Iam Tongi is paying tribute to one of his musical heroes. The latest American Idol winner performed an acoustic cover of Morgan Wallen‘s “Sand In My Boots,” as a tribute to Wallen and his influence on Tongi.
“I have immense respect for Morgan Wallen, and ‘Sand in My Boots’ is a song that truly touches my heart.,” Tongi says. “The raw emotion in the lyrics and the soulful melody resonate with me on a profound level.”
Tongi performed a wide variety of music while competing on Idol, a strategy he plans to continue as a solo artist. The Hawaii native looks to one of his musical influences to guide the styles of songs he plans on releasing, as his career continues to grow.
“More like a Jack Johnson artist,” Tongi tells TV Insider, speaking of the kind of artist he hopes to be. “I want to give that kind of vibe. I don’t want to limit myself to one genre of music because I love all music. I just want to have fun with it.”
Tongi auditioned for American Idol shortly after his father passed away. It was an emotional journey, one Tongi never predicted would culminate with him being crowned the winner.
“It was amazing that I got to share that experience with the world,” Tongi says. “It’s such an amazing feeling to inspire others. To show that it’s not a bad thing to talk about your problems and what you go through.”
After winning American Idol, Tongi’s debut single was an original song, “I’ll Be Seeing You.” The song, written by Season 18 American Idol alum, Francisco Martin, was released by Tongi in honor of his late father.
“It really resonated with me,” Tongi tells American Songwriter. “He listened to my story. I’ve gotta give thanks to him because he really touched my heart.”
The poignant lyrics make the 19-year-old feel closer to his late father, whose presence he still feels with him, wherever he goes.
“It’s almost like a conversation, I’m saying, ‘I’ll be seeing you wherever I go’ to my dad,” Tongi says. “Wherever we drive somewhere a place that my dad loved to go eat, we were like, ‘Hey look, that’s dad’s favorite place.’ Almost like [saying], ‘I’ll be with you wherever I go.’
“Now [it’s] like my dad talking back to me now that he’s gone – no matter what happens, no matter where he goes, he’s gonna be with me in my heart, in my mind and through the memories,” he adds.