21-Year-Old Country Singer Wows ‘Idol’ Judges With Emotional Song Written For His Late Mother

Duffee hoped to make his late mother proud with his ‘Idol’ audition.


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

March 6, 2023


4:02 pm

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Preston Duffee; Photo by ABC, American Idol

Preston Duffee honored his late mother with a performance of an emotional self-penned original song during his American Idol audition on Sunday evening (March 5).  

Duffee, a 21-year-old from Hartsville, South Carolina, bared his emotions during Sunday night’s episode as he spoke about his mother and the mental struggles she faced.  

“My mom, she was always extremely supportive. She always believed in my music. She just struggled with bipolar and depression. And over time it got harder and harder for her to hide it from us,” he said. 

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The aspiring singer/songwriter then recalled the evening that changed everything for him and his family. 

“Two years ago, it was a big change in our lives, very unexpectedly. That day we all went to church. We had a cookout after that at the house and all of our friends came. My mama was in a great mood, but as people started trickling out, her mood started to change. And as I was getting ready for bed, I heard the gunshot. Now I didn’t know what it was at the time and my sister went in her room and that’s where she found our mama,” he said. 

After losing his mother, Duffee had no idea what he and his family were going to do. 

Preston Duffee; Photo by ABC, American Idol
Preston Duffee; Photo by ABC, American Idol

“I mean, we were basically homeless for three months because we relied on our mom’s income for the bills for the house. So it was very hard. I mean, music has quite literally saved my life as far as helping me to cope,” he explained. “Not only just that, just to eat, put food on the table.”

The full-time musician then went on to perform an original song called “Something To Write About,” which is the first song he wrote after his mother’s passing two years ago. 

“Going to sing one of mine. It was the first song I wrote. I actually didn’t start writing until after my mom passed away,” Duffee told the Idol judges. 

“Then he told me son all you need to do / Is think of all that I’ve done for you / And how everything that you’ve been through / Has made you into the man you are now,” Duffee sang. “And it dawned on me that he was right / God, I wish that I could see things through your eyes / When I’m looking ‘round / Yeah, maybe all the hard times are something to write about.”

His audition earned a standing ovation from all three Idol judges, including Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie.

“Sit down, please sit down,” the contestant humbly shouted as the judges stood up to offer his performance a round of applause. 

Richie then declared that his performance was “right on the money,” before sharing that he thinks Duffee has a knack for songwriting.

“Songwriting is a skill and you nailed that. If you could do about another 40 like that, you’d have a great, great mailbox career,” Richie continued. ”Just mailing you money man. I’m telling you, very well done.”

Preston Duffee; Photo by ABC, American Idol
Preston Duffee; Photo by ABC, American Idol

Katy Perry then compared the contestant to a “young Luke Bryan, to which he jokingly replied, “the ladies at Church call me Luke.” 

Bryan also applauded Duffee’s talents.

“I’m going to shoot you straight. We’ve got some other country guys in this thing that when you hear them sing it’s gonna be a… but what I know from you and the way you thought about that song,” Bryan said. ”If that’s the first song you wrote, the way you approached it, the way you wrote it… Man, you’ve got a really bright future as a songwriter and your voice will grow and be stronger.”

Richie, Perry, and Bryan then voted on the contestant’s audition to reveal his fate in the competition. 

“For me, it’s a yes,” Richie added.

“Preston – your character, your personality, and you’ve got the passion and it’s authentic and I like authentic stuff. So it’s a yes,” Perry said. 

“Job well done, my friend. Keep writing, keep digging, keep fighting, it’s a yes from me,” Bryan declared.  

With that, Duffee received a golden ticket to advance to Hollywood.

“If my mama were still here, she’d be really proud and tell me she knew I’d get here someday,” he beamed. 

American Idol airs every Sunday at 8/7c on ABC.

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Lauren Jo Black

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Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for Answers.com and her work being featured on Forbes.com. She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.