‘American Idol’ helps Loretta Lynn’s granddaughter follow in legendary singer’s footsteps

For “American Idol” contestant Emmy Russell, country music runs in her blood.

Russell, who officially made the Top 20 on last night’s episode of the singing competition show, is the granddaughter of country music superstar Loretta Lynn, and as she is proving, Russell has inherited some of Lynn’s remarkable talent.

“I’m a songwriter,” the 25-year-old singer said in a video shared on last night’s episode of “American Idol.” “It’s in my blood. When I was about 9, I wrote my first real song.”


She continued, “Whenever you share a song, it’s very vulnerable. Anything I feel, I write. It just starts coming out of me. I go to my iPhone and my piano – it is my best friend whenever it comes to music. I feel a melody, I go to my iPhone, record it. A lyric, go to it, record it.”

She held up her phone for the “Idol” cameras, scrolling through her recordings to show how many she had saved there. She paused on one song called “Want You,” a song she had written that she went on to perform for judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie, as well as a large live audience.

Bryan seemed to tear up during Russell’s performance, and when host Ryan Seacrest joined her onstage for her critique, he admitted that the song had made him cry backstage.

Perry offered her some criticism, saying, “I know you are just a little nervous, I just want more breath, more long notes. Girl, go swimming, learn how to hold your breath more, we need longer notes from Emmy and I know you have them. We need power, come on, let’s go, the time is now.”

Despite the critique, her performance was enough to move her forward in the competition. The contestants will continue performing live shows until the season finale airs on May 12 on ABC.

Russell is the daughter of Patsy Lynn, one of the “Coal Miner’s Daughter” singer’s six children, and Phillip Russell. While appearing on “American Idol” is giving her massive exposure, this is not her first time in the spotlight.

When she still did performances, Lynn sometimes brought Russell out to perform with her. As she explained during a recent appearance on Southern Living’s “Biscuits & Jam” podcast, “Memaw [her name for Lynn] passed down her guitar to me when I was 15 at the Ryman Auditiorium. She said ‘You’re the one that can do it.’ She always thought I had this spark about me ever since I was a little kid. She felt she needed to give me the guitar as the torch in a way.”

She added, “Lord knows it if I can’t hold that. That’s too much.”

Russell could also be seen during CMT’s tribute to Lynn, “Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Celebration of the Life and Music of Loretta Lynn.” The special aired on Oct. 31, 2022, just a few weeks after Lynn died of natural causes at 90.

She performed “Lay Me Down,” a duet with Lukas Nelson, son of Willie Nelson. Lynn recorded the song with the elder Nelson for a 2016 album.

A year ago, Russell made another big move in her career – her first performance at the legendary Grand Ole Opry, singing “Memaw’s Guitar,” a song she wrote about Lynn.