‘American Idol’: 15-Year-Old Phenom Triston Harper Dazzles With Cover of Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up”

The new season of American Idol premieres tonight (February 18). However, singers from across the country have already stepped up to the microphone for their initial auditions. 15-year-old McIntosh, Alabama native Triston Harper shared his touching backstory and a powerful rendition of Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up” with Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan.

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The judges asked Harper to tell them a bit about himself before he sang. “I grew up in a small town and I’ve been through a lot in my life,” he said in a deep Alabama drawl. When the pre-recorded video that showcased the young singer’s journey played, it was clear that “a lot” was an understatement.

Triston Harper Shares His Story with American Idol Judges

He said he has been in McIntosh, Alabama for almost his entire life and wouldn’t trade the small town for anything. When asked if growing up there was nice, he gave an honest answer. “You have your ups and downs. At least I had,” he replied. “By the age of eleven years old, my mom was with my stepdad. He was gettin’ very abusive and we had to leave McIntosh. Then everything, it went sideways.”

He continued, saying that the lowest point in his life was when he and his mother were homeless and sleeping on a sidewalk in Arkansas. Then, they called his grandfather and he came and took them home. Now, Harper and his mom are back in their hometown, surrounded by family and the close-knit community of Choctaw tribal members.

“My mama wanted us to be something,” he said in the video. “That’s why I got into music,” he added.

Harper’s “Cover Me Up” Cover Wows Judges

To say the young man’s talent impressed the American Idol judges would be an understatement. “You were so authentic, so connected to yourself, singing from your soul,” Perry said. “It wasn’t perfect, but it resonated with me. It was really good,” she added. “I’m impressed,” she added.

Bryan commented on some of the technical issues in Harper’s delivery. “Anything that you’re doing technically-wise is because you’re fifteen. I could have an afternoon with you and say ‘Don’t do that anymore!’ Just like ‘Don’t do those two things,’ and man,” he said, trailing off.

In the end, all three judges gave him a “Yes” and sent him to Hollywood. Harper will be one to watch in the coming weeks.

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