American Idol contestant Caleb Kennedy earned a spot in Season 19's Top 9 with a Willie Nelson cover during Sunday night's (April 18) episode of the TV singing competition. The singer's rendition of "On the Road Again" was upbeat and fun, and leaned into the wanderlust of the original.

Kennedy's gritty voice sounded right at home on the song, which appears in the 1980 movie Honeysuckle Rose. "On the Road Again" earned a Grammy for Best Country Song and an Academy Awards nomination for Best Original Song; all of the songs performed during Sunday night's Idol episode were Oscar-nominated tunes.

"That song basically tells exactly what we've been thinking for the last year," judge Lionel Richie told Kennedy, nodding to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has kept artists off tour since early in 2020.

"If you keep this up, you'll be on the road for a very long time," Richie added, after joking with Kennedy that, at 16, he hadn't yet truly experienced road life.

"You sounded great tonight. You had all that authentic grit," judge Katy Perry told Kennedy. "What was really cool is when you invited us to be a part of this ... It was entertainment!"

Judge Luke Bryan -- back after a week of due to a COVID-19 diagnosis -- told Kennedy his performance "was your best, from top to bottom" of the competition so far.

"You really didn't oversing yourself into any trouble," Bryan explained. "You picked the right song ... You just laid that thing down from A to Z, and it was done perfectly."

After whittling down the Top 12 to the Top 9 on Sunday night, American Idol will continue its Season 19 competition on Monday night (April 19) with a twist: Ten Season 18 contestants will return and perform for an opportunity to join this season's competition. Season 18's competition was completed remotely, after the pandemic shut down in-person production.

American Idol airs on Sundays and Mondays at 8PM ET on ABC.

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