Who Is Triston Harper? Meet The 15-Year-Old American Idol Contestant

Triston Harper wowed the judges during his audition for season 22.

By

Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

February 16, 2024

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Triston Harper; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless

15-year-old Triston Harper is already proving to be a standout contestant from Season 22 of American Idol.

Leading up to the official season premiere of Idol on Sunday (Feb. 18), the network shared an early look into the audition of the rising star, revealing his inspirational story of overcoming incredible obstacles to become the person he is today. 

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

Where Is Triston Harper From?

Standing in front of judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie, Harper admitted he’s “been through a lot” in his life as he began to open up about his upbringing in McIntosh, Alabama.

“I grew up right here, since I was born, basically,” he shared while sitting in front of his home. “I wouldn’t trade McIntosh for nothing, there just ain’t no place like home.” 

What Is Triston Harper’s Background?

The aspiring singer/songwriter then revealed that he is a member of his town’s Choctaw Indian tribe. Tribal chief Dr. Lebaron Byrd, along with many other members of his community, rallied around Harper in support of his upcoming journey on the singing competition show.

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

“We’re so proud of Triston being honored to appear on American Idol and we hope that you’ll be the winner in this competition so that we can say that we have someone,” said Byrd.

He Faced Abuse And Homelessness

The clip proceeded to take a deep dive into one of the lowest chapters of Harper’s life which came when he was just 11 years old. 

He spoke with a certain heaviness as he said, “My mom was with my stepdad. He was getting very abusive. We had to leave McIntosh then everything had went sideways, just like that.”

To find their way out of this difficult situation, Harper shared he and his mom became homeless – “I’m sleeping on sidewalk. I had just turned 12.”

Tiston Harper, American Idol YouTube
Tiston Harper; Photo Courtesy American Idol, YouTube

A Difficult Childhood

Images from Harper’s childhood flashed across the screen before his mom, Hattie Mae, appeared in front of the camera with tears in her eyes as she mustered up the courage to share her perspective on the trials and tribulations they endured together. 

“Life has been hard. Life has been really hard,” Hattie Mae said with sincerity in her voice. “That’s one of the reasons why he is so mature like he is, because he’s had take on role at a very young age.”

Harper continued, “It was not easy, me watching my mom sit there and cry that night and not knowing what to do. I’d got to that point where I said, ‘God, I need you to help me.’ My papaw, he drove all the way from Alabama, Arkansas, nonstop to come and get us.”

He Has Support From His Family

While appearing to reflect on Harper’s journey, his papaw, Percy, looked at his grandson with a true sense of achievement in his eyes and said, “I’m just so proud, boy. Yep. Real proud…Just don’t forget your roots, where you coming from.”

Harper explained 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.

YouTube video

Triston Harper’s American Idol Audition

The cameras brought viewers back into the Idol audition room where Harper donned his black cowboy hat, a sleek black vest and a white button-down shirt. The high school student proceeded to put his raw talent on full display with a stunning rendition Jason Isbell‘s “Cover Me Up” (which was later covered by Morgan Wallen). The strums of his acoustic guitar elevated the sound of his gritty, twang-fueled vocals that allowed the judges to hear every emotion evoked through the humble lyrics. 

What Did The Judges Say About Triston Harper’s American Idol Audition?

Once he delivered the final note of the tune, Perry and Richie gave Harper a round of applause and a standing ovation.

“Your voice. You got it,” said Richie. “When you go into telling a story, you’ve got us right here. The purity of your verses, the purity of the B part going into the hook, killer. Make sure we know what that story is because your voice is a storytelling voice.”

“You were so authentic, so connected to yourself, singing from your soul. It wasn’t perfect, but it resonated with me. It was really good. I’m impressed for 15,” Perry said before sharing that she sees an “old Alabama” soul in him. 

Triston Harper Auditions for American Idol; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless
Triston Harper Auditions for American Idol; Photo by Disney/Eric McCandless

Luke Bryan shared a similar opinion as his fellow judges as he expressed how much potential he sees in the budding voice standing in front of him. 

“Anything that you’re doing technically wise singing is because you’re 15. I could have an afternoon with you and just say, ‘Don’t do that anymore, just don’t do those two things’ and man,” Bryan stated.

Perry added, “You’re a shotgun, just watch where you’re aiming at.”

Harper seemed to take the judges’ notes very seriously, nodding his head along to every word. 

Seacrest was then seen ushering his mother towards the stage so that she could be present for the long-awaited moment when the judges voted unanimously to send her son to Hollywood and continue on as an official American Idol contestant. 

American Idol 2024; Photo Courtesy Disney, ABC
American Idol 2024; Photo Courtesy Disney, ABC

Audiences will have the chance to see even more hopeful artists appear before the star-studded panel of judges in the upcoming season premiere airing on Sunday, February 18th on ABC and streaming on Hulu.

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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.