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'American Idol' Singer Wade Cota Details Childhood Abuse in Heartbreaking Audition

Wade Cota
Courtesy Photo

Wade Cota

With a moving backstory and an even more moving voice, Wade Cota stole the judges’ hearts on Sunday night’s (March 10) episode of American Idol.

The third episode of the singing competition’s 17th season introduced the world to the Phoenix, Ariz. native, who revealed a heartbreaking childhood story of his abusive father. “My real dad -- or, I’m going to restart that -- my biological father...he was the devil,” Cota said, choking up as he began to tell his story.

Cota said his father “beat” his siblings and mother, as he spoke candidly about the permanent physical and emotional scars that remain. “This scar in my face came from him and I have a crack in my skull from my eye socket right here,” Cota said, pointing at a long scar underneath his eyes.

As the youngest of three, he then said his mother’s final straw was when she came home from work to his father kicking him “in the ribs across the floor.” Cota praised his mother (who sweetly called him “my baby bear cub” while they spoke to Ryan Seacrest) for raising them “not knowing they were as poor as they were.”

When it was his turn to showcase his singing chops to judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, they were immediately awestruck by Cota’s rendition of George Ezra’s “Blame It On Me.”

“I was not expecting that other person to jump out of your body,” Richie said. “In my business we look for the character, and my friend, you brought me a character. And it’s an unusual character because it sounds like you.”

Bryan even compared Cota to Johnny Cash. “I think you have your own thing like Johnny Cash does. I hear your voice in movie soundtracks, I want there to be a No Country for Old Men 2 and you sing every song,” he said.

When Perry asked the 27-year-old if thinks “he’s special,” Cota responded with, “I don’t think I should be selling stuff.” The pop star and fellow judges agreed with the statement and voted him in.

Watch the captivating clip of Cota's audition on American Idol below.

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