As the 21st season of “American Idol” airs its star-studded finale on May 21, 2023, most of the show’s top contestants will have their last interactions with the three celebrity judges — country star Luke Bryan, pop star Katy Perry and R&B legend Lionel Richie. But if past seasons are any indication, those lucky enough to make a big impression on Bryan may continue to get support from the superstar.
Recent top “Idol” alumni with burgeoning country music careers have continued to receive mentorship or perks from Bryan, including Season 20 runner-up HunterGirl and Season 19 winner Chayce Beckham. Meanwhile, some of this season’s hopefuls, including Top 12 contestant Lucy Love, have shared how much his insights and mentorship have already meant to them.
‘Idol’ Contestants Say Luke Bryan Has Encouraged Them in Important Ways
Bryan, who is expected to perform his latest single, “But I Got A Beer In My Hand,” on the season finale, has been particularly complimentary of the season 21 talent pool.
“I think the talent on this year of American Idol is the best we’ve ever had,” he told UMG Nashville. “When I look at our Top 10, any of those kids can go and be massive superstars. And I think it’s really important for us to put these kids in a situation where they want to be in music their whole life and they want to get out there and tour and make all their dreams come true.”
Bryan has been especially excited this year about country contestants like MaryBeth Byrd, who made it to the Top 10, and finalists Megan Danielle and Colin Stough, who will go up against Iam Tongi in the finale. After 18-year-old Stough’s initial audition for the judges, Bryan wanted to talk to his mom, Nara, who signed him up for “Idol,” per Country Living.
“Well, mama, this is an important meeting between you and I,” Luke said to her. “We are so thankful that you signed this human being up.”
Behind the scenes, Bryan likely spent the most time with the contestants this season behind the scenes, having invited the Top 12 to the StageCoach music festival for his headline performance and inviting them into his trailer to chat.
The time that soul singer Love got to spend there with Bryan made a big impression on her, she shared in an Instagram post on May 16.
The 28-year-old mom, who had just split from her husband at the beginning of the competition, wrote of Bryan, “This guy is so down to earth when you really sit with him ! He invited us on his tour bus and taught us all about life on the road !”
“What stuck out the most is how he inspired me with his story of touring & traveling with his family with him majority of time,” she continued. “That really inspired me to pursue my dreams , knowing that my babies can always go with me & adjusted to fit into Gods plan!”
She concluded her post by writing, “@lukebryan I’ll never forget this moment bro 🙏🏾”
Season 20 contestant Lady K, an R&B singer who made it to the Top 10 last year, concurred. She replied, “My guy!! He def had that southern hospitality and love down packed ! 🙌 I’m glad you got to have that moment with him !! We love you @lukebryan”
Luke Bryan Has Championed Multiple ‘Idol’ Alumni
After country singer-songwriter Chayce Beckham was named the winner of season 19 in 2021, he says Bryan took him under his wing and helped him navigate the music business while also staying true to his roots. Bryan even presented him with a gold record during a recent episode of “Idol,” for Beckham’s hit song “23.”
“He’s played such an instrumental part in my career and my development, making sure that I’m with the right people and doing the right things,” Beckham told Parade on May 14. “I’ve just really admired everything that he’s done for me and I look up to him.”
Beckham and Bryan bonded over fishing after his “Idol” run, he told Parade.
“He took me fishing once and now he’s stuck with me, so I always tease him about that,” he said. “But we’ve gone fishing a couple of times and he’s definitely been a huge mentor to me. Like I said, I can’t thank that guy enough for everything he’s done.”
Beckham’s excited to join Bryan on tour starting in June and told Parade he’s much more comfortable being on tour than on TV.
He said, “It’s honestly a relief when I get to go out with Luke because we know each other and it’s like family on the road, so we always have a good time and have a lot of fun. I love getting to sing for 20,000 people, that just fires me up. That stuff doesn’t get me as nervous as the TV stuff. But, yeah, I’m thrilled just to be on the road with him, learning from him, and getting to sing for his fans, it’s just an awesome opportunity.”
Last year’s runner-up, HunterGirl, has also kept in touch with Bryan since her journey on “Idol,” including performing at his Nashville club in 2022 and being invited by him to see one of his shows in Las Vegas in February and she posted a photo of them together backstage.
During her run on the show, Bryan called her “the next Miranda Lambert” and she said his support “meant everything” to her.
“Getting to have Luke there to cheer me on meant everything,” she told Music Mayhem magazine. “I’ve looked up to him since I was a little girl. There were moments when you are down, worried, or scared.”