Special To The Packet
I was born on February 1, 1994, in Jackson, MS, to Ed and Mary Harden. My full name is Skylar Laine Harden. I have one sister, Blair, who is about 6 years older. I grew up in Brandon, just 10 minutes from Jackson. My dad was always in education and my mom has always run my family’s now 72-year-old store in downtown Jackson.
When I started talking, I also started singing. Even if I couldn’t fully say the words, I would sing along with almost anything. I would ride around in the car with my family and sing at the top of my lungs. I would also watch musicals over and over. My Mammaw is really the one who noticed that I could carry a tune. She told my mom and that’s when it all really got started. My mom started taking me to singing lessons, auditions, competitions … and I was pretty good at all of it. By six, I was in my first musical, “The Wizard of Oz.” I played the dog, Toto. I was also in show choir and sang at any little festival, rodeo, or competition I was allowed to.
When I was seven, I flew to New York with my mother to audition for the Broadway touring production of “Annie.” I got the part of Mollie and was with that show for about five months. While I was traveling with “Annie,” I flew back to New York and auditioned for another Broadway tour of “Les Miserables.” I got the parts of young Cosette and young Eponine and traveled with that show for two years. I had the amazing opportunity to perform with Colm Wilkinson and a few others from the original cast in China and Korea! It was so incredible to be so young and get to see so much of those countries like I did. The show traveled all around the USA, so seeing the nation was also a blessing!
You can see why I love Broadway so much! That music will always have a special place in my heart; but country music is what has always been my favorite. My father and grandfather are to blame! From riding in a car seat until I was almost old enough for my drivers’ license, I would ride with my dad and Pappaw and listen to old country music. With Pappaw, it was Marty Robbins, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash and so many more. Every time we got in the truck, I would listen to “El Paso”! With my dad, it was Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Kris Kristopherson, and, my ultimate favorite outlaw, Waylon Jennings. There was something special about Waylon that brought my father and me together, and it still works today!
After coming home from the two tours, I returned to being a normal kid. I got back into community theater and went back to school. Middle school went by and I was still singing and doing shows here and there. I also got back into show choir. When I got to high school, I made the decision that music was really the way I wanted my life to go. I wanted to be a country music star, but didn’t really know where to start. My mom and I talked to a few people and all of them told me to start writing; so I did. I took lessons for piano and guitar and also took dance for about 7 hours a week. I was pretty busy. I wrote with Deborah Allen for a long time and she taught me a lot about songwriting and how you just have to let yourself completely go in that song and say what you feel. We wrote some great songs and I decided to start singing them when I would compete. Sometimes I won and sometimes I didn’t; but hearing people say that they could hear that song on the radio meant more to me than anything! I had found what I loved to do, write music and share it with others.
When I got to sophomore year, I decided that I wanted to graduate early so I could get to college and Nashville faster. I took online classes during the summers and changed up my other classes during the year. At the same time, I was still competing and playing wherever I could. I was also involved in activities at school such as choir, show choir, student council, diamond girls, and teenage Republicans. Eventually, in May 2011, I graduated from Brandon High School and received my diploma from my dad, who was my assistant principal!!
My mom and I decided that it would be best for me to go to nursing school then move to Nashville, get a job, and still pursue music. I decided to go to Hinds Community College and apply for nursing school there. I did my pre recs and got into the nursing program! Little did I know that my life was about to change.
I had always wanted to try out for “American Idol.” When you’re an artist, just trying to get noticed, there is nothing to lose! However, something had always prevented me from trying out. The summer before I tried out for AI I went to the Berklee School of Music’s 5-week summer program. I received a full tuition scholarship and didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to study at such a great music college for the summer. It was worth it, because I learned so much about myself, and music, in general. So the next summer I was determined to have my chance at trying out for AI. My mom and I drive to Houston and I auditioned! I got to go first, because I had won a golden ticket from the “American Idol Experience” in Disney World. Jumping the line was awesome! To my surprise, I made it through and then made it to Hollywood. With every passing round, I kept thinking, “Well, this is it!” But I was blessed to be able to keep going. I think one of the most amazing feelings was when I found out that I was in top 10 and got to go on the summer tour! I made it through on Idol to 5th place, which I know is a great honor. I’m so thankful, because I know there are so many people that would kill to be there. After Idol and before tour, I spent a lot of time in Nashville writing and recording my own songs with writers I had only dreamed of working with, like Hillary Lindsay, Luke Laird, Jeremy Stover, Chris DeStefano, Anne Preven, Chris Thompkins and many more. I realized then how much writing means to me, and how every word comes from inside and describes something I’m feeling. I also got to introduce Carrie Underwood at the CMT Music Awards with Colton. That was a dream come true, beyond anything I’d ever felt before. To get to be a part of the show that Ihad watched for years was something I’ll never forget! Tour was incredible! I got to travel all over the USA with nine of the most amazing people you will ever meet. I’m not joking when I tell you that season 11 of “American Idol” IS the best! We are still one big family. We love each other so much and had the time of our lives getting to sing together! The Philippines was probably the most fun part of the tour! It was crazy how much love the Philippine people showed us, and I plan on going back one day!
After tour, I came home to relax for a while. I had been gone from home for seven straight months and wanted some time with family. I worked with the management company, 19, that partners with AI for awhile, but parted ways before Christmas. I’ve been playing as many shows as possible and still working towards a recording contract. I just moved to Nashville and got settled in! It’s such a beautiful place here and I’m ready to put my name into country music. It doesn’t matter how big or small the name is, I just want to write the music I love and for some people to listen!! I’m writing a lot right now with so many talented people and plan on doing some recordings and putting them up on iTunes really soon, so watch out for it!