‘American Idol’ Hopeful’s Audition Leaves Luke Bryan in Tears [Watch]
Luke Bryan couldn't help but get emotional when American Idol hopeful Grace Kinstler opened her mouth, and viewers finally got to see the full highly teased moment on Sunday night (Feb. 14), during the TV singing competition's Season 19 premiere.
Emotion filled Kinstler's audition from the get-go, as she shared before performing Gladys Knight & the Pips' "Midnight Train to Georgia" that she had always dreamed of auditioning for American Idol with her father cheering her on. However, he died "very unexpected[ly]" while she was away at school.
"Growing up, my dad was definitely my main cheerleader ... He loved his family," Kinstler shared in a pre-taped segment, explaining that she and her parents used to watch American Idol together. For her audition, she wore a charm that used to belong to her dad: a Leo astrology sign. Father and daughter are both Leos, Kinstler explained, and it was her way of bringing a small piece of him with her for the big moment.
"I keep thinking about how much he believed in me and try to believe that much in myself," Kinstler shared, noting that she was plenty nervous but adding that her dad's death is "extra motivation for me to keep going."
As Kinstler sang, the judges -- Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie -- exchanged knowing glances before asking her to sing her second-choice song: Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman." It was that performance that had Georgia native Bryan welling up.
"Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Woo, man," Bryan remarked as Kinstler concluded. "This is the first time in four years that just someone singing made me cry ... Just understand that your dad is very, very proud of you right now."
Bryan, Perry and Richie compared Kinstler's audition to some of the greats from throughout American Idol's years, before officially moving her on to the show's Hollywood rounds. "That was badass. That was amazing," Bryan added to Perry and Richie after she left the room.
Kinstler's audition was the last of the day in Ojai, Calif. The 20-year-old is a Chicago, Ill., native, but she's currently attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass.
Following a partially virtual 18th season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, American Idol auditions for Season 19 took place in person, though in a pared-down list of cities -- Los Angeles, San Diego and Ojai, Calif. -- and with social distancing and other virus-related best practices in place. More auditions will air through the end of February.
American Idol airs on Sundays at 8PM ET on ABC. The show is now in its fourth season on the television network, which revived the popular competition show following its cancellation by its original network, Fox.
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