A star is born. American Idol viewers met Kelsie Dolin during the second week of auditions — and she left a big impression.
“I’m very shy. Stepping outside of my comfort zone is very nerve-wracking,” Dolin, 18, told the cameras during the Sunday, March 6 episode of the ABC competition show. “I’m doing this audition for my grandma and I want to make her proud. She is 100 percent here with me.”
Dolin walked into the audition room in muck boots and a baseball cap, and judge Luke Bryan immediately warmed up to her. “I was going online and [an ad for American Idol auditions] just kept coming up,” she told the judges. “My grandma passed last September. So I just kind of thought it was her telling me, I don’t know, to sign up for it.”
The West Virginia native sang a hit from the first American Idol winner, Kelly Clarkson, during her audition. After a lovely performance of “Piece by Piece,” Bryan, 45, asked if she ever sang publicly before. “I tried to sing in church one time. The music started playing and I just froze,” Dolin recalled.
Bryan praised Dolin for overcoming her fears and asked if the young performer could sing another song. She chose Adele‘s “When We Were Young,” and Katy Perry encouraged the newcomer to put some “power” behind her next performance.
“Hey, do you know how many bad notes you hit on that last song?” Bryan asked after she finished the hit. Dolin said she didn’t know. “Zero,” he told her.
The judges were all clearly affected by the performance, and Lionel Richie even shed a few tears.
“We are so emotional and so overcome because you’ve been sitting down in West Virginia, and you have this pure, beautiful voice that’s never been challenged, never been pushed,” Bryan said. “It’s never been lifted and loved on.”
Richie, 72, didn’t say much because he was in tears. “This is the only person I know that has just walked in here and messed me up completely,” the “Hello” crooner said.
He added, “If we could give you a hug a day to just let you know how beautiful you are, you would understand why we are crying.”
Perry, 37, emphasized that they might be more critical in the future — but it’ll help her reach her full potential. “You’re worth it, and I hope that you can trust us,” the “Roar” singer said. “But we are going to put a little bit of pressure on you because we know there’s more there.”
There was no question among the judges about sending Dolin to the next round. “You take that cute giggle with you all the way to Hollywood,” Luke added.
American Idol airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Scroll down to learn more about Dolin: