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Interview: Tim Halperin Discusses The Making of “The Last Song” Music Video

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There have been a few extremely talented former American Idol contestants that have faded away from the spotlight after appearing on the show. For former contestants to stay on the fans’ radar, they have to really make a concerted effort, which is exactly what season 10 Top 24 contestant, Tim Halperin, has been doing.

Much has happened since I last spoke with Halperin earlier this year. He released “The Last Song” as a free mp3 download right after his run on Idol ended, which led to a unique opportunity with radio DJ, Kidd Kraddick.Tim Halperin in "The Last Song." In between going on his Piano Tour and participating in Kidd Kraddick’s “Idol Got It Wrong” competition, Halperin raised $8,000 via Kickstarter to fund the intriguing and visually stunning music video for “The Last Song,” which premiered on June 6.

Watch Halperin’s music video for “The Last Song” below, and then check out my extensive Q&A session conducted last week with the singer-songwriter about the making of “The Last Song” music video, his participation in “Idol Got It Wrong,” and what he thought about this season’s American Idol results.

How long ago did you actually write “The Last Song,” and how did it come to be the song to kick off your post-Idol journey with?

I wrote “The Last Song” about a year and a half ago. I was about three months out of a long-term relationship, and I kind of came to that point where I was resolved to move. It’d come to that point where a lot of time you’ll see things or remember certain memories about that other person. Every day you’ll see certain things. So, it kind of got through that for a couple months, and I was finally ready to move on. I had that line going through my head, “This is the last song I’ll write for you,” because after being with someone for quite awhile you tend to write a lot of music about them. I had that line in my head and just started filling out different lyrics and different ideas for it.

That was one of the first songs that we recorded on my full-length CD that will come out in the fall. It just turned out really well, and I think that that song gives people a good picture of who I am, and also that my music is very honest and straightforward. I like to throw all my emotions on the table, because I think people can relate best to honest music. That was kind of why I put it out first after American Idol. If you’re an Idol fan that maybe hasn’t heard my music before, you’ll get a good glimpse of who I am as a songwriter.

Did you always intend to turn “The Last Song” into a music video?

No, I hadn’t really thought about doing a music video. When I gave “The Last Song” out for free, in that first week it had almost 5,000 downloads. People really seemed to latch onto it, and it started getting radio play with this radio DJ in Dallas, Kidd Kraddick. It actually got enough radio play to put it on the Top 200 radio show, and it actually hit 148 a few weeks ago, which is really cool.

So I was like, “Man, people really relate to this song,” and so I called my buddy who did my music video for “She Runs” about a year ago. These two directors, my two friends Jonathan Combs and Joe Childress, I called them up and said, “I want to do a music video, I don’t have any money.” [laughs] Which they’re familiar with that, ’cause I didn’t have any money for the “She Runs” video. So, they started brainstorming and said that they wanted to do another video for me. They had a great concept, but they’re like, “This is going to take some money to do it.”

We decided to do a Kickstarter page where people could donate in return for different rewards like Twitter mentions and YouTube shout outs. And we raised the whole budget. I was so excited. We raised the $8,000 in less than 30 days.

I saw that you hit your goal before the donation period was up. Was it overwhelming to have so many people contribute to this project?

It really was. This whole American Idol journey and the past six months of my life has felt like the craziest roller coaster ever. There’s so many extreme highs, but that usually creates for some pretty tough falls. The hard thing is, when you’re in front of a much larger audience, you tend to hear all sorts of different feedback; some is really positive and some is really negative. It’s hard, and you feel a lot more vulnerable. But when I see the outpouring of support for the music video and so many people who just really believed in what I was doing, enough so to give their own money to the project, that really humbled me. That was really great.

Was the video mainly the directors’ concept, or was it more of a collaborative effort?

That was mainly the directors’ vision. They thought of that whole concept. When it comes to creativity, I’m great when it comes to songwriting, but when it comes to anything else, especially visual stuff, I have to default to somebody else. They came up with that whole concept, which I thought was beautiful. I thought, “If we can pull this off to make it look the way they want it to look, it’s going to add a whole new level of depth to the song.”

Tim Halperin in "The Last Song."You mentioned that you contacted the directors for the video, but how was the rest of the video team assembled?

