Jon Wayne Hatfield is a good ol’ boy from the country but he didn’t come to American Idol to sing about his truck. Hatfield, who hails from Goshen, Ohio, sang “Tell Me Ray” for his grandfather Ray who raised him. The 21-year-old singer was inspired to write the song after his grandfather recently came out as gay to him.
Hatfield played the song on acoustic guitar and displayed a husky, soulful voice that told the story of the song so earnestly. Ray watched his grandson play during his audition in the 2023 seasons and teared up, before judge Lionel Richie, ever the gentleman, lent Ray his handkerchief. You can watch the performance below.
Hatfield admitted he was nervous before the audition, but he didn’t show any signs of it with his confident performance. The singer-songwriter shared his story before playing, saying that he lived a happy childhood being raised by his grandparents since he was five years old. He said that he was “so blessed for them taking me”, which occurred due to his mother’s problems with addiction. He added that his grandfather was always his best friend.
The singer said that he lost his grandmother three years prior and that his grandfather completely isolated himself for 18 months after her death. Following this period Ray came out as gay to Hatfield and the singer’s response was “don’t think that’s gonna change a damn thing between me and you because you’re my best friend and my dad.” Ray explained that, “You can hear the studio recording of “Tell Me Ray” below.
Ray added that Hatfield “was there for me more than anybody.” He told his grandson that the song means a lot to him as “it made me believe more in myself and I love you for that.” Ray added that his grandson is his rock and that “It’s a big relief to be able to stand here and say I’m gay, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
With such a great voice and song, it’ll come as no surprise that Hetfield got all yes votes from the judges and got sent to Hollywood. Richie said the young singer was a “great songwriter”” and told Ray that “you’re a hell of an inspiration man. Part of us as people, we have to be encouraged and a lot of us don’t get a lot of encouragement. A lot of us have to fight for it. To have that kid write a song about you is just really special.”
Katy Perry said “what you shared with us today was so authentic and so beautiful. You’re a songwriter. You’ve got a story to tell – you’ve got so many stories inside of you.” Luke Bryan meanwhile observed that Hatfield is the real deal with his guitar playing and said the story was an inspiration for viewers at home. If you would like to see more from Jon Wayne Hatfield, you can follow him on Instagram. You can also visit their official website for more information.