“American Idol” judge Luke Bryan said it was an “easy” decision to put 15-year-old contestant Ethan Payne through to Hollywood after joining him in an impromptu duet during an emotional audition Wednesday.
Payne, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis — a genetic disease that affects the lungs and other organs — as a baby, met his country idol two years prior through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. At that time, he snapped pictures with the musician, was gifted Bryan’s personal guitar and was even invited on stage to perform with the star in front of a crowd of 50,000.
It’s no surprise Bryan immediately recognized the “feller” as he stepped in front of the “American Idol” judges with his guitar.
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“Oh, goodness,” Bryan said. “What are you doing, bud?”
The teen explained that he simply wanted to showcase his talent, giving a special nod to the “beautiful” Katy Perry.
“We went back to the doctor a year and a half ago … they said that I’m doing very, very good with my health,” Payne said. “It really affects my lungs and my breathing. There’s no cure for it, but singing is definitely my cure for it.”
As Payne began strumming his guitar, he invited Bryan up to join him in singing his popular song “I Do.”
At the end of the performance, the judges gave Payne a standing ovation and praised him for his confidence.
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“You, young man, you’re an inspiration,” judge Lionel Richie commented. “I’m hoping that the whole world understands what they’re watching here because it really is a fabulous, fabulous blessing.”
“Ethan, I loved your confidence … I feel like you could do anything, especially when you have the spark of talent, which you do have,” Perry echoed.
Bryan agreed cystic fibrosis is a challenging disease and said he was inspired by the teen’s resilience.
“The fact that you’re attacking life full-speed ahead and you’re not waiting around for it to affect you in any way is very inspiring,” Bryan added before giving Payne his “golden ticket.”
“I’m hoping that the whole world understands what they’re watching here because it really is a fabulous, fabulous blessing.”
As of Thursday morning, nearly 200,000 people have watched Payne’s audition on YouTube. Dozens of fans praised the teen’s performance and bravery.
“This kid is great wish this kid the best of luck!” one person commented on the video.
“Ugh totally just melted my heart in so many ways… not the least of which was the fact that you could tell how much Luke truly cares for this kid and in turn I’m sure how he cares about all his fans. He’s a class act… they all are! And I hope this kid goes far! He has the charisma, the talent and most definitely the heart and fighting spirit!” another added.
“Wow… great voice. A little more coaching and he will be legendary!” a third exclaimed.