Chilling Cover of Chris Stapleton’s “Cold” Earns Kaeyra an ‘American Idol’ Golden Ticket

Seated at a white grand piano, Illinois native Kaeyra captivated the judges with her sultry cover of Chris Stapleton’s Grammy-winning 2020 hit “Cold” during the American Idol auditions.

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The raven-haired 21-year-old singer’s lush vocals soared around the lyrics Cold enough to chill my bones / It feels like I don’t know you anymore / I don’t understand why you’re so cold to me / With every breath you breathe, prompting judge Luke Bryan to give her a standing ovation after her performance.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” said Bryan. “You just sat at the piano, and you don’t sound like anybody else. You can just tell music has been in your world. It was great. It was really great.”

When asked by judge Katy Perry where she usually performs, Kaeyra revealed that she sings four hours a night, four days a week at a restaurant.

“If you get to go to Hollywood, I want to hear something less slow, because you have this vibrato that’s really cool,” said Perry. “All the world is not a steakhouse.”

Judge Lionel Richie agreed with Perry and added that they’re focused on vocal range. “If you can get some of that moody voice you have and put it across a fast song, mid-tempo song, slow song,” he said, “you got all the range you need to make an artist out of this.”

Perry added, “I agree with Lionel. I believe you are an artist. I think it’s in your blood, and I think that the universe has put you in the right places just for this moment.”

Perry and Bryan gave Kaeyra her first two yeses, while Richie added, “It’s in your blood, and I think what we want to do now is bring it all out. It’s time to show it off,” before giving the young singer the third “yes” she needed to go through to Hollywood.

In a post-performance interview, Kaeyra said she was nervous before her audition since she has watched American Idol for so many years.

“Being in that room felt surreal,” said Kaeyra. “Luke Bryan gave me a standing ovation, which was really special. [The judges] were super sweet and encouraging. It was just really cool to see people that I’ve looked up to actually supporting and believing in me.”

A child of Polish immigrants, Kaeyra’s mother, Joanna Szepelawy, ran a music school in Bartlett, Illinois, and by the age of 12, Kaeyra was already singing and playing bass in a band. Along with her most recent gig, performing at Mastro’s Restaurant in Chicago, Kaeyra has performed at a number of festivals, including Taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza. She also sang the national anthem for The Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Bulls.

“Chicago gave me a really great platform and a lot of opportunities, which I’m so grateful for,” said Kaeyra. “I felt like I was just ready to take that next step and be uncomfortable and take a risk.”

Photos: ABC/Eric McCandless

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