Life after 'American Idol': Skylar Laine chases country dream to Music City

By Ray Van Dusen/Monroe Journal

About this time last year, country singer Skylar Laine Harden was transitioning from her Top 5 “American Idol” finish to a short trip home to Mississippi before heading out on tour with the show’s season 11 contestants.
“It was a crazy time. I had just gotten off ‘Idol’ and I was writing and getting ready for the tour. I really didn’t have a chance to slow down before I was right back to L.A. After I got home from the tour, I finally had a chance to spend time with my family,” said Skylar, in a telephone interview from her Nashville home.
North Mississippi adopted the Brandon native as one of its own, thanks, in part, to her local family ties as each week her electrifying stage presence on “American Idol” won over much of the rest of the nation’s votes as well.
Her grandmother, Norma Harden; aunt, Nona Herndon; and her husband, Dennis, all live in Aberdeen, and her uncle, Richard Harden, and his wife, Mary Jo, live in Oxford.
“I always keep my singing and my regular life separate. I always make time for family and friends. I love Mississippi and I don’t think anyone ever shakes off the influence of where they’re from,” Skylar said.
Like her original song, “Nothing Grows in the Shade,” goes, Skylar couldn’t stay in her hometown forever. Two months ago, she moved to Nashville to live out a dream of chasing a country music career she’s had in her mind way before “American Idol” was a reality.
She’s been spending more time making connections in the music industry and writing with songwriters like Jeremy Strover and Hillary Lindsey while working toward a record deal.
“I’ve been playing several festivals lately and writing more material. I really want a recording or publishing deal to have people hear my music. I want to sing songs people love,” Skylar said.
Through her weeks of belting out everything from classic rock to today’s country, she was a performer indeed. Never failing to wow audiences and the show’s judges Steven Tyler, Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez, Skylar’s stage presence was as energetic as one of her main influences, Miranda Lambert.
“I love her and Justin Moore. I try to be myself, but take inspiration from several other people while taking pointers from their careers,” Skylar said.
The “American Idol” experience gave her an in-depth lesson about the music industry and gave her an education on how to proceed with her own career.
North Mississippi will host two upcoming opportunities for people to catch Skylar Laine’s live show, which mixes covers with originals, beginning this weekend.
She’ll open up for Montgomery Gentry Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at Tupelo’s Elvis Festival and also play New Albany’s Tallahatchie River Festival Sept. 21.

Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival Fairpark concert schedule

FRIDAY
6:30 p.m. – Brandon Bennett
7:15 p.m. – Kirk Chism & the Lost Highway
8:30 p.m. – The Cadillac Three
10 p.m. – Cowboy Mouth
$10/gate

SATURDAY
6:30 p.m. – Cody Slaughter
7:15 p.m. – Surviving Allison
8:30 p.m. – Skylar Laine
10 p.m. – Montgomery Gentry
$20/gate

The Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival includes tribute artist competitions, a gospel brunch, 5k, movie poster exhibit, carnival, pet parade and more.
For a complete schedule of events at the Tupelo Elvis Festival and to buy tickets online, visit tupeloelvisfestival.com.