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'American Idol': Luke Bryan 'Out-Country-ed' by 15-Year-Old Triston Harper

Harper's performance earned him a standing ovation from Perry and Richie.

The new season of "American Idol" premiered on ABC on Sunday, February 18, and judges Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie and Katy Perry were amazed by a 15-year-old singer from Alabama. Triston Harper took to the stage during auditions, immediately showcasing his deep country twang, and Bryan declared that he felt "out-country-ed" by the teenager. The contestant then shared a portion of his life story with the judges, including the fact that he and his mother experienced abuse from his stepfather and homelessness.

"I never thought I'd be able to tell my story to 'American Idol,' ever," he said during a pre-audition interview. "Makes me happy just thinking about it."

In a taped interview, Harper spoke about his mother and how she encouraged him to follow his dreams.

"My mama wanted us to be something, that's why I got into music," Harper said.

Back at the audition, Harper launched into an acoustic version of Jason Isbell's "Cover Me Up." The singer showcased both his range and the natural grit in his voice as he sang.

Perry and Richie gave Harper a short standing ovation after the performance, and as far as Harper's voice goes, Richie said, "You've got it." He complimented Harper's performance while advising him to focus on the story of the song as well as the vocal performance. Perry commented that Harper was "authentic" and singing from his soul, which connected with her. Bryan also shared his appreciation for Harper's talent, attributing any vocal issues to Harper's young age.

The judges brought Harper's mother, Hattie Mae, into the audition space as they gave the singer three "yes" votes to move through to Hollywood.

Catch "American Idol" on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. on ABC.

READ MORE: 'American Idol' Contestant Meets Her Birth Family During Emotional Audition