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Watch Loretta Lynn’s Granddaughter Audition For ‘American Idol’ With Poignant Original

28 February 2024 | 9:32 am | Ellie Robinson

The judges were shocked when they learned about Emmy Russell’s iconic heritage.

Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn (Supplied)

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Loretta Lynn was one of the greatest country artists of all time, carving out a legacy that would be truly impossible to follow. But as she proved on American Idol this week, her granddaughter, Emmy Russell, doesn’t plan to merely emulate Lynn’s success, but carve out a path entirely her own.

Russell auditioned for Idol last August, with her episode airing last Sunday (February 25). She appeared timid and unwilling to embrace her grandma’s fame, only revealing her connection to Lynn when she was asked after offhandedly mentioning that her “grandma was a country singer”. The revelation shocked the judges – fellow country star Luke Bryan, Lionel Ritchie and Katy Perry – who all looked stunned when the bomb dropped.

The hopeful 24-year-old went on to perform her original song Skinny, a poignant piano ballad about struggling with an eating disorder. She sang on the short number: “I took a trip around the world / To hold the hands of orphan girls / Saw the war, felt the pain / In miracles in his name / But I just want to be / I just want to be / Skinny.”

All three judges were floored by Russell’s performance, giving her the golden ticket to Hollywood without a second thought. They also encouraged her to work through her shyness and focus on her own talents – removed from her connection to Lynn – as Perry explained: “Emmy, you’re an A-plus songwriter. So was your grandma. You 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.”

“My dear, you have promise. And I like your promise,” Ritchie added. “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 could just get you to put those shoes back in the closet – that’s not your size.”

Bryan also added to the sentiment: “We’ve just gotta lift you up and get you more confident, and you just need to own it.”

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After being tearfully embraced by the judges, Russell herself explained in a post-audition interview: “I was thinking about my grandma but I was also like, ‘Emmy, she’s with you. Now it’s your turn. I think I’m more like her now than I was whenever I was trying to be like her... Excited. I’m really excited.”

Russell released a longer version of Skinny last August as a collaboration with the Song House collective, marking her debut single. It was followed by her solo debut Breakup Song, which arrived at the same time as her Idol audition last Sunday.

Lynn rose to fame in the early ’60s, releasing a jaw-dropping 46 albums between 1963 and 2021 (her last being Still Woman Enough, which was produced by her daughter – and Russell’s mother – Patsy Lynn Russell). She passed away last May at age 90.