Luke Bryan Admits American Idol ‘Doesn’t Always Get It Right’ After Lainey Wilson Was Rejected Seven Times

Bryan admits he was unaware that Wilson auditioned for the show.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

February 18, 2024

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Luke Bryan, Lainey Wilson; Photos By ABC/Stewart Cook

Did you know that Lainey Wilson auditioned for American Idol and was rejected by the show seven times? Neither did longtime American Idol judge Luke Bryan, until recently. 

Lainey Wilson Auditioned For American Idol Seven Times

Each year since American Idol began in 2002, thousands of hopeful artists have made their way into the audition room dreaming of the chance to achieve stardom. Unfortunately, not everyone can make it through to Hollywood Week, meaning there are still plenty of talented singers who are turned down at auditions each year. 

One country artist in particular who has now become one of the top singer/songwriters in the genre, can attest to the feeling of disappointment that comes from being rejected time and time again. That artist is Lainey Wilson. 

Photo Courtesy Lainey Wilson
Photo Courtesy Lainey Wilson

While she may now be a GRAMMY winner, the Louisiana native has always been open and honest about struggling for over a decade before finally getting her big break in Nashville. 

During this journey, she was among the many others who tried out for Idol in hopes of getting recognition from the industry as well as fans nationwide. However, despite her great efforts in auditioning seven times, Wilson never walked away with a coveted ticket to Hollywood. 

Did Lainey Wilson Perform On American Idol?

Then back in May of 2023, her hard work paid off when she finally found herself on the Idol stage as a performer during the Season 21 finale. She and Jelly Roll first joined forces to sing the duet version of Jelly Roll’s “Save Me” and later, she returned to deliver a performance of “Heart Like a Truck.” 


She Never Made It Past The First Round

While co-hosting Country Countdown USA, Lainey Wilson reflected on this full-circle experience as she said, “I finally made it on American Idol. I tried out seven times [and] I took the long way around but finally made it on American Idol [and] I never made it through… never made it past the first round.”

Lainey Wilson Also Auditioned For The Voice

It turns out Idol wasn’t the only singing competition show Wilson was rejected from because as she went on to explain, she also tried her fate on The Voice. Even though she never made it through the first rounds on either competition, she kept her head up and ended up finding her own path to success.

“I also tried out for The Voice,” she added. “I’m grateful my story ended the way that it did.”

Lainey Wilson; Photo Courtesy Facebook, Instagram
Lainey Wilson; Photo Courtesy Facebook, Instagram

Even though things didn’t work out as Wilson initially planned, she was determined to keep pursuing her dreams because as she previously said in an interview with PEOPLE, there was never a backup plan. 

“I’ve known that this is my calling, and there’s nothing else I want to do that I can do. I’ve always just been like, ‘No plan B. This is it,’” she shared. “I feel like that time I’ve had to prepare, I don’t know… If it happened when I wanted it to, I don’t know that I would have been ready.”

Luke Bryan Was Shocked To Hear That Lainey Wilson Auditioned But Didn’t Make It Through

Weeks after Wilson’s appearance on Country Countdown USA, Luke Bryan sat down for a conversation with host Lon Helton and was shocked to learn that Wilson was rejected by American Idol several times.

Luke Bryan; Photo Courtesy American Idol
Luke Bryan; Photo Courtesy American Idol

“I didn’t know that, that was the first time I heard that, but I’ll go see my producers today and find out what happened,” Bryan promised at the time. “I’m glad she didn’t take the Idol letdown to heart.” 

Bryan also admitted that Wilson’s rejection proved “we don’t always get it right.” 

It’s safe to say that Wilson’s strength and resilience are what drove her to take the country music world by storm and become one of the biggest names in the game. Now, she travels the world sporting her signature bell bottoms, wide-brimmed hats and bright personality while showing off her beloved vocals. 

Lainey Wilson; Photo by Cece Dawson, Courtesy of Instagram
Lainey Wilson; Photo by Cece Dawson, Courtesy of Instagram

“All I ever wanted was to be part of the country music industry. I remember just dreaming about that, like, ‘Oh my gosh, it would be so cool to just know these people and call them and get advice,’ and I feel that way,” she recalled. “I feel like country music has finally decided to love me back as much as I’ve been loving it for my whole life. It feels good to be recognized.” 

Lainey Wilson Is Now One Of Country Music’s Biggest Stars

Lainey Wilson is on top of her game. In addition to earning a GRAMMY for her wildly successful album, Bell Bottom Country, the 31-year-old is also the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year and has six No.1s to her name. 

Her newest musical era began just recently with the release of “Country’s Cool Again,” a song that highlights the recent revival of the country way of life. Soon, she’ll embark on her headlining Country’s Cool Again Tour, playing to sold-out crowds across the country.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.