‘American Idol’ Auditions: Luke Bryan Reunites With Make-a-Wish Kid Ethan Payne, Sends Him to Hollywood
Three years ago, Luke Bryan helped make Georgia native Ethan Payne's wish to meet him come true. On Wednesday night (March 6), American Idol viewers got to see the teenager reunite with the country superstar, and watch Bryan and his fellow judges grant a second of Payne's wishes as they gave him a golden ticket to Hollywood.
Payne was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 18 months old. "The death rate is high ... and it feels like you're not gonna get through it. It feels like you have no hope," Payne admits. "I never, ever saw singing in my future."
Through the Make-a-Wish program, Payne got to fulfill his dream of meeting Bryan. The two hung out backstage in October of 2016, when Payne was 13 years old -- and Bryan also invited Payne onstage that night, to sing his hit single "Do I" with him.
"I felt like the whole world had just shut down," Payne remembers, "and it was on me and him. My heart genuinely exploded."
Bryan gifted Payne one of his guitars to take home. "He said, 'It's gonna change your life; you'll never be the same,'" Payne recalls. "And here I am now. It's true: My life has been different ever since that night."
Payne strolled into his Idol audition with that guitar and a positive update: Doctors say he's "doing very, very good with my health," he told Bryan, Lionel Richie and Katy Perry. Although, as he shared, there's no cure for cystic fibrosis, "singing is definitely my cure for it."
Payne wasn't about to do his audition alone, though; instead, he asked Bryan to join him. The two revisited that moment in 2016, performing "Do I" accompanied by their acoustic guitars.
Clearly, Bryan is a fan, but Richie and Perry were, too. The three unanimously voted to send Payne through to the Hollywood round of American Idol competition.
"Absolutely, 100 percent, the best day of my life," Payne says of the moment.
American Idol is currently in its second season on ABC, after being canceled by Fox following 15 seasons. Three more episodes of auditions will air before Hollywood Week begins in late March.
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