“I’m still processing it but it’s been a crazy night,” Hardy told ET backstage after Sunday’s big finale, in which he beat out fellow finalists Alejandro Aranda and Madison VanDenburg.
“My mind is so overwhelmed right now with so many different emotions. I really need to let it sink in. It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Hardy added. “I’m still processing it but it’s been a crazy night.”
The 19-year-old singer reflected on the wild season, which was filled with “a lot of tough situations and a lot of mental stress.” But now that it’s over, and that he’s the season’s champ, it “feels great.”
It’s a big victory for Hardy, who almost didn’t compete this season at all.
The singer, who previously appeared last season, originally didn’t want to audition again. Instead, he accompanied a friend to the “Idol” audition and was encouraged by judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie to give it another shot.
After getting the Golden Ticket to Hollywood, Hardy delivered a slew of charming and charismatic performances that ultimately paid off with his big win.
“It goes to show you just don’t give up,” he said. “Never give up, because you never know what’ll happen.”
Speaking with the trio of judges backstage, Perry, Richie and Bryan gleefully celebrated Hardy’s big win, and said they all hope they can return for future seasons to help other young singers on their musical journey.
“We’d love to [come back],” Perry said.
“I think we collectively agree that we certainly enjoyed the role and each other,” Bryan added. “And we’re having fun with it.”
“I must tell you, very few times in life do you find a group of people you actually love being around,” Perry shared. “I can’t imagine being without them.”
As for host Ryan Seacrest, the long-time Idol stalwart has no plans of jumping ship anytime soon.
“My plan is to be back next year of course,” Seacrest told ET. “I can’t imagine not doing this show.”
Check out the video below for more on the star-studded “American Idol” season 17 finale!