Watch Hartsville, SC ‘American Idol’ contestant advance


Preston Duffee wrote a song that he dedicated to his mom.

Screengrab from American Idol video on YouTube

A South Carolina singer took to the “American Idol” stage — and performed an emotional tribute to his mom.

Preston Duffee, 21, sang his own song “Something to Write About,” which he wrote in honor of his late mother, according to video from the episode that aired Sunday, March 5.

“I miss her every day, especially with things like this, how big this is,” Duffee, who is from Hartsville, said on the show. “If my mama was still here she would be really proud and she tell me that she knew I’d get here someday.”

Duffee advanced in the competition after his mom, who he called a big supporter of his music, died by suicide two years ago.

“Music has quite literally saved my life as far as helping me to cope,” Duffee said. “Not only just that — just to eat, put food on the table.”

Duffee said he created “Something to Write About” after his mom’s death. “American Idol” judge Lionel Richie said he was a fan of the contestant’s talents.

“Right on the money,” Richie said. “See, songwriting is a skill and you nail that.”

Fellow judge Katy Perry said the performance reminded her of fellow judge Luke Bryan. In fact, Duffee said he’s been compared to the country star; his original song even included the lyrics: “He gave me a flashback of our little Rat Pack and all the memories we made and the Luke Bryan songs we sang.”

While Duffee received praise for his guitar performance, Bryan warned that there are other country singers in the competition.

“You’ve got a really bright future as a songwriter,” the judge said. ”And your voice will grow and be stronger.”

After advancing to the next round of auditions, Duffee wrote on Instagram: “I hit the jackpot! I got the golden ticket and I’m heading to Hollywood!”

Hartsville is roughly 70 miles northeast of Columbia.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800 273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Simone Jasper is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer and real-time news in the Carolinas.

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