Man, I was so lucky. I felt like I just put a huge burden on my directors when I first went to them about this music video. Not only was I like, man, I don’t have much money, but also I didn’t have much time, because I was playing a lot of shows and trying to do all the things that I needed to do to keep the momentum rolling after American Idol.

They really had to commit to assembling this team and most everybody on the team I was already friends with and knew, but from an organizational standpoint they really sort of worked out all the kinks and made everything run smoothly. So, I just had an incredible amount of support from the directors and producers. They got all of the extras, secured all the locations for the shoot. They rented all the equipment, and they took care of all of the details. They really made things easier on me, which was great.

Which of the scenes was the most challenging for you to shoot?

The most challenging scene for me to shoot, personally, was the scene when I fall into a pool and then I emerge from out of this cow trough. It was filled with hundreds of little goldfish. The bottom was kind of like tar-type mud. I absolutely did not want to get in the water and do that scene surrounded by, like, hundreds of goldfish, but I took one for the team. And I smelled disgusting, and I hated the feeling of being underwater with all those little fish. That’s probably the least happy I’ve been in awhile. 

I didn’t really know what the order of the shoot was or where the locations were that we were shooting the video at. I showed up to the ranch, and our friend who owns the ranch goes, “Well, I wouldn’t get too excited about swimming in a cow trough.” And I was like, “Swimming in a cow’s trough?” I had no idea what he was talking about. 

Now let’s talk about the opening and closing scenes where you’re climbing in and out of the piano. When I was watching the video, I thought, “That piano is either very roomy or that’s one heck of a special effect.” It is a special effect, right? Making of "The Last Song" music video - credit: Tim Halperin

[laughs] That’s a good question. It is a special effect. We had a special-effects guy that helped out, too. We measured the height of the piano and where I would have to crawl into, and we set up a table at the height. I was climbing on top of the table and I knew how high I could put my head up and whatever. So, I climbed into it. And then they filmed the piano sitting there and did the effect. It took a long time, like 40 hours, because each frame they had to edit the way I would climb in and disappear into the piano. It turned out to be a really cool effect; it looks really great. Hats off again to Joe Childress, who not only was one of the directors, but he also edited the video and worked with the special-effects guy named Isaac Murray.

It’s a really convincing and well done shot.

Yeah, it’s crazy. I think it took something like 24 frames-per-second, and they had to edit that for as long as that scene is for eight seconds. It’s amazing. It turned out really cool.

So, did the video turn out as you envisioned it?

Yeah. I mean, I didn’t really know what to anticipate. When you shoot a video like that, and you have so many different scenes and the transitions are so crazy — I mean, I knew what it was going to look like in general when it was all said and done, but — you can never have that full effect or really get a sense for what the video’s going to be like until you actually see it.

I think the coolest part about this video is the fact that you kind of catch something new each time. You get something different out of it each time you watch it. For instance, the symbolism in the video is pretty sick. And there’s one in particular that hit me yesterday after watching it several times. It’s when I go to Tim Halperin in "The Last Song."the treasure chest, and the picture I’m holding in my hand suddenly turns into a key. The symbolism behind that is like the girl that I was still sort of carrying with me turns into the key for the lyrics for “The Last Song” and for that idea. That’s how it transpired for me and sort of realizing that not having that relationship frees up more time for me to do music. That was kind of a cool thing to notice. If people really knew what the inspiration was for the song, things would be even cooler, I think, when they watched it. It’s really, really great.

And the one other thing, people don’t understand why I’m not lip-syncing the whole time in the video, but it’s really because it’s just me learning up the inspiration for the song. I just think it’s so cool, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a music video or gotten a lot of insight into how an artist gets inspiration for the lyrics of a song. But, that’s sort of the whole premise behind the music video.

I feel like between this video and the video for “She Runs,” you’ve used the songs as more of a narrative, which creates a storyteller vibe. Is that something you’re conscience of when making your videos?

Part of that I attribute definitely to the directors, from the standpoint of the concept and, I guess, their style is more so to tell a story, because doing that keeps the viewer engaged throughout the whole video.

How were you feeling the morning the video premiered?

