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‘I’m excited to shine’: Local Emmy Russell takes spot in ‘American Idol’ top 24

Kingston Springs local Emmy Russell, 25, was granted a spot in this season of “American Idol’s” top 24, surviving the biggest cut in “Idol” history that is sending her through to the next round in Oahu, Hawai’i, which will air on Monday, April 8.  

Russell – who graduated Harpeth High School in 2017 – received the golden ticket on the 22nd installment of ABC’s “American Idol” in an episode that aired on Feb. 25. After the reality singing competition’s audition episodes finally wrapped, Russell reappeared on our TV screens for Hollywood Week on March 31.  

Russell performed another original "Like That" on March 31 to make it into the top 56 / Disney, Eric McCandless

One hundred and forty-three hopefuls went into the “Idol” arena during Hollywood Week, and only 56 made it out. During this episode, the contestants were randomly selected to perform in front of the three superstar judges – Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie – as well as their competition. At the end of the March 31 episode, the judges were forced to make the “biggest cut in ‘Idol’ history.” 

“It's really hard work to be on a competition show,” Russell told the Kingston Springs Gazette during an exclusive interview in January. “You're there for 15 hours and getting five hours of sleep. You wake up at five o'clock and then you're going until 10 o'clock, 10:30, 11 o'clock at night.” 

During “American Idol” Hollywood Week, Russell sang another original song, “Like That.” 

“It is deeply, deeply personal,” Russell said of her song – which she released on all streaming platforms after the episode aired. “All my songs are basically a confession. I write songs I'm scared to sing.” 

The Kingston Springs singer-songwriter is the granddaughter of the late country music legend Loretta Lynn. During her audition episode for “American Idol” in February, Russell told the judges she has always felt the pressure of filling her grandmother’s shoes. 

“She’d be very proud,” Russell said backstage during the Hollywood Week episode. “When people find out who my grandmother is, it's like, ‘Whoa, she's a legend. How does that make you feel?’” 

“I was told at 11 years old, ‘You got big shoes to fill’ or ‘You’re never going to be your grandma.’ The pressure that I lived under is why the nerves are so strong,” she said. “I had an eating disorder since I was 15. When I was 16, I remember right before showtime, I had fake eyelashes on and I looked in the mirror in the dressing room and I was like, ‘Who am I?’ Just what is my identity outside of a Loretta Lynn’s granddaughter?”

“I feel like I just hated so much of my life and I'm excited to shine,” Russell said through tears. “I am ready to make this all count.” 

The judges saved Russell from the biggest cut in “Idol” history – sending 87 of her talented peers home. 

On April 1, the Showstopper round of the show aired, highlighting performances from the 56 contestants who were saved and are now fighting to make it in the top 24. 

As her final shot to make it into the next round, Russell sang for the judges a cover of country song “More Hearts Than Mine” by Ingrid Andress. Right before she took the stage, fellow contestant Mia Matthews performed a cover of Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough.” 

Country singer Luke Bryan delivered the news that Russell has made the cut for top 24, noting that she needs to continue to work on her confidence. She will now fight for America's vote to secure a spot in the top 20 on Monday, April 8. / Disney, Eric McCandless

Despite Matthews’ rendition of her late grandmother’s song rattling Russell – and bringing her to tears – the Kingston Springs native delivered a flawless performance, receiving a standing ovation from all three judges. 

“What we really have wanted out of you from day one is your confidence to grow,” country music star Luke Bryan said. “We've heard a lot of promising stuff from original music from you, but there's still this little underlying timid thing.” 

“We got to get your confidence train rolling,” he said. “We don't want you to come out here and be something that you're not, but you are certainly worthy of being confident. And I'll tell you what, I think it's probably a pretty good confidence boost to let you know you're going into the top 24.” 

Russell will now travel on our TV screens to Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawai’i alongside 23 of the show’s top performers to battle for a spot in the top 20. 

“My confidence has grown so much since being here. Normally, if I was scared, I would run away and hide, say I'm not good enough,” Russell said. “I'm growing a lot in my heart. I'm not running away.” 

The community must now vote for Russell to move to the next round

The top 24 episodes air on ABC on Sunday, April 7 and Monday, April 8 at 7 p.m. Twelve will take the stage for America’s first vote on the 7th and 12 – including Russell – will take the stage for America’s vote on the 8th. Country rapper Jelly Roll will be Russell’s guest mentor. 

It’s critical the community tunes in on Monday, April 8 at 7 p.m., to cheer Russell on, but most importantly, to vote for her to move on to the top 20! Results from the votes on who is moving on from the top 24 will be announced at the beginning of the Sunday, April 14 episode which will air from 7 to 10 p.m. on ABC.

You can vote online at, in the American Idol app or via text by simply texting the number of the contestant you would like to vote for to “21523”. Russell’s number will be displayed during her performance on Monday, April 8 and at

You can submit up to 10 votes for each remaining contestant per voting method. For example, if you want to vote for a given contestant – you could submit up to 10 votes for that contestant on, up to 10 votes for that contestant on the American Idol app and up to 10 votes for that contestant via text message, for a total of up to 30 votes for that contestant across all voting methods.

Voting for Russell will lock at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, April 9, so make sure you tune in live on April 8 at 7 p.m. on ABC! 



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