When 17-year-old Laine Hardy, a born-on-the-bayou southerner from Livingston, La. walked out to show his stuff on Mar. 12th's American Idol 2018 auditions, it wasn't immediately apparent he was star material. A rather unassuming figure in jeans and t-shirt, he had a chill manner to match, but he quickly won over judge Luke Bryan...and judges Katy Perry and Lionel Richie to follow.

Hardy coolly and calmly stated his creds (which included his favorite hobby, "drivin' my truck around town...burnin' gas"), causing Bryan to snap to attention, telling him, "Keep talkin', I'm gonna write a country song."

Bryan, apparently bent on appraising the lad's country cred, pointed out judge Katy Perry's earrings, which were shaped like golden alligators.

"I haven't seen alligator earrings, but I've seen alligators," the teen noted, adding that he's hunted gators and come "about a foot" from one.

"Have you ever caught a gator on a topwater plug?" Bryan queried, to which Perry yelped, "I don't even know what the hell you're talking about!"

Hardy laughed, and Bryan said, "Please be able to sing!"

That, he was able to do. Hardy chose the bluesy "Hurricane" by Austin's Band of Heathens, and wowed the panel with smoky, gritty vocals that belied his tender years. The judges didn't even bother to come to a vote—this kid was in.

"If you ain’t careful, you might win American Idol,” Bryan said admiringly. "Don't let a gator tail hit you in the throat!"

American Idol airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8PM ET/PT, and we'll be keeping an eye on how Luke does...as well as standout performances.

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