American Idol is back, and as always, Mississippi is well-represented.
During Sunday’s season 21 premiere, not one but two Monroe County musicians took the Idol world by storm, paving their respective ways to Hollywood.
Colin Stough, an aspiring country singer from the 79-person town of Gattman, was the third contestant to advance after the 18-year-old wowed the judges with his rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.”
“This is what American Idol is about, right there!” Luke Bryan shouted as fellow judge Katy Perry pitched in, “Colin, you’ve got the magic in you… 100% and you got the stardust.”
Prior to his performance, Stough shared that his mom raised him on his own, and when he isn’t working his day job as an HVAC technician, he’s more than likely horseback riding.
“My dad really ain’t never been there. He chose alcohol and drugs instead of me and my mom,” Stough said. “I used to have a real bad problem about just holding on to everything and that’s what horses teach me – just to let go of it. It’s kind of like you can talk to them, but you don’t say nothing and neither do they. It’s a way to cope.”
Just a couple of performances after Stough, the cameras panned over to a scene at Bill’s Hamburgers in Amory. There, Stough was eating with some of his buddies when he showed off his newly acquired golden ticket.
The fry cook at Bill’s, who we now know as 19-year-old Zachariah Smith, immediately turned to Stough and revealed that he was also planning to audition in just a few months. The two wished each other luck and mulled over the idea of two people from the same rural county in Mississippi competing together on American Idol.
Upon arriving in Nashville, Smith informed the judges of his burger-flipping occupation before captivating them with his cover of John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good.”
“Go back to Amory, get your damn apron, get a little lighter fluid and burn the apron,” Bryan told Smith afterward.
“You’re not flipping no burger anymore!” Perry exclaimed.
Smith, with a big smile, was thrilled as he questioned, “I don’t have to flip burgers anymore?”
In an interview with the Monroe Journal ahead of the show, Smith explained that he has been singing since he was six years old. A native of Indiana, he recently moved to Amory and is now married with three stepchildren.
“Now that I have a family and kind of got adjusted to the adult life, I really would like to follow my dreams,” Smith said. “I did it because I thought I could have a really good shot of going somewhere with it and coming out with a musical career like I always dreamed of.”
You can keep up with both Stough and Smith as American Idol airs every Sunday at 7 p.m. CT on ABC.