Lights and cameras were everywhere, and the celebrity judges — megastars like Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie — were sitting far away on a platform that lifted them slightly off the ground.
“It seemed like they were on pedestals looking down at us,” Olayan recently told the Deseret News. “I was like, ‘I can’t do this. I’ve gotta get out of here.’”
But during the audition that aired Sunday night, those nerves seemed to dissipate as Liahona Olayan opened up to the judges about her family and upbringing. By the time she sat at the piano to perform an original song called “Listen to My Heart “ with her brother, the 17-year-old singer was completely in her element.
And all three “Idol” judges were blown away.
“I don’t even know what y’all were singing, I don’t even know what was going on,” Bryan told the brother-sister duo after the performance. “All I know is that I was loving the savantness of it. I mean, Liahona, you have a voice like we could write a song, record it and it’s ready for the radio.
“Y’all complementing one another is absolute magic,” the country singer continued. “I think the sky’s the limit, and I’m just freaking out.”
Richie praised the siblings for writing their own music — a skill the pair developed five years ago while living in a tent in Hawaii with their large family (they’re the oldest of eight children). Since then, the siblings — who now live in Vineyard, Utah, have released an EP and were featured on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 2020 youth theme album.
Liahona Olayan told the “American Idol” judges that she and Ammon wrote “Listen to My Heart” to express their love for their siblings, and how they sometimes say things they don’t mean.
“I think what’s missing now is everything is so contrived, and the beautiful part about this is it’s so fresh,” Richie said. “I like what you both did. You brought it to the table.”
Perry compared Liahona Olayan’s style to singers like Lorde and Alessia, and told the siblings they had a definite future in songwriting.
“I think you guys are on the right path,” she said. “You are talented beyond belief. Incredible songwriters — like, should be signed right now.”
“Find that tent you were in and put it in your backyard somewhere,” Richie said. “I want you to write more songs out of that tent.”
“It may be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame someday,” Bryan added with a laugh.
And then all three judges gave both Liahona and Ammon a “yes,” sending the siblings to the show’s next round, which starts March 21.
Regardless of how far they end up going on “American Idol,” Liahona Olayan previously told the Deseret News she was just glad to be sharing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with her brother.
“He was my inspiration and has always been,” she said. “Being on ‘American Idol,’ it’s still crazy to process, but you know after everything that we’ve been through, it’s just like a dream come true.”
Reactions from the “Idol” judges:
ALOHA Meet bright eyed and bubbly brother-sister duo @liahonaolayan @ammonolayan from Pahoa, Hawaii, who started writing songs together while living in a tent, raising goats, and living off the land ✌️+⛺+ = #AmericanIdol pic.twitter.com/18HxEmUk5p— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) February 22, 2021