The Virginia native followed through with his audition for the show, despite the fact that his family was experiencing a difficult time. His mother had just fallen ill and was hospitalized the day before his Idol audition.
“I feel guilty in a sense being here, but I know this is exactly what she would want,” he admitted at the time.
In honor of his mother, Parker powered through and wowed the judges with a soulful rendition of Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine,” which earned praise from the country hitmaker.
“So blown away at the aspiring artists and existing icons that this amazing song continues to take on new life and new fans!” Carter wrote at the time. “Way to go Mike Parker & American Idol… THANK You for continuing to lift this up! My #mentor bags are packed and ready!”
His performance thoroughly impressed the judges.
“Man, I think you’re a country singer. I think you have the potential to be truly amazing,” Luke Bryan told him.
Katy Perry advised him to “lean into that country,” and after earning a “yes” from Bryan, Perry and Lionel Richie, Parker was on his way to Hollywood with a golden ticket in hand.
When Idol returned for Hollywood Week, Parker revealed that his mom had been diagnosed with Leukemia.
“She’s still fighting, still a marathon, but her numbers are back where they’re supposed to be,” he revealed. She’s in great spirits and my mom would hate it if she was the reason that I wasn’t singing.”
The former carpenter went on to honor his mother with a performance of Cam’s “Burning House.”
In Hawaii, Parker experienced the surprise of a lifetime when he had the chance to sit down with country star Jimmie Allen, who was on hand as a mentor. The pair bonded over their experiences as black men pursuing country music.
Parker emotionally explained how Allen inspired his career and was thrilled over the opportunity to meet him. He even performed his breakout single, “Best Shot.”
“That song… I was the first black country artist with a No. 1 debut single,” Allen told him. “To have you singing that song right now is so dope.”
Throughout the season Parker continued to impress with performances of songs such as “Chasing After You” by Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd, “Bed On Fire” by Teddy Swims.
Parker was nearly cut from the competition after singing “Bed On Fire,” however the judges saved him and he ultimately advanced in the competition.
Re-live Mike Parker’s American Idol journey below.
Deana Carter – “Strawberry Wine”
Cam – “Burning House”
Jimmie Allen – “Best Shot”
Maren Morris & Ryan Hurd – “Chasing After You”
Teddy Swims – “Bed On Fire”
Luke Combs – “Hurricane”
Morgan Wallen – “Chasing You”