For Tim Halperin, the second album might be a tougher sell than the first.
When he released his debut, Rise and Fall, in 2011, he wasn’t all that far from his 2010 appearance on American Idol, where the TCU grad made the Top 24 but was quickly eliminated. He was regularly appearing on Kidd Kraddick in the Morning as part of a segment called “ Idol Got it Wrong,” because Kraddick believed that Halperin had been eliminated too soon.
Now it’s 2014, and Halperin has just released his second non-Christmas album, Heart Tells Your Head. Much like the first, it features Halperin’s earnest vocals and keyboard work, with songs that have earned him comparisons to Ben Folds and Jason Mraz but are less quirky than those artists. Idol is fading into the distance, and Halperin was part of the Kraddick crew that was sent reeling by the DJ’s death in July 2013.
“I spent more money promoting this album, because with Rise & Fall, there was so much free built-in press coming off the tail end of American Idol,” Halperin says by phone from Knoxville, Tenn. “And being fresher off ‘ Idol Got it Wrong.’ I felt the need to get the word out a little bit more.”
In the past, Halperin has marketed himself well on YouTube, where he has several clips, performing originals and covers, and doing the occasional concept video. But except for some performances of some Heart Tells Your Head songs that Halperin has done in concert, he’s been pretty quiet with videos for songs from the new album.
“I don’t feel like I have enough of a budget to film something that I would be happy with,” the Omaha native says. “My best video was The Last Song, and the budget for that was about $10,000. I decided that I wanted to put more of my budget for this album into the production and promotion of the songs, so that’s where the money’s going at this point.”
One of the songs, Hey 17 — an almost painful ballad about a troubled teenager seeking redemption that features some of Halperin’s best singing — was done with Christian rapper Trip Lee, and has already shown signs of introducing Halperin to a new audience.
“That’s a market that I’ve never really entered into, and so I put some of the money into visibilty for that fan base,” Halperin says. “Trip Lee has a really big fan base, and I need them to know that there’s a single out there with his name on it.”
Halperin — already an avid user of Facebook and Twitter — has also placed ads in social media and gotten on email lists to push the album. After Heart Tells Your Head debuted Feb. 11 on iTunes, it spent a couple of days in the iTunes Top 50 before dropping out of the Top 100 — but Halperin says that’s encouraging, because it still spent more time in the Top 100 than Rise & Fall did.
Halperin’s music is in a niche that has become a tougher fit for radio, which is still important in launching a record even if it doesn’t have the clout it once did. Even “adult contemporary” stations are leaning more toward dance-oriented songs these days. But Halperin says that there are still cracks an artist like him can break through, but there are also compromises he’s decided aren’t for him.
“For a while, I was riding on this album to try on get on more of a route to ‘hot’ adult contemporary or Top 40, and what I quickly realized was, that wasn’t authentic for me,” Halperin says. “It didn’t feel right writing for a sound, and the conclusion I came to was that I need to write songs that are very personal and meaningful to me.
“[And] you do see some organic and authentic-sounding artists,” he continues. “Like Ed Sheeran is huge right now; Passenger, they have that huge song Let Her Go. You see these songs that do break the mold every once in a while. A good song that catches some wind on social media, on YouTube — that song will really take off.”
Moving to Tennessee
Halperin is also benefiting from his connection to Kidd Kraddick in the Morning — he appeared on the show last week, and appeared on again on Monday . That means national exposure because the show, which airs in DFW on KHKS/106.1 “KISS-FM,” is syndicated in more than 70 other markets. Halperin is donating 15 percent of the proceeds from album sales to Kidd’s Kids, Kraddick’s charity for chronically and terminally ill children and their families.
Although there are similarities between Rise & Fall and Heart Tells Your Head, Halperin says he thinks the new album is more focused in musical style and stronger in lyric content. Songs like lead single Jolene do rely on pop hooks, but then there are songs like the searching Truth — that have more depth in the lyrics.
Halperin recently moved from Fort Worth to Tennessee; he’s temporarily based in Knoxville, but he has spent time in Nashville, and plans to make the Music City move permanent by the end of the summer. He’s worked with some other songwriters — including Fort Worth’s April Geesbreght, who co-wrote Heart Tells Your Head’s lively title track — but no heavy-hitters yet.
In April, he’ll do a Texas mini-tour with Fort Worth’s Green River Ordinance and Dallas’ Jillian Edwards (who’s also based in Nashville); that tour will come to Dallas’ House of Blues on April 19.
“I’m pumped about that lineup,” Halperin says. “That’s pretty cool, and it will become the next run from here. But at this point, it’s all about spreading the word for the new album. That’s why I go back to DFW, because I still have a ton of support there, and I’m grateful for that.”