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Watch: Country Music Icon Loretta Lynn's Granddaughter, Emmy Russell, Wows American Idol Judges With Emotional Performance

Emmy Russell, granddaughter of country music legend Loretta Lynn, showcases her talent on American Idol, carrying on her family's rich legacy while making a name for herself in the music industry.


Disney & Getty Images
Loretta Lynn and her Granddaughter Emmy Russell Photo: Disney & Getty Images

Emmy Russell, granddaughter of the iconic country music star Loretta Lynn, is headed to Hollywood. During Sunday night's episode of American Idol, the 24-year-old songwriter auditioned and captivated judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan with her compelling performance of the song "Skinny."

The judges seemed unaware of Russell's lineage until she introduced herself during the audition. “Growing up, I sang music my entire life. I just love writing. I’m 24 years old. Songwriter, I love music. I don’t really sing out as much anymore, but growing up I sang on the road with… my grandma’s a country singer.”


Bryan asked, "Who's your grandmother?"

After surprising the judges with her connection to Lynn, Russell proceeded to show the crew around the country legend’s ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. “My family grew up here, my mom grew up here. This is my meemaw’s house,” she said. “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.”

The judges playfully teased Russell for appearing quiet and shy. “I think there’s a reason why I think I am a little timid and I think it is ‘cause I want to own my voice and I wanna own it,” she explained. “That’s why I wanna challenge myself and come out here and really step in and be like ‘Okay, come on Emmy’”


Later, Patsy Lynn, Russell's mother and a country singer herself from the duo The Lynns in the 1990s, responded to her daughter's nervousness. “She just wanted to do this honestly [and say] ‘this is who I am and this is what I do and this is my heart,’” she explained. “I think that when you come from a musical family, the shadow is so big. How do I fill those shoes? Well the deal is, you don’t. You make your own shadow.”

Russell impressed the judges with her powerful vocals and emotional lyrics, including lines such as “Haven’t eaten in days/ God I hate how you made me” and “So took a trip around the world to hold the hands of orphan girls/Saw the war, felt the pain, and miracles in his name.”

Perry commended Russell's songwriting talents but urged her to exude more confidence in her speaking and performances. “Emmy, you’re an A+ songwriter. So was your grandma, you’ve got the gift,” she said. “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.”

Richie echoed Perry's sentiments, expressing, "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 also urged her to embrace her voice, stating, “We just need to lift you up and get you more confident and you just need to own it.”

All three judges ultimately voted "yes" for Russell, meaning she'll advance to Hollywood for the next round of competition.

Reflecting on the experience at the end of her segment, Russell shared, “I was thinking about my grandma, but I was also like ‘Emmy, she’s with you and now it’s your turn,’” she said. “I think I’m more like her now than whenever I was trying to be like her. I’m really excited.”


American Idol airs Sundays at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.