WATCH: ‘American Idol’ Champ Iam Tongi Delivers Captivating Acoustic Cover of Morgan Wallen’s ‘Sand In My Boots’

Tongi covered the chart-topping hit as part of his acoustic sessions series.


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

October 20, 2023

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Iam Tongi; Photo Courtesy YouTube

American Idol winner, Iam Tongi put his unique spin on Morgan Wallen’s “Sand In My Boots” in an official cover that was unveiled on Friday (Oct. 20). 

Tongi, 19, released a stripped-down version of the song to streaming platforms as part of his acoustic sessions series. He paired the release with an acoustic performance video that captures the true emotions of the song. With his acoustic guitar in hand and pedal steel accompanying him, Tongi delivered a soul-stirring cover of the chart-topping Morgan Wallen hit. 

Morgan Wallen Cover

“Sand In My Boots” was co-written by HARDY, Josh Osborne, and Ashley Gorley and appears on Wallen’s record-breaking sophomore release, Dangerous: The Double Album. The song tells the story of a man who meets a woman while vacationing on the beach. They strike up a whirlwind romance, but when it’s time to return to reality, she leaves the man hanging. He’s ultimately left with her memory and “some sand in my boots.” 

YouTube video

“Yeah, but now I’m dodging potholes in my sunburnt Silverado/ Like a heart-broke Desperado, headed right back to my roots/ Somethin’ bout the way she kissed me tells me she’d love Eastern Tennessee/ Yeah, but all I brought back with me was some sand in my boots,” goes the chorus. 

His Fans Are Loving It

Tongi’s cover was well-received by his fans. His acoustic performance was flooded with comments, with some fans admitting that they were not familiar with the song until he shared his cover. 

“I’ve never heard this song before, but everything you sing sounds like you wrote it. Every note is mesmerizing, convincing, and passionate. Every lyric sounds believable,” one YouTube user wrote. “Iam, your voice is a warm blanket to a hurting soul. Before you came into our hearts, I only listened to music. With your voice, I now feel the music.”

Another added, “Iam, You are incredible. This is the first I’ve heard you sing country. You knocked it out of the park. I believe you will captivate audiences with any genre. Well done!”

“Why Kiki”

Tongi’s cover of “Sand In My Boots” follows the release of his original track, “Why Kiki.” The song hit streaming platforms on September 22 and tells the story of heartbroken man as he asks, “Why Kiki/Why you wanna do me like that Kiki/Why you gotta hurt me so bad Kiki/Why you got me down on my knees…”

The Hawaii native honored his Hawaiian roots by releasing an official hula dance video for the song. 

YouTube video

Winner Of Season 21

Iam Tongi captured the hearts of millions and was crowned the winner of American Idol season 21. Throughout his time on the show, he impressed the viewers and judges alike with his emotional performances that tugged at the heartstrings. His audition included a moving performance of James Blunt’s song “Monsters” in honor of his late father.

The standout contestant later enjoyed a full-circle moment when Blunt appeared on the show to sing the song with him. The pair went on to release an official duet weeks after the American Idol finale. 

James Blunt, Iam Tongi; Photo Courtesy Twitter
James Blunt, Iam Tongi; Photo Courtesy Twitter

His previously released original track, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” was penned by Season 18 Idol alum Francisco Martin and serves as a tribute to a loved one who passed away. For Tongi, that person is his father, who died just months before he auditioned for American Idol. 

The lyrics find Tongi confessing that he’ll never forget “all your wits” and “all of the laughs.” While he admits he’s “lonely,” he has “no fear” because he finds comfort in the fact that he’ll see him again one day.     

“’Cause I’ll be seeing you / Seeing you / Wherever I go / And I’ll be / Be with you / Be with you / Wherever I’ll go,” Tongi sings on the chorus.

YouTube video

Iam Tongi has been staying busy since his time on Idol. He recently hit the road for his first-ever tour, which included two sold-out shows in Los Angeles. The rising star also performed at several festivals throughout the summer.

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Lauren Jo Black

Written by

Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for and her work being featured on She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.