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Dad shares the sweet moments his daughter sang to him in the car. Now she’s on ‘American Idol’

“I knew that was her destiny at some point. She just needed to be ready.”

Justin Jewell Richins is thrilled to be an audience of one when his über-talented daughter, Kaibrienne "KB" Richins, literally takes her show on the road.

KB, who is the fourth of Justin's seven children, honed her talent by singing while her dad drove her around their small Utah town, and now she's moving on to a bigger stage ... with a golden ticket at the "American Idol" auditions.

"I felt like this opportunity would one day come," Justin tells "I knew that was her destiny at some point. She just needed to be ready."

And ready she was.

KB knocked the judges' socks off with her rendition of Zach Bryan's "Something in the Orange." Katy Perry, who is one of the judges, told KB, “I think you have a real unique tone about you and it’s very special.”

That type of feedback is "exactly what she needed" to give her confidence, Justin says. "She grew up idolizing Katy."

A heartfelt tribute

When Justin and his ex-wife went through a divorce in 2018 and 2019, the kids needed time and space to process the change. KB and her sisters would sing in the car, finding "solace" in those moments together.

In 2020, a close family friend passed away and as a tribute, Justin made a video of his daughters singing "Rise Up" in the car. As he listens, Justin mouths the words and tears up.

"I love you, Joe," he says. "I'll see you on the other side. Thanks for all the memories, bro. Peace out, buddy."

Justin decided to post that video on YouTube on Feb. 7, 2020. It now has almost 7 million views.

Because the video went viral so quickly, and because they were singing in the car regularly anyway, "we continued to drive, sing and post," Justin says.

Especially during the height of social distancing in 2020, viewers seemed to find solace in these simple family videos, overwhelming the family with positive comments. "It made me realize that people needed to see a good father figure and a good family connection," he adds.

Overcoming anxiety

In addition to helping viewers, these car singalongs helped KB as well.

"Every once in a while, she'll want to make a video because she's got a new song that she's practiced, but usually it's because where we live, we have to travel to and from a gas station," Justin says. Their small town of Henefer, Utah, is 30 miles outside of Park City and only has 900 residents. "There's more cows and sheep and there are humans," Justin jokes. And because the nearest grocery store is 10 miles away, "driving around and traveling is just normal for us."

Justin says that although "lots and lots" of people have seen the videos and reached out to collaborate with KB, she first had to work through her "extreme anxiety around performing in public."

In smaller, contained environments, or with familiar faces, KB is "just fine" but "when it's in front of other people, or a larger group, anxiety sets in," says Justin. "She's working on her confidence, but she definitely had stage fright and anxiety." 

Justin also encouraged KB to partner with street performers to give her more opportunities to sing in public. "She's kind of my secret weapon,” Justin laughs. He would ask street performers if she could sing with them, and their jaws dropped when she opened her mouth.

Heartbreak and triumph

In true dad fashion, Justin can't choose a "favorite" KB performance: "I like them all. I’m a fan of everything she sings."

He does, however, mention the moment they captured of KB singing her way through heartbreak.

In this extremely raw and honest video, KB breaks down crying. Justin holds her hand and says, "You can do it. Just keep going."

"No," KB says. I don't want to cry because I don't want him to think I care."

Justin was again there to hold his daughter's hand (metaphorically this time) as she auditioned for "American Idol."

He stood outside the audition room with Ryan Seacrest, pacing back and forth, mumbling and rubbing his hands together as KB sang inside. He didn't end up hearing the judges' comments until he watched the show on television, but in those moments of waiting by the door, Justin felt "beyond proud" because "she did this all on her own. She wanted to do it. It was her time to chase her dream."

When KB walked out of the "American Idol" audition room with a golden ticket in her hand, Justin shouted and picked her up in a giant bear hug.

He shouted, "I knew it! I knew it!"