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Ruder reflects on ‘Idol’ experience
Ashlyn Ruder
The self-written song that Turlock native Ashlyn Ruder sang before “American Idol” judges about her dad’s addiction and her forgiveness made an impact on listeners from around the country (Photo contributed).

Even though Ashlyn Ruder’s time on “American Idol” is over, the Turlock native’s career is just getting started. 

After singing in church, to her family and even auditioning on another talent show, “The Voice,” in her youth, Ruder’s effort to become a recording artist took a major turn last year when her husband decided to sign her up for the show which has launched singers like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood into superstardom.

The 22 year old’s audition for the iconic talent competition captured hearts across the nation when it aired on television last month thanks not only to her voice, but because of the story she shared. The self-written song that Ruder sang before judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie in Ojai last November was written for her father and tells the story of his life, from his time as a daring child and rebellious teen to the days when addiction issues kept him from being the dad she knew he could be.

She was inspired to finish writing the lyrics when he turned his life around and became sober, Ruder said. Her father accompanied her to Ojai for the audition — which happened to take place on his birthday — and when the judges called him into the room to listen to his daughter’s song, it was his first time ever hearing it.

Ruder 209 podcast
The 209 Podcast

“It was so special and it’s literally an experience I will never forget,” Ruder said. “My dad won't either — he watches it back I’m sure, every day.”

The made-for-TV moment earned Ruder a ‘golden ticket’ and racked up 2.4 million views on the show’s YouTube page following the episode, with thousands more sharing, commenting and watching Ruder’s audition across all social media platforms. She had a viewing party with friends and family and watched her Instagram following shoot from around 2,000 people to now nearly 21,000 followers. 

Viewers from around the country began flooding her social media pages with praise, with some saying Ruder’s song of forgiveness for her father inspired them to reach out to a loved one or repair a relationship strained due to addiction. Some even said her audition had given them the nudge they needed to check into rehab or attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. 

In sharing her own personal story, Ruder helped both America and her father heal from what may have otherwise remained unspoken wounds. 

“I think that this song for him was that final straw of showing him...I think he really, for the first time, felt that forgiveness and love and that the weight of shame is gone,” Ruder said. “It’s just insane how being honest and up front and sharing your story with people really can be such an amazing thing to do. It goes to show that there are so many people who have brokenness in their life and they never share about it until they know someone else has gone through that too.”

A 2017 graduate from Turlock Christian High School, Ruder now lives in Los Angeles County with her husband. She’s attending Azusa Pacific University and has had a world of opportunity opened up to her thanks to her “Idol” audition — but many wondered why she never appeared on the show again after making it to “Hollywood Week,” where few advance to the next stage of the competition. 

Following her audition, Ruder sang and played piano during the show’s “Genre Challenge” and advanced to the next round. Sadly, following her “Duet Challenge” performance which she sang with another contestant, she was sent home. Ruder didn’t get any screen time on the show past her audition, except a split-second glimpse of her in the crowd during an episode. 

“I think a lot of that just simply has to do with the fact that you do not ever see, as a viewer, how many people are actually there,” Ruder said, explaining that an additional 164 people were seated around her in the auditorium where viewers saw her in Hollywood. “They have to pick and choose very carefully who they air on TV because they have to make sure they are establishing an emotional connection to those people.”

Now, Ruder is enjoying cheering on the friends she made during her time on the show as they continue to compete during the live episodes. She’s been traveling to Nashville to record her first EP, and the song she sang during her audition will be available on all music streaming platforms on April 23. It’s called “Bryan’s Song” and she hopes it can continue to help people heal.

“The biggest thing that I’ve been able to take away from all of this is that honesty and sharing about what hurts and sharing about joy and redemption and healing and love — that goes so far, and I think that the world needs so much more of that,” Ruder said. “I know it’s so hard because it took me 20 years to get to that point, but the way that the world can heal is by being honest and sharing your story because you can impact so many people through the experiences that you go through.”

To hear more from Ruder about her “American Idol” journey, listen to the most recent episode of The 209 Podcast streaming on all podcast platforms now.