"This show has taught me a broader view of what kids are dealing with in society," Luke Bryan said of his experience as a judge on American Idol

By Jen Juneau Christina Dugan
February 13, 2020 04:30 PM

While working on American Idol doesn’t directly involve his children, Luke Bryan is realizing that his time on the show has made him an even better parent.

During the show’s season 18 premiere event on Wednesday, the 43-year-old country singer told PEOPLE of how his experience with the series’ contestants has changed him as a father, “I didn’t realize that when I signed up for this that I would lay in bed at night wondering about these kids and praying for their well-being.”

“Being the fatherly figure, I’ve learned that there are many struggles kids are going through these days,” explained Bryan, who’s dad to sons Tatum Christopher, 9½, and Thomas Boyer, 11. “It’s taught me that if I see some of these things in my kids, it’s a real thing.”

“I have my way I raise my kids, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to have mental-health problems. This show has taught me a broader view of what kids are dealing with in society,” the star added. “I just relish the opportunity to mentor these kids and mentor them through this crazy journey.”

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American Idol judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie
ABC/Disney

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Bryan — who took in his then-college-aged nieces and nephew Til, now 18, after the deaths of their parents — told reporters, “With me and what I’ve dealt with, I see myself in some of these kids.”

“You just have to trust in God’s plan,” he said. “You wake up every day and go, ‘I’ve had unfortunate things in my life. I just have to trust that that’s how God wanted it.’ That’s how I cope. Sometimes I cope well, but sometimes life does get me down.”

But the difficult times are eclipsed by the ones that give the “Light It Up” singer perspective. “I’ll be on the road and I’ll be complaining because a pipe burst in the house [or] something, but then I’ll have a Make-A-Wish kid come through my meet and greet and it’s like, ‘You idiot, what are you complaining about?’ ” he said.

“Going forward, I just have to try and keep it real and appreciate every day, appreciate where I’m at in my career and hopefully honor my family by my actions,” Bryan added. “The beauty with my losses in my life is that my career has been a bright spot. My family and I have had so many wonderful moments because of my success.”

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While Katy Perry joked on Wednesday night’s episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! that Bryan and their fellow Idol judge Lionel Richie aren’t invited to her upcoming wedding to fiancé Orlando Bloom because she “can’t afford them,” Bryan still had some sweet words to say about their relationship.

“Katy’s obviously been married once [before] so she’s probably got all the advice, but her and Orlando, they have a fun relationship and I think that’s very critical,” he told reporters at the Idol premiere. “Keep the relationship fun. My wife and I try to do that. If life gets busy and we get in a funk and we realize we haven’t talked to each other in a while, no matter how mad you make each other, try and communicate.”

As for how Perry, 35, would be as a parent, “She’s going to be a blast to have as a mom,” Bryan said. “I couldn’t imagine growing up in her household. Even when I talk about me and my kids, she’s checking out how I juggle the kids. We’ll see one day if it ever happens how she’ll respond, but I know she’s going to be an amazing mom.”

American Idol season 18 premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on ABC.

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