The American Idol judges seemed to know there was something special about Trey Louis as soon as he walked into the audition room. The 21-year-old mattress salesman from Santa Fe, Texas, charmed them with stories about his job and shared his love for his hometown.
From there, Louis moved into a powerful performance of “Stone” by the Southern rock/country band Whiskey Myers.
Louis threw his head back, closed his eyes, and sang in a tone quite reminiscent to that of Chris Stapleton. After his performance, judge Luke Bryan was quick to point out the similarities, calling him a “disciple” of the Grammy-winning country singer/songwriter.
The judges were already moved just from hearing Louis’ performance. But what he told them after his audition prompted an outburst of emotion.
When Bryan asked Louis why he’s doing Idol, the young man took a deep breath and revealed a tragic piece of his past. He’s a survivor of the 2018 Santa Fe High School mass shooting.
Louis was in his art class when the shooter made his way into the school. The gunman killed eight students and two teachers. “I lost a lot of friends,” Louis said.
Following the shooting, Louis says his hometown, “had a bad rap.” He wanted to come on Idol to try and give the world something more positive to latch onto from Santa Fe.
After hearing his story, judge Katy Perry started sobbing. She threw her head into her hands, and after crying for a while, she told Louis:
“This is not okay. You should be singing here because you love music, not because you had to go through that. You don’t have to lose eight friends.”
Judge Lionel Richie agreed. He and Bryan reached over and rubbed Perry’s arms to comfort her, though they were tearing up too.
“…we’ve got to change and I hope you can just lead. Can you do me that favor?” Perry asked Louis.
He said, “For myself, for my school, for you – you got it.”
All three judges ended up giving Louis a “yes” vote…sending him to Hollywood. After he got his golden ticket, Louis said:
“What we go through every day because of what happened is terrible. There is light, there is positivity. You just have to go chase it. Santa Fe, I’m not stopping. I got all the motivation behind me. I’ve got all of you guys behind me.”
You can watch Louis’ emotional audition in the video below.