Lionel Richie Dubs Triston Harper A ‘World-Class Storyteller’ After He Delivers Morgan Wallen Cover On ‘American Idol’

Harper secured a spot in the Top 7 after this standout performance.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

April 30, 2024


1:00 pm

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Triston Harper and Lionel Richie on American Idol; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless

American Idol’s Triston Harper secures a spot in the Top 7 after wowing viewers with his impressive cover of Morgan Wallen’s “Sand In My Boots.”

The aspiring young contestant has continued to win over both America’s and the judges’ votes throughout the entirety of this Season 22 competition. After learning he had advanced onto the next phase of the competition on Sunday night, Harper and the rest of the Top 7 contestants were challenged to participate in the judge’s song contest. This means that each singer had to perform one of three songs selected anonymously by one of the judges.

Which Songs Did The Judges Pick For Harper?

Harper got to pick between three different beloved country songs: “Mountain Music” by Alabama, “Sand In My Boots” by Morgan Wallen” and Humble And Kind,” by Tim McGraw.

Triston Harper performs "Sand In My Boots" on "American Idol"; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless
Triston Harper performs “Sand In My Boots” on “American Idol”; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless

“When I walked into the room, I automatically knew which one I was doing,” he said in a backstage interview. 

While working with a pair of Idol vocal coaches to fine-tune his performance before the big moment on stage, Harper explained he choose to sing the Wallen track because of the close connection he’s developed with the sentimental storyline. 

“When I was in Hawaii, I really wanted my girlfriend to be there to really soak it in, but she wasn’t able to be there, so I brought back sand my boots to Alabama,” he explained. 

Even though he seemed to be pretty set on the Morgan Wallen track initially, the Alabama native decided to give his second song choice a chance before making his final decision. 

Triston Harper performs "Sand In My Boots" on "American Idol"; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless
Triston Harper performs “Sand In My Boots” on “American Idol”; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless

Being the big Tim McGraw fan that he is, Harper started to sing through the iconic country hit, “Humble and Kind,” and instantly broke down over the powerful message that was touching him right in the heart. 

“It made me feel like I was singing to myself. I feel like it’s God,” Harper explained. “He’s just telling me to just be me. Don’t change for no fame, don’t change for no money.”

Made The Morgan Wallen Song His Own

It was a tough decision, but when Harper stepped out on that brightly-lit stage, the opening piano notes were a clear indication that he chose “Sand In My Boots.”

Donning a tan cowboy hat, blue jeans and a red, silver and black vest paired with a stylish bolo tie, Harper mesmerized the audience with his soulful vocals and emotive stage presence. He belted out the chorus with such confidence and rawness that he earned a standing ovation from the entire room. 

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Rave Reviews From The Judging Panel

Standing in front of the judging panel, Harper guessed that it was Luke Bryan who chose this song for him, but much to his surprise, it was actually Lionel Richie. 

“You have grown up right in front of us, you’re a world-class storyteller and more important than ever, you were right about one thing…God is the name you used more than anything and you’re right, it’s God,” said Richie. 

Katy Perry then explained why she hoped he would deliver her Tim McGraw song choice.

Triston Harper performs "Sand In My Boots" on "American Idol"; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless
Triston Harper performs “Sand In My Boots” on “American Idol”; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless

“God sent me a message and it was supposed to be ‘Humble and Kind.’ That’s how I think of you. But you sounded so great. You can sing anything and you’re still humble and kind. I believe in you,” she shared. 

Luke Bryan was last to comment on Harper’s performance, and he had nothing but great things to say about what he saw unfold on stage. 

“Alabama boy, mountain music. C’mon,” Bryan teased. “Listen, great job. This is becoming my favorite show of the season. It’s just so fun watching all of you guys come out of your shells and this episode’s certainly doing that.”

Next Sunday, May 5, the American Idol Top 7 contestants will take the stage for Adele night. They will each deliver a tune out of the award-winning artist’s discography in an attempt to get enough votes to make it to the Top 5. During the show, Meghan Trainer will also appear as a guest performer to showcase her new song, “Been Like This.”

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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.