INTERVIEW: Former ‘Idol’ Contestant Tim Halperin Almost Covered Tom Petty on TV

Tim Halperin was a week away from making history on “American Idol” not just once, but twice. He became the first contestant in the show’s history to perform an original track, “The Last Song,” and make the Top 24. The following week, Halperin lost. Had he been voted on, the Omaha native would’ve been the first competitor to perform a Tom Petty song on “Idol.”

“(Petty’s) traditionally not let (‘Idol’) do any of his songs,” explained Halperin, who called in from Dallas to promote his new album, Rise & Fall. “But Jimmy Iovine, who’s president of Interscope Records, he called Tom Petty’s manager up.”


The record mogul played an instrumental role in Petty’s career, so for Iovine, it was almost as simple as calling in a favor to a long time friend.

Certainly there would have been a bit of pressure on Halperin had he been the first to perform a Petty cut on the show. But despite his elimination, the singer/songwriter continued to pursue his dream of performing music. That certainly brought along more pressure, with this chapter culminating in the release of Rise & Fall.

“’American Idol’ was absolutely great, I wouldn’t have traded that time on that show for anything,” Halperin said. “But the tough part comes after the show, because basically what you are is a reality TV star.”

Halperin’s honest perspective forced him to find creative way within the legalities of his “Idol” contract to keep his momentum going until he was allowed to release an album for sale. That led him to “Kidd Kraddick in the Morning,” one of the nation’s largest morning radio shows. Halperin performed originals and took part in a reoccurring segment called, “Idol Got it Wrong.” Each week, Kraddick would play a performance from the show and then Halperin’s performance of that same song in studio. Listeners would vote on who sang better.

The listeners chose Halperin’s renditions every week, thus saying in essence that the show did get it wrong with his early elimination. But the numbers don’t lie either: Halperin’s debut LP topped the iTunes Singers and Songwriters chart this week.

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