Emmy Russell Talks American Idol, Loretta Lynn’s Inspiration on Her Songwriting, and Memaw’s Cooking

Emmy Russell has captured the hearts (and votes) of American Idol viewers on season 22. The granddaughter of the late country legend Loretta Lynn, Russell has come into her own on the Idol stage. Recently, she landed in the top 7 after a moving performance of her “Memaw’s” signature song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Russell grew up touring on the road with Lynn, eventually graduating to opening up for her shows. Recently, the 25-year-old singer-songwriter explored their bond in further detail with Southern Living‘s Biscuits and Jam podcast.

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Emmy Russell Discusses Memaw’s Favorite Desserts

Lynn died in October 2022 at age 90. Russell spent much of her childhood at “Memaw’s” home. And like most Southern girls at Grandma’s house, her favorite room was the kitchen. However, Russell said Lynn didn’t spend much time there, preferring to leave the meals to her longtime assistant, Tim Cobb.

“You know what’s funny? Memaw never cooked for me — or anyone,” she said. “It was always Tim. Tim did it all.”

Like any proper Southern lady, the “Fist City” singer had plenty of cookbooks. “But did I ever get to taste any of her cooking? No,” Russell said. “So unfair.”

If anything, it was the other way around. The GRAMMY winner loved her granddaughter’s peanut butter milkshakes. “Peanut butter milkshakes, brownie brittle and banana pudding — those were her three top favorite desserts,” Russell said.

Loretta Lynn Helped Inspire Her Granddaughter’s Confessional Songwriting

Russell displayed the family’s knack for songwriting from an early age. She wrote her first song, “Keep Trying Again,” for her school’s second-grade talent show. The lyrics were about math — more specifically, Russell’s struggles with it. Looking back at Russell’s incredibly vulnerable original numbers on Idol, such as “Skinny,” it almost seems like foreshadowing.

[RELATED: Behind ‘American Idol’ Star Emmy Russell’s “Skinny,” and the Daunting Real-Life Battle That Inspired It]

Not long after, a 9-year-old Russell penned the deeply personal track “The Mirror Can Lie.” “I was really always attracted to identity, finding out who you are,” the American Idol contestant said. “I don’t know why. Now I look back at it and I’m like, ‘Oh, that makes sense now.’

Interviewer Sid Evans, editor-in-chief of Southern Living magazine, commented on the maturity of Russell’s lyrics at such a young age. This fact wasn’t lost on Lynn, either. “Memaw always told me, ‘You’re like a 40-year-old woman trapped in a 9-year-old’s body,” Russell said.

Featured image by Renee Dominguez/FilmMagic

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