Gabby Barrett finished third on American Idol in 2018, but if you'd have asked the then 17-year-old to predict as much during her audition, she may laughed you out of the room. Barrett felt she was a country singer...and the one country judge on the panel wasn't feeling it.

Barrett, who's debut single on Warner Music Nashville is the Top 20 hit "I Hope," talked to Taste of Country about that audition prior to her performance at Hometown Rising in Louisville, Ky. last fall. She opened the audition with "Good Girl" by Carrie Underwood and was shut down, so she tried to start "Church Bells" and then Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman."

"Don’t do that," Bryan tells her. The other judges agreed that when she tries to sound country, she doesn't sound country.

“When I first did the audition, I didn’t know if he liked me," Barrett says of Bryan. "I was confused. I came in with a country song and ended up getting through with a church song.”

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The church song worked for her career and personal life, as she'd meet and eventually marry fellow finalist Cade Foehner. Bryan watched her intently while she auditioned — making a face he often makes; one that he recognizes isn't the most positive thing in the world.

“My concentration face … it’s a negative look," Bryan would tell TOC. "With someone like Gabby, I think she is one of the more dynamic vocalists I’ve ever heard. So I’m studying her voice and I’m studying her potential.”

Nineteen-year-old Barrett offers advice to those auditioning or performing soon on American Idol. It's advice she ultimately followed as she grew up in the church, as much as she did dreaming of country stardom.

"Just stick to what you feel you sing best at, no matter what it is," she shares. "Don’t go with another genre or anything like that.”

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