the still mild-mannered country, blues-and-swamp-pop singer brought his own line of merchandise and new teeth. Many suspect he got veneers, but the nature of his dental work was not discussed in detail.

In a 2018 article in the Advocate out of Baton Rouge, La., Hardy shares that his mom encouraged him to audition for American Idol the first time and that Elvis Presley is his greatest musical influence, but he grew up with many musical influences.

"I grew up around old country, classic rock and swamp pop," he tells the newspaper. "I play country, blues, and classic rock and swamp pop now."

His Facebook page (with more than 250,000 followers) does not define his genre of music, however. During Season 18 he's bounced around, singing songs from Presley and Sam Cooke, as well as Band of Heathens after auditioning with the classic rock hit. The Facebook page also separates him from the Band Hardy, which he was a part of before auditioning. They were together for three years as of March 2018 (Fun fact: Hardy made sure they never had gigs during hunting season). He hunts alligators, deer, squirrel and turkey.

Some other fun facts about this favorite to win American Idol? He had a girlfriend entering the 2019 season, but it's not the same girl he was dating when he first auditioned for American Idol in 2018. He picked up guitar at age seven and (per the Advocate) took lessons for about five years, and his parents describe him as very shy.

Some might wonder if his accidental audition was a ruse, but it seems Hardy had plans prior to trying out for 2019. At his official website he notes that he'd just finished cutting an EP in Nashville, with help from early '00s hitmaker Jamie O'Neal.

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