For his time on stage, the giant screens behind him showed a rural landscape bathed in the light of a colorful set complete with rolling clouds. Stough stood center stage and played his guitar, all while Luke Bryan sang along from the judge’s desk.
Fellow judge Katy Perry noted how Stough is always true to his roots and presents his authentic self while on stage. While she says authenticity is appreciated on Idol, she did expand that she wanted to see Stough shine with more vocal power and risks.
Bryan’s feedback started off a little strange, with the country star noting that Stough is becoming a “science experiment” to him. His reasoning for the comparison turned it into a heartfelt coaching moment. “… I know every emotion going on in your head, ‘cause I really grew up very similar to the way you have,” he told the hopeful.
Bryan echoed Perry in wanting more from the aspiring singer, telling him: “You gotta give it to us, all the time, for the rest of your life. Give it to the people and you’re a big star. I believe you’re a big star, but you gotta understand you are.”
After some encouragement from host Ryan Seacrest, Bryan stood up from his chair to offer a line from the song with the level of energy that judges are after.
American Idol airs on Sunday and Monday nights at 8PM ET on ABC.