4 Country Stars Who Were Turned Down by ‘American Idol’

Though American Idol has helped make stars out of past winners Carrie Underwood and Scotty McCreery, and contestants like Kellie Pickler, Lauren Alaina, and more, the singing competition also rejected plenty of future country stars before they even had a chance to audition.

Before breaking into country music, Mickey Guyton, Chris Lane, Colton Swon, Colbie Caillat, and more tried out—some several times—and never made it past the preliminary rounds to audition for the judges. Pop stars like Bebe Rexha, actress and singer Chrissi Metz, and others also met similar fates pre-audition.

Here’s a look at four mega country stars turned down by American Idol throughout the years.

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[RELATED: The Song ‘American Idol’ Judges Wanted to Ban From the Competition]

1. Lainey Wilson

Long before her 2022 breakout album Bell Bottom CountryLainey Wilson couldn’t get into an American Idol audition. Wilson tried out for American Idol seven times and was turned down for each. “That was the first time I heard that, but I’ll go see my producers today and find out what happened,” said Idol judge Luke Bryan, who was surprised by Wilson’s rejections. “I’m glad she didn’t take the Idol letdown to heart. It also shows we don’t always get it right.”

In 2023, Wilson was finally asked to perform on American Idol during the season 21 finale.

“I finally made it on ‘American Idol,'” said Wilson reflecting on the experience in 2023. “I tried out seven times [and] I took the long way around but finally made it on ‘American Idol’ [and] I never made it through, never made it past the first round.”

She added, “I also tried out for ‘The Voice.’ I’m grateful my story ended the way that it did.”

2. Maren Morris

Not only was Maren Morris rejected by American Idol, but she also tried out for The Voice, and America’s Got Talent and was turned away. In a 2019 interview, Morris said the rejection didn’t discourage her since her songs are being performed on the shows now.

“There were a ton that I didn’t make it to—thank God,” said Morris. “Now people cover my songs for their auditions on those shows. So it’s like, not only is it really nice to have my song on a national television show, I get to collect the check and have some sweet revenge.”

3. Kane Brown

Kane Brown made his way onto The X Factor in 2013, then quit when producers tried putting him in a boy band, and he never made it to American Idol like his former school choirmate and season 10 runner-up Lauren Alaina.

“They didn’t need another Scotty McCreery,” said Brown in 2016 of his Idol rejection.

Even though Idol turned him down, Brown did appear in the season 17 finale, performing “Lost in the Middle of Nowhere” from 2018 with contestant Alyssa Raghu and his 2019 hit “Good as You.” 

4. Hillary Scott

Before breaking through with Lady A, Hillary Scott faced rejection by American Idol twice. “I never got to see [the judges],” said Scott. “I literally performed for the production assistants and the interns, and I just didn’t make it.”

At first, Scott said the rejection made her cry. “I think I remember shedding a few tears, just knowing that I hadn’t performed at my best because I was so nervous,” shared Scott in a 2012 interview. “I had never done any audition like that before. If anyone has gone and auditioned, it’s a lot of pressure. [There are] thousands and thousands of people in line trying to make it … Honestly, it’s never raking, but I would go back and do it in a heartbeat. I have no regrets.”

After Lady A performed on Idol for the first time, with their No. 1 hit “Just A Kiss,” during season 10 in 2011, Scott said, “I don’t have any hard feelings, but truthfully it was pretty validating standing up there.”

Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images for CMT)

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