Triston Harper Earns Praise From Luke Bryan After Elvis-Inspired ‘Idol’ Performance: ‘That Was Tremendous!’

The 15-year-old showcased his dance moves while performing the Elvis Presley classic, “Heartbreak Hotel.”


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

April 22, 2024


12:55 pm

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Triston Harper, Luke Bryan; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless

Triston Harper channeled his inner Elvis Presley on American Idol on Sunday evening, securing a spot in the coveted Top 12 along the way. 

The 15-year-old delivered one of his most memorable performances when he took the stage to perform the classic hit “Heartbreak Hotel” during Idol’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-themed episode. 

Prior to his time on stage, Harper had the chance to sit down with guest mentor Gene Simmons of Kiss, who encouraged the young contestant to come out of his shell a bit. 

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

“Triston, my only comment is to be more physically you. Because there’s nobody else who can be. It’s like your fingerprint,” Simmons told him. 

With his newfound confidence, the Alabama high school student promised, “I’m ditching the cowboy hat and I’m ditching the guitar and I’m going to break out some bit of my moves for the world.”

He did just that when he took to the stage and for the first time ever, he left his mic stand behind and worked the stage like a seasoned performer. He shook his hips and made his way out to the catwalk to interact with the live audience. 

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

Finishing out the performance on a high note, Harper earned a standing ovation from the judges’ panel as well as Simmons, who was watching from the side of the stage. 

Full of energy, Katy Perry exclaimed, “Oh my God, I just thought you were a good Christian boy! Look, you get what you give. Even if it’s a little bit, the people are already in love with you. And then when you just do this (shakes her hand), everybody’s like, ‘ahhhhhhhh!!’ You scared me and you scared your mother.”

Luke Bryan had nothing but high praise for the young man. 

“That was tremendous,” he told him. “It was perfectly done. And there is no way America cannot fall in love with that performance right there.” 

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

Wrapping things up, Lionel Richie joked, “Gene forgot to tell you one thing you have to do at the end of that song, you have to say, ‘Thank you very much,’” referencing the famous Elvis Presley quote. 

All jokes aside, Richie said Triston Harper’s performance was “excellent” and told him, ‘Movement is your king, your key.’” 

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Following a nationwide vote, Triston Harper secured his place among the American Idol Top 12. The standout contestant has previously captured the hearts of viewers with performances of “God’s Country” by Blake Shelton, “‘Til You Can’t” by Cody Johnson, and “Cover Me Up” by Jason Isbell. He also performed an original, “H-O-P-E,” which stands for “hold on pain ends.”    

As a survivor of abuse and homelessness, Harper aims to use his music to help others facing similar situations. 

“Anytime I’m going through a hard time or I don’t know how to express my feelings, I write songs,” he explained and went on to quote the lyrics, “I’ve seen the pain and I’ve seen the sorrow. I witness it every single day. Kind of makes you wish there is no tomorrow.” 

Throughout the season so far, fans have witnessed Triston Harper’s growth as a singer and performer and have fallen in love with his humble personality. 

American Idol returns tonight, Monday, April 22, with performances from the Top 12. The Top 10 will be revealed at the end of the episode.

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Lauren Jo Black

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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.