For a while, everything was going Lily Meola’s way.
While performing at Cafe des Amis in Hawaii, the budding singer-songwriter caught the attention of none other than Willie Nelson. He jotted some song titles down on a napkin and handed it to her — a list of potential duets they could do together, Rolling Stone reported.
Nelson ended up taking Meola, who was in her late teens at the time, under his wing. She toured with him and appeared on his 2013 album “To All The Girls,” according to Yahoo, setting her up to be listed on Rolling Stone’s “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” in 2016.
She had a record deal and a publishing deal, and was well on her way. And then, as she told the judges on “America’s Got Talent” Tuesday night, her “life flipped upside down.”
Standing before “AGT” judges Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara and Howie Mandel, Meola shared that her mother, Nancy Meola, was diagnosed with cancer. The singer-songwriter ended up losing her record deal as she became a full-time caretaker.
“I think maybe it was a bit of a blessing because it gave me some extra time to really be there for her,” Meola said with emotion. “She was my biggest cheerleader.”
Meola’s mother died in June 2020, according to Rolling Stone. And although Meola continues to work through the grief, the singer-songwriter is back to pursuing a path she knows her mom believed in.
“Singing was something my mom and I really connected with, and it’s how I fell in love with music in the first place, her playing music in the car,” Meola said during her audition, which already has more than 1 million views on YouTube. “So I’m just trying to make her proud and continue to live my daydream.”
For her audition, the 27-year-old songwriter performed her original song “Daydream” — a song she said has changed in meaning over the years. The artist told Rolling Stone that since her mother’s passing, she’s learned to be more vulnerable in her songwriting.
“I was terrified of that, you know?” said Meola, who is the sister of pro surfer Matt Meola. “But even through the hard times, we can come out from it stronger and with a smile ... and that’s really important for other people to hear. Obviously, you’re going to have hard days, ... but, if you’re not living your daydreams, then what is this life for?”
Thirty-one waiting tables
She has the voice of an angel
Out of money and power
She only sings in the shower
All these things we say we’ll get to
Shot down by the reasons not to
Darlin’ don’t quit your daydream
It’s your life that you’re making
The “AGT” judges gave Meola a standing ovation once “Daydream” came to a close. Klum, who said she was “speechless,” gave Meola the coveted golden buzzer, immediately advancing the singer to the live round of the competition.
“There is something special about you,” Cowell said. “And I know you’ve gone through a very difficult period. I think the fact that you’ve come back after what you’ve gone through, that says a lot about you, Lily, so good for you.”
After Meola walked off the “AGT” stage, covered in golden confetti, she chatted for a moment with “AGT” host Terry Crews. As the two talked, a photo of the singer with her mother came on the TV.
“She’d be so mad at me if I wasn’t pursuing what I love,” Meola said. “And ‘Daydream’ was one of her favorite songs. So I think she’d be really happy.”