21-year-old Marybeth Byrd added a “little bit of pop flair” to a cover of The SteelDrivers’ “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” during her American Idol audition on Sunday evening (Mar. 5).
The small town Arkansas radio host aspires to one day be a country superstar, so she auditioned for Idol. Byrd works at Mix 106.3 in Joneeboro (KJBX) and vows to always stay true to where she’s from, but hopes her Idol audition will elevate her musical career.
“I love my hometown. I love the people I work with. But you know, to spread my wings, I feel like I’m gonna need to have that push to get me to the next level,” she explained prior to her audition. “I feel like being here in Las Vegas is me going for it.”
She continued, “Trying to get to the next chapter in my life, which I really do feel like I’m ready for, and I hope that I can learn from you guys.”
Byrd then performed a cover of The SteelDrivers’ “If It Hadn’t Been for Love.”
Joined by a guitarist, Mary Beth Byrd confidently belted out the lyrics to The SteelDrivers’ tune in front of the star-studded panel of Idol judges.
“Never would’ve seen the trouble that I’m in / If it hadn’t been for love / Would’ve been gone like a wayward wind / If it hadn’t been for love / Nobody knows it better than me / I wouldn’t be wishing I was free / If it hadn’t been, if it hadn’t been for love,” Byrd sings.
Following her impressive Idol audition, Idol judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan gushed over her performance.
“You opened your mouth and it was correct, period. And we were looking at each other going, ‘what is going on?’” Richie said. “What we try to teach here is something you walked in the door with naturally and that is what is your identity? You brought it to us.”
Luke Bryan went on to praise the singer.
“Well, people have it. People just have it. And I’m talking about the first note, you had it. I mean, everything about you’s got it from the name to your presentation to the sound of some Arkansas blues and small townness (sic) going on,” Bryan added. “I mean, it’s authentic. And I see a very bright future. Very, very, very, very [bright future].”
Katy Perry questioned Byrd, “how big is your town?” to which the contestant replied, “population of about 300 out in our small little town.”
“300,000?” Perry asked. “300 people… Two neighborhoods,” Byrd said.
“This is why we go to the nooks and crannies and leave no American Idol unturned,” Perry added.
The contestant explained that she performed Perry’s hit “Firework” during her very first talent competition when she was just 8 years old.
“I just wanted to tell you in particular how much you inspired me to be myself, because it’s hard sometimes to be yourself when the pressure of the world is on you,” Byrd told Perry. ”And I just came in here knowing that because of you and your aura. So thank you.“
Perry then thanked the contestant and told her “don’t change a thing Byrd.”
The three Idol judges voted three ‘yeses’ and the contestant earned a golden ticket to advance to Hollywood week.
“Yes, yes, yes,” Bryan declared.
“O M G. Yes,” Perry chimed in.
“Goodness gracious. Yes,” Richie exclaimed.
Mary Beth Byrd is no stranger to singing competition shows. She previously competed on Season 17 of NBC’s The Voice, where she made the Top 8 semifinals on Team John Legend. Throughout the show she was mentored by Legend, Taylor Swift and Usher.
In addition to hosting radio shows and singing, Byrd also teaches vocal lessons and volunteers throughout her community and is currently in the process of working on original music.
American Idol airs every Sunday at 8/7c on ABC.