When Tim Halperin walked off the stage Thursday night, the “American Idol” machine was already at work, getting ready to send him home.
After months of auditions and performances and flying back and forth between Fort Worth and Los Angeles — Tim's “Idol” adventure was over.
“Where are you flying to?” someone with the show asked him.
“Can I go to Omaha?” Tim asked. “I was like a little puppy dog. I wanted to come home.”
Omaha's first “American Idol” finalist is back in town this week, spending some serious quality time with his family and trying to decide what's next.
Eventually, Tim, 23, will head back to Fort Worth, where he's lived since he graduated from Texas Christian University. But for the next month or so, his only focus will be making the most of his “Idol” exposure.
Tim feels like he's in a better position than most “Idol” cast-offs.
When he auditioned for the show, he was already almost finished with his first full-length album, and he'd been performing live with a band. In fact, his music career was progressing so well, he was reluctant to audition for “Idol.”
He'd auditioned before, back in 2008, when the show held try outs in Omaha. Just two years out of Westside High School, Tim went blank when it was his turn to sing in front of producers.
“That experience was so devastating to me, I told myself I'd never try out again.”
But a friend suggested Tim audition last year when word got out that “Idol” was accepting entries on MySpace. Tim entered, reluctantly, and when he was invited to audition again in Los Angeles in November, he still wasn't sure he should go.
“I still was hesitant. I had a lot going on.” Plus he had to pay for his own plane ticket.
But he did go, and within a few days, he was singing in front of Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler — and Jennifer Lopez, whom he'd had a crush on as a kid. Tim mentioned that crush to the producers, and he could tell they liked that. He ended up serenading Jennifer during his on-air audition.
“When people recognized me in public,” Tim said, at least for the first few weeks of the show, “it was always about JLo.”
When the Hollywood rounds began, he put his game face on.
“I wanted to be sure that I was the artist on the show that I'd be after the show.” Anything you do in front of 22 million people is hard to shake, he said.
Tim coordinated that stand-out performance of the Beatles' “Something” in Las Vegas, working with fellow finalist Julie Zorrilla to turn the song into a piano duet.
Everyone behind the scenes was very supportive of the contestants' artistic choices, he said. “Everything really is ultimately your choice.”
Which means that, yes, it's was Tim's decision to sing “Streetcorner Symphony” by Rob Thomas on Tuesday's first big perfomance night. “I wanted America to see that I wasn't a one-trick pony, that I wasn't just stuck on ballads.”
The judges said that Tim didn't show voters who he really was and all that he was capable of — but Tim stands by his song choice. He stands by all of his “Idol” choices.
“I can't say, ‘what if, what if.' It's not worth ever thinking about ... I want to be sure that I'm moving on, moving forward.”
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