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Jackson County teen auditions before 'American Idol' judges

Alma Russ, a teenager from Jackson County, performed before the judges and makes her TV debut in March on the new season of "American Idol" on ABC. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

The mountains may see another "American Idol" after Caleb Johnson.

Alma Russ, a teenager from Jackson County, performed before the judges and makes her TV debut in March on the new season of "American Idol" on ABC.

Russ' story started in an unusual place — sandwiched between a shower and toilet in the bathroom.

The bathroom was where she practiced her songs, including one she wrote and performed for News 13.

The 18-year-old has been involved in music for years.

"When I was five, I got into playing piano. And they heard me playing Duran Duran 'Hungry Like The Wolf,' picking out the melody on piano, and they asked me where I'd heard it. I was like, 'It's 'Shrek,' Mom!' because it was on the 'Shrek' soundtrack,” Russ said.

More than a decade later, in Fall 2017, Russ was playing in front of Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan in Savannah, Georgia.

"I took the banjo. I figured that's something that makes me unique," Russ said.

It turns out she was right.

"They didn't say much initially. They were just like, 'What are you going to play for us?'” Russ said. “I played traditional, kind of my own take on a traditional song, and I think that was kind of surprising to them."

It was surprising, Russ said, but they enjoyed her gift of bluegrass music.

"They were really encouraging of my style. They told me that I needed to keep my style and that was an honor because I was thinking that I'd get there and I'd have the banjo and I'd be me, basically, and they'd be like 'Oh, we want you to be like this,'" Russ said. "But, they were encouraging of letting me be me, in a sense, and I really appreciated that."

Russ said the audition was a noteworthy experience.

"I got to look back and, wow, I played banjo for Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan," Russ said.

The new season of "American Idol" premieres at 8 p.m. March 11 on ABC 13.

Meanwhile, Russ continues performing across the mountains. For more information on her upcoming performances and more, click here.

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