Jelly Roll Tells 15-Year-Old Triston Harper He Could ‘Win’ American Idol Following Powerful ‘God’s Country’ Cover

Harper says Jelly Roll is his “role model,” so the words of encouragement carry significant weight for him.

By

Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

April 10, 2024

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Triston Harper, Jelly Roll; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless

Triston Harper was the last to take the stage during Monday night’s episode of American Idol. He brought the judges to their feet as he put his own spin on Blake Shelton’s “God’s Country.”

This week, the Season 22 Top 24 contestants visited the sunny beaches of Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina Hawai’i, where they each put their best vocals on display in an attempt to win over America’s votes and move on to the Top 20. 

Receiving Advice From Guest Mentor, Jelly Roll

Prior to Harper’s show-stopping delivery, he got the chance to meet one of his musical heroes, Jelly Roll, who appeared as a guest mentor on the singing competition show. The 15-year-old revealed that he has always looked up to the country superstar’s journey of finding his way out of a very low place in life and achieving bigger and better things than he ever imagined possible. 

“Jelly Roll, that’s who I dream to be. Coming from that nobody to that somebody. He’s really my role model.”

Jelly Roll reciprocated the love for the young artist as he said, “Tristan has the voice of a man that’s been through a lifetime of pain and he’s only 15 years old. I really believe that this kid could be something special.”

“I love how unapologetically country you are,” he added. 

Triston Harper; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless
Triston Harper; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless

Taking The Stage

Cheers from the audience instantly erupted as Harper sang the first notes of Shelton’s hard-hitting tune. He snuck in a smile just before resurrecting a newfound power within the chorus that showed off the strength of his vocals and allowed his growing confidence to shine through. 

“I saw the light in the sunrise/ Sittin’ back in a 40 on the muddy riverside/ Gettin’ baptized in holy water and ‘shine/ With the dogs runnin’/ Saved by the sound of the been found/ Dixie whistled in the wind, that’ll get you Heaven bound/ The Devil went down to Georgia but he didn’t stick around/ This is God’s country,” Harper sang.

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The Judges Show Their Support

Jelly Roll was first among the judges to share his feedback on Harper’s performance, and based on the excitement he exuded the entire time he was up on stage, it’s no surprise that the Nashville native delivered nothing but praise.

“Triston, I told you yesterday that you were singing to Luke Bryan. He beat me out of my chair,” Jelly Roll said, explaining that Bryan stood up to show his support for Harper before he could. “You are the youngest man with the oldest soul I’ve ever met in my life. You have a swagger that at 15 years old that you don’t even know you have.” 

 “You can win this competition young man, you can win this competition,” Jelly Roll added, which prompted an “amen” from Lionel Richie. 

The words of encouragement only continued when Richie labeled his vocals as “pure magic.”

Triston Harper; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless
Triston Harper; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless

“You are a minor, but you are a major deal,” Perry joked. “Listen, you’ve got grit for days and I love when you really lean into it. You have a story to tell and you’ve been through a lot. You take that pain, you take that anger, you take that sadness and you put it into you music. Every time you sing, that’s how you’re going to release all of it. Fight every single time because it sounds so good on you. That’s all I have to say.”

Bryan was last to comment on Harper’s performance, and once again, he stressed the same encouragement and love that all the other judges and fans have been displaying throughout the season. 

“Triston, we love you buddy. This is a big moment for a 15-year-old, this is tough,” the “Love You, Miss You, Mean It” singer told the crowd. “Even when I go stand on the American Idol oval and stare back at Lionel and Katy and sing, we get nervous. You’re going to do so well in this and you’re going to do so well for the rest of your career. Just get out there and have fun and keep going that good ol’ Alabama smile.”

Harper concluded his time on stage by telling host Ryan Seacrest that hearing Jelly Roll and each of the judges have so much faith in him, makes him believe in his own talent even more. 

Triston Harper; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless
Triston Harper; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless

Harper Opens Up About Past Abuse

During his Idol audition, Harper admitted that much like the “Save Me” singer, he’s also “been through a lot” in his life. He explained that growing up in McIntosh, Alabama, he faced abuse from his stepdad and ended up being homeless at just 12 years old with his mom in an attempt to escape the bad situation. Luckily, the support from their family members is what truly saved them from an extremely difficult time. 

He went on to explain that he “never thought” he would be able to share his story on American Idol, but now that he’s given the platform to do so, he’s feeling incredibly “happy” for the chance.

Now, he is hoping that viewers at home will see that same potential in him. Next week, Harper, along with his fellow Top 24 contestants, will find out the results of America’s votes, which determine which hopeful singers will advance in the competition as the Top 20. 

New episodes of American Idol air Sundays and Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.