Payton Riley Appears on American Idol

By: Ruben Borjas, Jr., Columnist, Montgomery County News
| Published 03/18/2024


MONTGOMERY, TX -- When you are chosen to sing in front of Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan, that would be a lifetime achievement for most singers, but for it to be shown on ‘American Idol’ and aired nationally on their ‘Night 4 Auditions’ show, that’s an entirely different cup of tea. Montgomery’s own Payton Riley, 15, appeared on the show that aired Sunday evening on ABC, showcasing her talent as a singer and songwriter, with her new song ‘Fireflies,’ a tune she penned herself, about the breakup with her boyfriend several years ago. The song will be released on May 3rd.

Idol judge Katy Perry appeared to take a liking to the young Riley, and empathized with her plight when it came to boyfriends. Perry, a singer and songwriter herself, recognized Payton’s talent and urged her to continue on her quest in making entertaining and inspiring music.

“If you are doing this at 15, you are on to something,” said Perry. “Keep singing and writing, and know that God has a plan for your life.”

Riley’s performance was the sole original song exhibited on the show, and Payton really put her heart and soul into the opportunity. She was the youngest contestant by several years.

“You have a promising future, and just take the time and grow,” said Richie. “But as far as your career is concerned, my dear, the sky’s the limit.”

American Idol is Riley’s biggest break so far. labeled her as “another Taylor Swift in the making,” but we here in Montgomery County want her to be ‘The First’ Payton Riley, with someone else modeling themselves on her in the coming decades.

“You’re an emotional person,” said Bryan. “And that’s what it takes to be an amazing songwriter and artist.”

Riley has already received accolades statewide, being named the 2023 Young Artist of the Year (18 and younger) by the Texas Country Music Association. But this national attention is just another step for Payton, a high school kid from Montgomery County. She is an amazing talent, and still holds her elders and fans in the greatest of respect. Her humility is her superpower, and she will rise above as she continues to develop her singing and songwriting ability.

“Unfortunately, things didn't pan out for me on American Idol this time,” said Riley. “I respect the judges' decisions and agree that I still have room for growth.”

The Idol judges asked Riley to come back in a few years, which is plenty of time for her to grow and develop as a singer and songwriter, and further refine her voice and songbank that will force the issuance of a ‘Golden Ticket,’ and that trip to Hollywood.

“Participating in American Idol was a valuable experience that taught me a lot about myself and allowed me to connect with some amazing artists,” Payton told MCN. “I'll take this experience and use it to come back even stronger in the future.”

Ruben can be reached at:

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