Luke Bryan also bonded with a young contestant who tragically lost both of his brothers.
The second season of the reboot of American Idol kicked off Sunday with a whole new slate of auditions, and as we've come to expect from ABC's iteration of the reality singing series, there were a whole lot of feelings between the hopefuls and the judges.
One of the more emotional moments of the night came when a 19-year-old songstress, who goes by the name Kai the Singer, took the stage and brought judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan to tears with her emotional backstory, powerful voice and raw determination.
"I grew up kinda rough, but I wouldn't consider it rough," Kai shared in a pre-taped package detailing her journey to the Idol auditions. "My whole childhood, we were in and out of shelters and hotels, we were even homeless once and living in the car. But I thank God for the car."
The inspirational singer made it clear that she always tries to look at the positive side of life, even when things are more than a little difficult.
"It still is tough financially. There's eight people in the house right now, and only two of my brothers have beds, and it's like a bunk bed," Kai explained, adding that she essentially sleeps on the floor, wrapped in a blanket, but that she's still "thankful" for her life, her home and her family.
The young songstress kicked things off with a rendition of "Thinking Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran, which she nervously belted out while playing the tune on her acoustic guitar.
Not long after beginning, Richie asked the hopeful to stop, feeling she wasn't giving the audition her best, perhaps because of the guitar. When she confirmed that she knew how to play piano, the judges gave her another shot to impress them.
And impress them she did, with a soulful, beautiful rendition of "My Girl" by The Temptations that absolutely blew the judges away.
"You've got such a beautiful soul," Perry shared.
"When you got on the piano, it truly started stirring many, many emotions in me," Bryan said, getting choked up. "Quite frankly, I don't know how kids like you, I don't know how you pony up and make it here."
"My church," Kai replied, smiling.
"Your church sent you here?" Perry asked, as tears welled in her eyes. "I don't want to compare our situations, but I was raised in the church too. I didn't grow up with any money… and it was the cause of everything not good in my life."
"I relate to what your saying, and I think it's so beautiful, and I think it doesn't really matter where you come from," Perry continued. "I know it's so hard, this struggle, and you're an inspiration to so many people by getting here today."
The judges were overjoyed at the chance to give Kai her golden ticket to Hollywood, and fans will get a chance to see her sing once more as the season moves forward.
The season premiere's most heart-wrenching story, however, came at the close of the episode, when 26-year-old Nick Townsend opened up about how music has helped him find peace after several tragic losses.
"I have two brothers. Me and my older brother Zack were only three years apart…. My little brother Matt and I would watch Zach play video games all night. And we'd just watch him, we didn't even want to play," Nick said in a pre-taped package. "We were so close that we just wanted to be in each other's presence."
Zack ended up joining the Air Force and became the pride of his family. Then, one day, Nick got a call from his father informing them of his older brother's death.
"He had taken his life," Nick said, fighting back tears. "There's no pain like that. I just remember I couldn't breathe. The whole world felt black."
"After losing Zack, all I wanted to do was feel something again, other than pain. I got an opportunity to go to Japan to teach kids and be able to perform," Nick continued. "While I was in Japan, I got another phone call from home saying that my little brother Matthew had passed away. He had taken his life as well."
Nick cried as he recounted the story, and shared that "Going to Japan is the biggest regret I've ever had in my life."
Addressing the judges, Nick said that he's come to realize that performing music is "what I love to do, and I know they wouldn't want me to stop."
"I can't quit. I just know that they would want me to keep going," he added.
The young vocalist delivered when he belted out an incredible cover of James Bay's "Let It Go," that showcased his range, his raw talent and his naturally emotional vocal inflection, and it really left a mark on the judges.
The performance, and especially Nick's story, had a significant impact on Bryan, who lost his older brother in a car accident in 1996, followed by the death of his sister in 2007.
"I haven't brought this up on the show, because I haven't had to, but [I have] lost both my siblings, and I just applaud you for keeping a positive attitude and continuing to fight and just be a light for your parents, too," Bryan shared.
"Definitely, that's like my main goal," Nick shared.
For his audition, Nick brought along his mom, his dad and his sister, who all joined him in the audition room for a moment of love and support that brought Bryan to the brink of tears himself as he hugged Nick and his family.
Nick also received a golden ticket to Hollywood, meaning fans will get a chance to hear his impressive vocal power again as he competes for this season's crown.
American Idol airs Sundays at 8pm ET/PT on ABC.