Liahona Olayan was nervous when she walked into the great room with her older brother, Ammon, to audition for “American Idol.”
There were lights and cameras everywhere, and famous judges, megastars like Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie, were sitting in the distance on a platform that lifted them slightly off the ground.
“It seemed like they were on pedestals watching us,” Olayan recently told the Deseret News. “I was like, ‘I can’t do this. I need to get out of here ‘”.
But during the audition that aired Sunday night, those nerves seemed to dissipate when Liahona Olayan opened up to the judges about her family and upbringing. By the time she sat down 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 impressed.
“I don’t even know what they 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 loved his wisdom. I mean, Liahona, you have a voice like we can write a song, record it, and it’s ready for the radio.
“You all complement each other is absolute magic,” the country singer continued. “I think the sky is the limit, and I’m going crazy.”
Richie praised the brothers for writing their own music, a skill the couple developed five years ago while living in a tent in Hawaii with their large family (they are the oldest of eight children). Since then, the brothers, 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 is missing now is that everything is very elaborate, and the beauty of it is that it is so fresh,” said Richie. “I like what they both did. You brought it to the table. “
Perry compared the Liahona Olayan’s style to that of singers like Lorde and Alessia, and told the siblings that they had a definite future in songwriting.
“I think you guys are on the right track,” he said. “You have an incredible talent. Amazing songwriters, like, they should sign right now. ”
“Find that tent you were in and put it somewhere in your backyard,” Richie said. “I want you to write more songs from that store.”
“I may one day be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” added Bryan with a laugh.
And then the three judges gave Liahona and Ammon a “yes,” sending the brothers to the next round of the program, which begins March 21.
Regardless of how far they go on “American Idol,” Liahona Olayan previously told the Deseret News that she was excited to share this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with her brother.
“He was my inspiration and always has been,” she said. “Being on ‘American Idol’, it’s still crazy to process, but you know that after everything we’ve been through, it’s like a dream come true.”