Brandon teenager in 'Idol' top 40

By The Associated Press

BRANDON — A 17-year-old Brandon girl is one of the Top 40 candidates on Fox’s American Idol.

Skylar Laine Harden was one of the top 40 contestants who advanced to the singing competition’s Hollywood round, placing her one step closer to making her debut on a stage that has launched the careers of stars such as Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.

The Clarion Ledger reported Saturday that Skylar’s mother, Mary Harden, has been with her daughter during the entire Idol process — from her first time meeting judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler to her recent venture to Tinseltown.

“It’s been such a wonderful platform for her,” Harden said. “From the start, on the way to Texas for her audition, I’ve prayed, ‘Let this be a positive experience.'”

Because of her age, Harden said she’s always by Skylar’s side. “Wherever she has to go, I’m there, too. But she does turn 18 next Wednesday. And whatever happens in the future, she’ll be doing it by herself.

“She’s ready for this,” Harden said. “We’ve raised her to make good decisions, and she’s definitely ready to take this on.”

And so far, Skylar’s blend of country and Southern rock has helped push her forward as the competition has narrowed from thousands.

Skylar’s grandfather, Malcolm Massey, raised her on country legends like Marty Stuart and Patsy Cline, Harden says. But her childhood years were spent on stage, belting out tunes in traveling productions of hit Broadway shows.

“She could sing when she was 2,” said Skylar’s grandmother, Carolyn Massey. “She toured with Annie for a while, and then with Les Miserables when she was 6.”

The Masseys are owners of a Jackson mainstay, Beatty Street Grocery. And customers can see photos of Skylar throughout the years from her time working with the touring musicals.

“She traveled to China and all sorts of places,” Carolyn Massey said. “She’s got a really strong voice. She has to be good to have been singing all this time.”