I was really stressed out, because we debuted it on Kidd Kraddick’s Ustream channel, which has a lot of viewers, and so I was just kind of worried about what people were going to think about it. And I didn’t really get to enjoy it. And then I sat down later and really enjoyed it. I was so amazed by the quality of it and how it turned out after editing.

Well, you’ve had a lot of great feedback from being on Kidd Kraddick’s show, so you had to assume that people that had been tuning in to hear you sing were going to love it.

Yeah, totally. Being on his show has been an amazing thing for my career and this whole transition. It’s definitely given me a much bigger fan base. It’s been a great opportunity to show off my not only my artistic ability, but also to show off my personality, and people get to know more about me.

On the topic of Kidd Kraddick, how did you appearing on his radio show come about?

You know it’s funny, ’cause I always wanted to be on Kidd Kraddick in the Morning. When you live in the market where he’s broadcasting, it would be so cool to go on his show and perform or even just interview or whatever.

I remember tweeting him several times [laughs], selflessly plugging myself on Twitter. I never got to be on his show, but then after American Idol, they saw me on the show, and actually one of his co-hosts, J-Si, picked me to win the whole thing after the audition. You know, obviously that didn’t happen. When I got kicked off the show they sort followed me to see what I was doing and saw that I put “The Last Song” out, and Kidd heard it and loved it. He had me on the show (back in early March) to play “The Last Song.”

So, I went on the show, played “The Last Song,” did an interview, and then afterwards Kidd talked to me and said how impressed he was with my songwriting and my character and integrity as an artist. He was like, “Man, if I can think of a way to help you out, I will,” and I really appreciated that. Low and behold a week later, I got a call from him during the radio show, and he asked me if I wanted to do “Idol Got It Wrong.” It was an idea that he came up with. Wednesday nights I would watch American Idol, pick one of the contestant’s songs, learn it over night, then perform it Thursday morning on his show and listeners voted whose version they thought was better. It was just a great chance for me.

And you know, American Idol was amazing; it was such an incredible opportunity and experience for me. Kidd wouldn’t have even found out about me had it not been for American Idol. The cool thing about Kidd’s show was not only was I doing a cover tune, I was assembling my own band, making it my own version, learning it on my own, and really just got to play the song exactly how I wanted to do it. I didn’t have to do what producers wanted or have a certain band, or try to be persuaded by record executives; I could just be myself and be the artist that I am. And people liked that. And like I said, it was an opportunity for people to get to know my personality when I’d be just chatting with Kidd.

I know you took song input from the fans. How long did you wait to pick your song and how long did it take you to put together the arrangement for the show the next day?

Well typically, you know, I would watch it here in Texas, so it’s Central Time Zone. I would see the show from seven to nine p.m. And then at 9 p.m. I would put a poll up on the “Idol Got It Wrong” Facebook page and people would vote for what song they wanted to hear me sing. I would consider that; I would consider what song I thought I could do best, what song I thought I could make the most unique. I would come to a decision at about 9:30 or so. Tim Halperin - credit: AmericanIdol.com

I would figure out the key on the piano to sing it in, then I would text the band, so I could think of what kind of instrumentation [I wanted]. And everyone in the band is a buddy of mine that I’ve known for awhile. They’re all really talented. So I’d say, “Hey, I’m going to be singing ‘Rolling in the Deep’ by Adele, and we’re going to do it in the key of C, and I’ll send you a rough version of mine tonight.”

I would spend the next two hours putting together a rough version, then I would email that out to them of just me playing it. Then I would rehearse it on my own for another few hours, because I wanted to make sure I was doing it the best I could. I would get a couple hours of sleep and get to Kidd’s studio in the morning and run through it with the band like five, six times, then perform it.

There were certain times when it was pretty stressful. I think the most stressed I was was the final week, because I knew it was going to be country, and I am definitely not a country artist. I was so nervous for what listeners were going to respond with. Usually, a country artist will take a pop song and do their own take on it, but it generally doesn’t sound good if a pop artist takes a country song and makes it pop. Luckily though, listeners really dug what we did, and I felt like it was a really good combo of folk, rock, and pop for the song that we did. I guess it turned out well, but it could be stressful at times, no doubt.

