Luke Bryan Says Colin Stough Is ‘Exactly What We Hope And Dream For At ‘American Idol”

Stough’s audition left a lasting impression on Bryan and the other Idol judges.


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

February 19, 2023


12:15 pm

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Luke Bryan, Colin Stough; Photos by ABC, American Idol

18-year-old Colin Stough hopes to put his hometown on the map while pursuing his musical endeavors on American Idol

The aspiring singer and horseback rider from Gattman, Mississippi, was forced to audition for Idol after his mother, Nara, signed him up to chase his dreams. 

Stough grew up in a very small town, with a population of just 79 residents. Growing up, the aspiring musician lived with his mom, stepdad, and two dogs, but the rest of his family lived just steps away.

Colin Stough; Photo by ABC, American Idol
Colin Stough; Photo by ABC, American Idol

Small-Town Upbringing

 “[Our house is] probably 30 feet from my grandparents’ house and It’s been in the family for a long time. My aunt and uncle live [down the street and] our cousins live [just a few blocks away]. I feel connected to this place,” he explained. 

Prior to entering the audition room, Stough shared that his dad was not a part of his life and that his mom raised him on her own. 

“My dad really ain’t never been there. He chose alcohol and drugs instead of me and mom,” Stough shared honestly. ”Man, that would just kill a family you know, and this is where we had to go. It wasn’t nowhere else, this was it. I used to have a real bad problem about just holding on to everything and that’s what horses teach me, just to let go of it. It’s kind of like you can talk to ’em, but you don’t say nothing and neither do they. It’s a way to cope.”

Stough Hopes To Make His Hometown Proud

Stough said his small-town upbringing made him realize how good the people around him are and revealed his hopes to be an inspiration to others in his hometown.

“It’s hard to find people that will give you the shirt off their back, and I know right here in this Gattman circle, any of ’em will do it for anybody. This competition man, it could change my life,” the 18-year-old acknowledged. “The main thing, the reason why I want to be in it is because ain’t really nothing coming from around here, and I want to change that.”

Colin Stough went on to showcase his vocal abilities for the Idol judges with a performance of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.” Donning a button-up shirt, a ball cap, and jeans, Stough strummed an acoustic guitar while singing the iconic rock hit. 

“Mama told me when I was young / ‘Come sit beside me, my only son / and listen closely to what I say / and if you do this it’ll help you / some sunny day’ / oh, yeah,” Stough sang as the Idol judges, Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie, looked on.   

Watch Colin Stough’s American Idol Audition

YouTube video

“It’s nerve-wracking right here,” Stough admitted as he concluded his performance before the Idol judges praised his impressive audition.

“That’s what American Idol is about, right there!” Bryan shouted as Richie chimed in exclaiming, “I love it!”

“Colin, you’ve got the magic in you… 100% and you got the stardust,” Perry told him. 

“You really do have the stardust,” Richie added. 

“Thank you, really means a lot,” Stough graciously said, thanking the judges for the compliments. 

Luke Bryan then invited Stough’s mother, Nara, into the audition room. According to the contestant, his mother is a longtime fan of Bryan and has always wanted to meet the of the “Country On” singer.

Colin Stough; Photo by ABC, American Idol
Colin Stough; Photo by ABC, American Idol

“Is your mama right outside? She’s right. You mind grabbing her?” Bryan asked Stough. 

Stough then brought his mother into the room, where she was greeted by Bryan with a big hug.

“Hey mama! Well, mama, this is a very important meeting between you and I,” Bryan said. ”We are so thankful that you signed this human being up. Nice to meet you!”

After returning to the judges’ panel, Bryan asked Nara, “How long you’ve been listening to him play that guitar in his room?”

“He wanted his first guitar for his fifth birthday. Now we’ve got a house full of guitars. I listen to guitar playing and singing all day and night, pretty much,” she replied. 

Bryan said that Colin is “exactly what we hope and dream for at American Idol.” 

He added, “Somebody that’s just raw, real humble. Thank you so much for signing him up. Now, Mama, if he goes to Hollywood, what advice are you going to give him?”

“Move over, I’m going too!” Nara joked. 

The three Idol judges then cast their vote to decide on Colin Stough’s fate. 

“Mama can see it. I can see it. We can see it. This is going to change your life, young man. I’m going to tell you something I gladly cast that ‘yes’ vote,” Richie declared. 

“It’s  a ‘yes’ from me,” Perry added as Bryan shouted, “it’s a ‘yes,’ ‘yes,’ ‘yes’ from me.” 

Ultimately, Colin Stough earned three ‘yes’ votes and a golden ticket to Hollywood. 

Lionel-Richie-Katy-Perry-Luke-Bryan; Photo by ABC, American Idol
Lionel-Richie-Katy-Perry-Luke-Bryan; Photo by ABC, American Idol

The season 21 premiere of American Idol airs on Sunday (Feb. 19) at 8/7c on ABC. The show will also stream on HULU.

This season of Idol promises to be a memorable one as it’s a celebration of the show turning 21 (in both years and seasons). Idol judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie return to find the next singing sensation in New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Nashville.  

American Idol airs on Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.

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Lauren Jo Black

Written by

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 and her work being featured on 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.