Curtis “C.J.” Harris, a former contestant on “American Idol,” has died. The 31-year-old from Jasper, Alabama, died after suffering cardiac arrest on Sunday, a spokesperson for the Walker County Coroner confirmed to CBS News.
Harris competed on the 13th season of singing competition show 2014, at just 23 years old, coming in sixth place. He auditioned for the show in Tuscaloosa, according to AL.com, which profiled the Alabama participants at the time.
He performed for judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. and became known for his rendition of “Soulshine,” by The Allman Brothers Band, which Urban praised him for. “You sing ’cause you have to sing, not ’cause you want to sing. And I mean that in the deepest way. And that’s why it’s so believable and real,” Urban said.
Several of his “American Idol” performances are available to stream on Spotify. Harris often posted videos of himself performing on Instagram, most recently sharing a video of himself singing a cover of The Fray’s “How to Save a Life.”
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2014, Harris said his mother and grandfather inspired his love of music from a very young age.
“I was six years old and my mom was in prison. She would sing to me over the phone and tears would just flow out of my eyes,” he said.
“When I was a little older, my granddad gave me a guitar. He had one in the shed and it had three strings on it. He said I didn’t need to buy a whole new set of strings. So I would tune it in a way that when I strummed it, it sounded like it’s in a key of whatever. I find different sounds,” he continued. “I just love music so I really try to find a sound that I really like and just play it. I know that’s weird, but that’s what I do.”
After “American Idol,” Harris performed with Darius Rucker at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 2014, according to Entertainment Tonight. He also toured with fellow “American Idol” contestants. He released his debut single, “In Love,” in 2019.
Fellow “American Idol” Season 13 contestant Jessica Meuse posted a photograph of herself and Harris on Instagram following the news of his death. “I’m completely shocked. Your talent and smile will be missed, and the world is definitely a darker and eerily quieter place without you in it,” she wrote. “I’ll miss your random phone calls asking for life advice and talking about the music world.”
Harris was a father of two, according to People.