American Idol hopeful Ash Ruder delivered a heartstring-tugging original song during the latest round of auditions in the show's Sunday night (March 7) episode, and her performance left all three judges blinking back tears.

Even more powerful was the backstory behind the song, which she wrote as a surprise for her dad, Bryan, on his birthday.

"I always really looked up to him and so badly wanted to be a daddy's little girl," the 22-year-old singer explains. "But my dad struggled with addiction since I was little. Hard drugs, liquor. And so he wasn't really there."

His battle with substance abuse impacted Ruder's family life growing up, she continues, and the father and daughter had a tumultuous relationship at times. "By the time I got older, I was super angry with my dad. But the few times that my dad would show up, it meant the world to me," she says, adding that ultimately, her dad sought treatment for his addiction.

"Two years ago, he made the choice to become sober, and that's why I'm doing this," the young singer adds, with emotion in her voice, sharing that it was her dad who first introduced her to her love of music as a young kid.

At the beginning of her Idol audition, Ruder told judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie that not only was she going to perform an original song she wrote for her father, but her audition day was also his birthday.

"Should we get him in?" Bryan suggests — watch the video below.

With the other two judges in agreement, they break with the show's tradition of having parents wait outside the audition room, bringing Ruder's dad in to watch his daughter's performance. His presence only heightens the emotional effect of an already powerful song, with both the singer and her father in tears by the time she finishes singing, and all three judges a little misty-eyed, as well.

"You may go over and hug your daughter," Richie says before launching into feedback.

While the song's emotional power is self-evident, the judges also gave positive responses to Ruder's vocal abilities. "I'm interested to hear other dynamics of your voice, but your vibrato is really done really, really nice," Bryan notes.

"You can sing," adds Richie. "You have found the only subject that does not go out of style: Love. And your dad was hanging onto every fiber he could to stand up straight and not fall over."

"It was so beautiful to witness this  — almost healing — that went on. If you can continue to bring that same connectedness of feelings, it's a yes from me," Perry says. In fact, Ruder walked away from her audition with "yes"es from all three judges, meaning that she'll move on to the next round of the show.

American Idol airs on Sunday nights at 8PM ET on ABC. Sunday night's episode showed this season's third set of auditions, filmed in California in late 2020.

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