Emmy Russell -- a singer-songwriter and the 24-year-old granddaughter of country legend Loretta Lynn -- made her debut on American Idol on Sunday night (Feb. 25.)

The judges' first impression of Russell was how quiet and timid she was -- "We're gonna have to turn you up some more," judge Lionel Richie commented when she first stepped out in front of the podium -- and the young performer was humble as she explained her musical roots.

Before she began to sing, Russell explained to the judges that it was important to her to find her musical identity outside of her family legacy. "I think there's a reason why I am a little timid, and I think it's because I wanna own my voice," she reflected. "That's why I wanna challenge myself and come out here."

She certainly made a bold choice when it came to her song selection: Russell auditioned with "Skinny," an original song about her experience with an eating disorder. Sitting at the piano and accompanying herself throughout the tender ballad, she immediately showcased a musical style very different from her famous grandmother's -- but she and Lynn share a penchant for truth-telling and powerful lyrical storytelling.

"Emmy, you're an A+ songwriter," judge Katy Perry commented. "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."

"We just gotta lift you up and get you more confident," added Luke Bryan. "And you just need to own it."

All that said, the judges voted unanimously to send Russell through to the next round of Idol competition, meaning that she's headed to Hollywood.

Who is Emmy Russell?

  • Emmy Russell is the daughter of Patsy Lynn Russell and her husband Phillip.
  • Patsy and her twin sister Peggy are the youngest of Loretta Lynn's six children.
  • Patsy was named after her mother's friend, fellow country luminary Patsy Cline.

Russell was modest with the American Idol judges about her singing experience, and said she doesn't play publicly much anymore. However, she has played some impressive stages: She made her Grand Ole Opry debut in April 2023, performing a tribute to Lynn called "Memaw's Guitar."

She also appeared onstage during the public celebration of Lynn's life and music, an all-star event called Coal Miner's Daughter that aired on CMT in late October 2022 -- just under a month after Lynn's death on Oct. 4, 2022.

There, Russell performed "Lay Me Down" with Lukas Nelson -- a special team-up, since Lynn originally recorded that song as a duet with Willie Nelson, Lukas' dad. The younger generation's version won a nomination for CMT Performance of the Year at CMT Music Awards in 2023.

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Gallery Credit: Sterling Whitaker

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