WATCH: 19-Year-Old Burger Flipper Wows ‘American Idol’ Judges With John Mellencamp Cover

Zachariah Smith won’t be grilling burgers much longer.


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

February 19, 2023

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Zachariah Smith; Photo by ABC, American Idol

19-year-old Zachariah Smith spends his time grilling between 400-500 burgers at Bill’s Hamburgers in Amory, Mississippi, but soon, he’ll be trading in his apron and spatula for a microphone as his musical talent thoroughly impressed the American Idol judges during the Season 21 premiere. 

With his wife, Crysta, waiting in the hallway, Smith performed a cover of the John Mellencamp classic “Hurts So Good.” His performance left the judges in awe and had them dancing and singing along. 

“Holy crap-oly,” Katy Perry uttered. 

“Man, I love it,” Bryan gushed. 

“So good, he’s going to be so fun,” Perry replied. 


YouTube video

Without hesitation, the judges made their decision. 

“Um, go back to Amory and get your damn apron, get a little lighter fluid… burn the Apron,” Bryan told Smith. 

“Oh no!” Perry exclaimed. “You’re not flipping no burger!”

“… ever again,” Richie chimed in. 

The 19-year-old couldn’t contain his excitement as he questioned, “I don’t have to flip burgers anymore?” He had a huge smile across his face as the judges laughed 

“You’re fun!” Perry declared.  

“You’re so fun, but you know what it is? You are not a gimmick, you are so good,” Richie applauded. 

Perry went on to praise the Idol contestant, telling him, “Like, you know how many guys walk into this room and say like we hope you have a sound, just like that, like that’s so authentic, it’s just oozing out of you. You can’t even control it, it’s just coming out.” 

Richie added, “You have a rasp, you have a growl, and then on top of it you’re having fun,” 

Smith agreed, confirming, “yes, that’s what it’s all about.” 

Three yeses, Zachariah Smith learned his fate.  

“You’re three for three,” Luke Bryan revealed, certifying his Golden ticket to Hollywood. 

Ahead of the show, Smith spoke with the Monroe Journal about his Idol journey.

“I’ve been singing since I was 6 years old,” Smith said. “I took some guitar lessons when I was about 8 years old, played a little bit, put the guitar down and picked it back up. I’m mostly focused on my voice and focused on entertaining and being a performer. I think that was the highlight of what started my career.”

He previously considered auditioning for Idol at the age of 15, but he waited to become more mature before auditioning. 

“Now that I have a family and kind of got adjusted to the adult life, I really would like to follow my dreams,” Smith added. “I did it because I thought I could have a really good shot of going somewhere with it and coming out with a musical career like I always dreamed of.”

Zachariah Smith; Photo by ABC, American Idol
Zachariah Smith; Photo by ABC, American Idol

Smith credits Michael Jackson, Queen, Bruno Mars, The Weeknd and Ariana Grande as his biggest inspirations. He learned to sing at age 6 and how to play the guitar at age 8. He has only played shows locally at his place of employment as well as The Coffee Pot. Smith has also written one original song.

He later took to Instagram to share his excitement. 

“It’s that time BABY,” he wrote. “I’ve been waiting for what seems like an eternity for this show to begin! I’m so excited!”

He later shared a boomerang of his golden ticket with the caption, “Let’s Go!!! WHOOOOO!!!!!!!”

Golden Ticket

Following the season premiere, Bryan took to Twitter to once again share his excitement about Smith’s audition. 

“Burn that apron @ZachariahSmith but bring us some burgers to Hollywood, he wrote. 

Zachariah Smith resides in the same small town as fellow season 21 contestant, Colin Stough.  

The season 21 premiere of American Idol aired on Sunday (Feb. 19) at 8/7c on ABC. The show is available to 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

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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 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.