American Idol’s Emmy Russell Is No Longer Running Away From Her Family Legacy

American Idol viewers are seeing Emmy Russell’s metamorphosis in real time. The granddaughter of the late country legend Loretta Lynn has established herself as a legitimate frontrunner for the season 25 crown. And Russell has done this all of this while battling nerves and reckoning with her family legacy. Recently, the top 5 finalist spoke about how embracing her past has helped shape her future.

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Emmy Russell Pays Tribute To Loretta Lynn on ‘American Idol’

Throughout her American Idol journey, Emmy Russell’s biggest hurdle has been her own mind. The 25-year-old Tennessee native has been open about battling nerves, especially as she tackles deeply personal topics in her original songs.

“I don’t think I’m ever past nerves or confidence,” Russell recently told Parade. “I think it’s a continuing journey for me. But I do think the more that’s going on, I’m getting more confident.”

Perhaps the most significant confidence boost came during Russell’s top 7 performance. That night, she sat down at the piano and sang her “Memaw’s” signature song, the 1970 hit “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Lynn penned the tune as an homage to her coal-mining father, as well as her childhood in Depression-era rural Kentucky.

Russell’s mother, Patsy Lynn, wiped away tears in the audience as the Idol standout sang the last few lyrics: Not much left but the floors / Nothing lives here anymore / Except the memories of a coal miner’s daughter.

[RELATED: Emmy Russell Fights Back Tears Sharing Emotional Aftermath of Her Loretta Lynn Tribute on ‘American Idol’ ]

Emmy Russell: ‘I’m Proud To Be in This Family’

As a child, Russell often performed alongside her grandmother, who died in October 2022 at age 90. However, she found herself shrinking from that spotlight as she grew older and more image-conscious.

Russell worked as a Christian missionary in Brazil for several years. But Lynn’s voice never left her mind. “All the time, she’d be like ‘When are you going to come back and do what you’re made to do?’” Russell told Rolling Stone. “She would always say, ‘If you have these gifts, don’t bury them under a rug. Use them.’”

Finally deciding to heed “Memaw’s” words, Russell auditioned for American Idol. Now she is finding her place not only in the music industry, but in her family.

“I would always run away from my family and not want to be part of it,” Russell said after her top 10 performance. “I think this was the first time that I said, ‘I’m proud to be in this family.’ With the family comes a blessing, but with it comes a curse.”

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