Which of the songs was your favorite to sing, and was there a song that the listeners wanted you to sing, but you went with something else?

That’s a good question. I would actually say my favorite to perform was the one that seemed to get the best feedback, “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. I think that Adele is such a pioneer right now for so many good reasons in the Top 40 world. I just think her lyrics are so genuine, honest, and vulnerable. Her music makes you think about yourself and maybe what you’re going through, and you can totally relate to her songs. I loved that I had the opportunity to sing Adele’s song, and I felt like it went really well.

There was one week — it was the week that we did “Love Potion No. 9” — everybody wanted me to do Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” on the Facebook poll. I was really torn. I could’ve done “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and it would have been fine, but I’m really glad that the band and some friends of mine swayed me to do “Love Potion No. 9.” We were able to make it something that was pretty unique, a little bit more soulful.

Well, I thought it turned out really well. So, with the video for “The Last Song” being out now, what’s next for you before your album comes out in September?

I’m playing some more shows. I’m playing in St. Louis this weekend for Komen Race For the Cure. It’ll be really cool. There will be 60-70,000 people at it, so that’ll be a good opportunity.

I’m playing some shows at Kidd Kraddick’s affiliate stations. So I’m playing in San Antonio at the Hard Rock Café on June 23, and then I’m playing in New Orleans on June 28 with Hot Chelle Rae, Christina Perri, and Cody Simpson. So, that’ll be a really cool concert. Then I’m playing in Wilkes-Barre, PA on July 16. Those will be some cool shows, and I might schedule some things here and there, but I’ll also be in the studio working on a couple extra songs. I’ll be doing some songwriting in the next couple weeks too, which will be good.

I wanted to ask you about your Acoustic Sessions EP. You featured a few new songs, “Memories on the Ground,” “Where I’m Going,” and “I Wanna Fall in Love.” How did you decide which songs to strip down and put on the EP?

We had a cellist for the acoustic sessions, so we thought about the songs that might go well with a cello. Definitely “Where I’m Going,” “Memories on the Ground,” and “The Last Song,” of course, were the ones that would be best for that. The ones on the EP are more of the slower tracks that are going to be on the full-length CD. A lot of the ones that you haven’t heard yet are songs that are more pop, even more OneRepublic style, that kind of stuff. I think it turned out really cool. And it’s good to get more music in the hands of people who wanted to hear some more stuff from me and keep them interested and plugged in to what I’m doing.

I really like the Acoustic Sessions EP, and I have to applaud you for keeping your name out there, because there are former contestants that are so talented, but we never hear from them again. I really think you’ve done a great job of staying present.

Thank you. I knew sort of going into American Idol that I needed to make sure that I presented myself as an artist, both on the show and whenever I finished with the show. Luckily, I was already working on my full-length album and had a lot of songs that I had written and arranged that were ready for the public. I think I was in a very good place on American Idol. Honestly, I think I left the show at a very good place, too.

I never had, like, a bad performance, and I never really got railed by the judges or anything, but I sort of had a quiet exit. And yet, I had all the tools to make some good connections and luckily got noticed by someone like Kidd Kraddick. I would say the Kidd Kraddick thing has been a bigger opportunity than American Idol. The people that listen to his show really are music lovers. And, you know, American Idol you have a lot of music fans, but you also have a lot of TV fans, too. I had a really great opportunity to be on Kidd’s show.

Very cool. Alright, one more question: What did you think about the American Idol results this season?

Good question. I thought it was cool. I think Scotty’s really talented. I think he’ll have a great career in country. Part of me wishes that there was a little more variety in the finale, but I think both Lauren and Scotty are very deserving. I think Haley was also very deserving of it. I almost would have liked to have seen her go a bit further and possibly win it. I think she’s very talented. But, you know, there’s so much talent here. Anyone in that Top 3 could have won, and I would have been happy for any of them. It was a great experience, and I’m excited for everyone that was in that group.

For more information on Tim Halperin, check out his official website.

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About Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is an Entertainment Writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She has interviewed a variety of people from across the entertainment spectrum, including singer-songwriter/Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas, Andrew Dost from the Grammy Award-winning band fun., singer-songwriter Christina Perri, and acclaimed writer-director Derek Cianfrance.