Ethan Payne reunites with Bryan after getting the chance to perform with the country star through the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2016.

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
March 07, 2019

American Idol has some real tear-jerkers, but we think this one takes the cake.

On the episode which aired on Wednesday, March 6th, 15-year-old Ethan Payne from Macon, Georgia auditioned with Luke Bryan's ballad "Do I." But it wasn't that Payne had a strong, emotive warble that caused us to break out the tissues. And it wasn't when the Georgia-born judge joined in and his voice melted into Payne's on the soaring chorus, either.

It's Payne's resilience in the face of a life-threatening lung disease, cystic fibrosis. One would think that the constant coughing up of mucus brought on by the chronic genetic disorder would make you halt in your tracks, should you have the rare talent to belt out a few lines. One would think that CF, which makes breathing difficult, would make professional singing a pipe dream. One would not be Ethan Payne.

Back in 2016, Payne had the opportunity to perform to a crowd of 50,000 people with Luke Bryan in Dallas through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Bryan gifted the young singer his guitar and Payne's life "has been different ever since that night." Fast forward to Wednesday's episode and the two had an emotional reunion on the Idol audition stage. Watch the full clip — including Payne's incredible backstory — and Bryan and Payne's duet below.

Happily, Payne received all three judges' vote of approval and the young musician will be heading to the next phase of the show in Hollywood.

We're looking forward to seeing the budding country artist perform in upcoming episodes. To make a donation to help those like Ethan in need, visit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.