Loretta Lynn’s Granddaughter Emmy Russell Blows Away ‘American Idol’ With Moving Original Song

Having a platinum pedigree is one thing. But showing that you can use it is a whole different ballgame. Emmy Russell, 24 proved more than up to the task on Sunday night (Feb. 25) when the shy Nashville native, and granddaughter of country icon Loretta Lynn, stepped up to her mark on American Idol to perform an original piano ballad called “Skinny.”

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Smiling from ear-to-ear, Russell told the judge’s panel it was a “dream” to be on the reality singing competition as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan struggled to hear the singer’s quiet speaking voice. “Tell us about yourself, other than being quiet,” Bryan said. “Growing up, I sang music my entire life,” she said modestly.

“I just love writing. I’m 24 years old. Songwriter. I love music,” Russell added. “I don’t really sing out as much anymore, but growing up I sang on the road with — my grandma’s a country singer so I grew up singing.” Which, of course, elicited the obvious question from Bryan, leading to the revelation that Russell’s grandma was the Grammy-winning country “Coal Miner’s Daughter” superstar, who died in Oct. 2022 at age 90. “Your grandma is… what?!” Richie said in disbelief.

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The show then unspooled a montage of Russell taking viewers on a tour of her “meemaw” Lynn’s historic Hurricane Mills, TN ranch and home, where the singer’s mom, singer Patsy Lynn, grew up. “She’s one of the biggest country music singers of all time, but to me she’s just my grandma, and growing up on the bus and all that was very normal to me,” Russell said.

Embracing her timidity, Russell explained that one of the reasons she is kind of shy is because she wants to be her own person and “own my own voice.” Counseled by Perry that, like her gran, Russell needs to find her own unique path, the singer then went to the piano to perform a moving original she wrote about eating disorders called “Skinny.”

“Haven’t eaten in days/ God I hate how you made me/ So scared to confess, been so hard to undress lately/ These oversized T-shirts don’t work like they used to/ Sleeping on scales is just what I’m used to,” Russell sang urgently on the ballad that had a touch of Olivia Rodrigo’s keyboard-driven confessional songwriting.

Perry was super impressed with the audition, calling Russell an “A+ songwriter… so was your grandma, you’ve got the gift. I don’t think you need to compare yourself to what grandma was… you’re totally different, you shouldn’t give yourself all that pressure. I think you came in like a mouse.”

“A baby mouse,” Bryan added, as Perry asked Russell to say her name again, but louder this time.

Richie agreed, saying, “My dear, you have promise. And I like your promise. Each one of us is trying to battle something that we’re trying to overcome. In your case you have big shoes. Now if I can just get you to put those shoes back in the closet, that’s not your size.” Bryan said the task will be to boost Russell’s confidence and help her “own it.”

It was a tearful yes for Russell, who will advance to the Hollywood round on the current 22nd season of the long-running series, which Perry recently announced will be her final one with the show.

See Russell’s audition below.

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