"The Voice" winner Maelyn Jarmon, left, and "American Idol" winner Laine Hardy. (Chris Haston/NBC; Eric McCandless/ABC)

Within two days of each other in May, Maelyn Jarmon won NBC’s “The Voice” and Laine Hardy was crowned ABC’s “American Idol.” And even though it’s been just a few weeks since they took their respective titles, both winners can agree: The month after you win a reality singing competition is a surreal whirlwind that’s tough to describe.

“People think that once you win a competition like ‘The Voice,’ your career is set and made. That’s just not how it is,” Jarmon said. “It’s meant to be a platform to help the artist with that first push. But you have to put the work in afterwards."

Jarmon, the 26-year-old pop singer from New York, and Hardy, the 18-year-old musician from Livingston, La., both saw their social media followers skyrocket as they performed for millions of viewers each week. But now they have the challenge of capitalizing on the momentum. (Both won recording contracts.) To stay on the radar, their new teams booked them lots of performing gigs, including an appearance on PBS’s annual “A Capitol Fourth” concert.

Hosted by John Stamos, the event airs at 8 p.m. on Thursday. Jarmon is singing the national anthem; Hardy will perform a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”


"A Capitol Fourth." (Capital Concerts/Keith Lamond/Shutterstock)

Between performances, they also have to figure out the next steps in their music careers. Jarmon, signed to Republic Records, plans to move to Los Angeles and has already started meeting with her new label. Her coach from “The Voice,” John Legend, will be involved, and label executives are strategizing about the best way to introduce her original music to the public.

“These days, it’s honestly really hard for a green new artist to release an album,” Jarmon said, adding that she will probably release a series of singles followed by an EP. Ideally, she said, she would love to eventually get into voice-over work, and possibly write music for TV shows and movies. “There’s no science or pattern to success,” Jarmon said, pointing to Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson’s wildly different — and wildly successful — endeavors after they launched their careers on a reality singing show.

Life after “American Idol” operates in much the same way. The day after Hardy won, he barely had time to check the congratulatory messages on his phone before he was whisked away on an overnight jet to New York so he could be on “Good Morning America” the next day. It was a blur of interviews, performances, meet and greets (the Disney Store in Times Square was one of his stops), and then back to Los Angeles, where he met with executives at his new label, Hollywood Records, to discuss the direction of his music. But Hardy knew right away that his goal was to work as a country artist.

“I was hoping to come to Nashville,” he said. “I’m from Louisiana, so Nashville feels more like home to me.”

He booked co-writing sessions with a variety of songwriters to work on developing his sound and writing style, and has been traveling between Nashville, Louisiana and Los Angeles for meetings. He remains very grateful for his time on “American Idol”; he had auditioned for the show the previous season but was cut early on. Both experiences were extremely educational.

“People think when they get on the show they have to be all serious about it,” Hardy said. “There is a little bit of seriousness in it, but you also have to have fun with it and not treat it so seriously . . . that can get in the way of you being open-minded to things.”

And given that the weeks after the respective finales have been extraordinarily busy, both contestants are glad that competing on a singing show inadvertently trained them to operate on little sleep.

“The show, it’s such a crazy, hectic schedule,” Jarmon said. “It really prepares you for what life can be like. There are really fun moments — and then you have to go to bed and take care of yourself.”