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Loretta Lynn’s granddaughter wows judges in “American Idol ”audition

Emmy Russell is the coal miner’s great-granddaughter.

Emmy Russell, the granddaughter of legendary country singer Loretta Lynn, is going to Hollywood.

The 24-year-old songwriter auditioned for American Idol on Sunday night’s episode, and impressed judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan with her powerful song “Skinny.”

The judges apparently didn’t know about Russell’s lineage before she arrived to audition. “Growing up, I sang music my entire life,” she said as she introduced herself. “I just love writing. I’m 24 years old. Songwriter, I love music. I don’t really sing out as much anymore, but growing up I sang on the road with… my grandma’s a country singer.”

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“Who’s your grandmother?” Bryan asked.

After shocking the judges by revealing her connection to Lynn, Russell gave the crew a tour of the country legend’s ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. “My family grew up here, my mom grew up here. This is my meemaw’s house,” she said. “She’s one of the biggest country music singers of all time, but to me she’s just my grandma, and growing up on the bus and all that was very normal to me.”

<p>Disney/Eric McCandless; Erika Goldring/WireImage</p> Emmy Russell and Loretta Lynn

Disney/Eric McCandless; Erika Goldring/WireImage

Emmy Russell and Loretta Lynn

The judges lightly jabbed at Russell for seeming quiet and shy. “I think there’s a reason why I think I am a little timid and I think it is ‘cause I want to own my voice and I wanna own it,” she explained. “That’s why I wanna challenge myself and come out here and really step in and be like ‘Okay, come on Emmy’”

Later, Russell’s mother Patsy Lynn, who was also a country singer as part of the duo The Lynns in the 1990s, reacted to her daughter’s nervousness. “She just wanted to do this honestly [and say] ‘this is who I am and this is what I do and this is my heart,’” she explained. “I think that when you come from a musical family, the shadow is so big. How do I fill those shoes? Well the deal is, you don’t. You make your own shadow.”

Russell wowed the judges with strong vocals and emotional lyrics like “Haven’t eaten in days/ God I hate how you made me” and “So took a trip around the world to hold the hands of orphan girls/Saw the war, felt the pain, and miracles in his name.”

Perry praised her songwriting abilities but encouraged her to speak and perform with more confidence. “Emmy, you’re an A+ songwriter. So was your grandma, you’ve got the gift,” she said. “I don’t think you need to compare yourself to what grandma was — you’re totally different, you shouldn’t give yourself all that pressure. I think you came in like a mouse.”

Richie echoed her sentiments. "My dear, you have promise, and I like your promise,” he said. “Each one of us is trying to battle something that we’re trying to overcome. In your case you have big shoes. Now if I can just get you to put those shoes back in the closet, that’s not your size.”

Bryan also encouraged her to embrace her voice. “We just need to lift you up and get you more confident and you just need to own it.”

All three judges ultimately gave Russell a “yes” vote, which means she’ll take her talents to Hollywood to sing in the next round of competition.

Russell reflected on the experience at the end of her segment. “I was thinking about my grandma, but I was also like ‘Emmy, she’s with you and now it’s your turn,’” she said. “I think I’m more like her now than whenever I was trying to be like her. I’m really excited.”

American Idol airs Sundays at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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