C.J. Harris: who was American Idol star dead at 31 - is cause of death known and tributes for late singer

The singer had announced at the start of the year that new music was ‘coming soon’

American Idol star C.J Harris has passed away at age 31, just 13 days shy of his 32nd birthday. Harris was a father of two, and on 2 January had teased that new music was “coming soon” on his official Facebook page.

Many of Harris’ fellow American Idol contestants have posted tributes to the late singer on social media following the news of his death.

Who was C.J. Harris?

Harris was an American singer, best known for appearing on the singing competition American Idol. Born on 28 January 1991, Harris was raised in Jasper, Alabama, and from a young age he knew that music would play an important role in his life.

Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Harris said: “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. 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. 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.”

Finalist C.J. Harris attends FOX’s “American Idol XIII” finalists party at Fig & Olive Melrose Place on February 20, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Before making his way onto American Idol, Harris worked at a barbecue restaurant and had already recorded an album as an independent musician titled Small Town Boy.

Harris first auditioned for American Idol in 2010, but he “never made it past the first round”. He then tried his luck on The X-Factor and The Voice, but was unsuccessful on both those shows as well.

He said: “It hurt me. It really did. So I went back home and that’s what made me stop playing in bars. I wanted to get it together and find out who I am. I was always on the internet, trying to find a break, looking for which producers I could send my stuff to.

“I searched for American Idol and I saw they were doing the bus tour and they were going to be 30 minutes down the road from me. I said, “You know what? I’m going to give it another chance. I’ve gotten so much better, my voice has matured and my playing has gotten so much better. I’m 23, before you know it I’ll be 33 and I want to give it another chance”.”

When was he on American Idol?

Harris appeared on American Idol in 2014, for the show’s 13th season. He took part in the bus tour auditions in Tuscaloosa before then auditioning for the judges in Salt Lake City.

In response to his cover of Soulshine, judge Keith Urban told Harris: “You sing because you have to sing, not because you want to sing. That’s why it’s so believable and real. I just believed it and I felt it.”

C.J. Harris performs on American Idol (Photo: American Idol/Fox)

Harris eventually made his way to the Top 10 before ultimately finishing in sixth place.

His American Idol singles, released in 2014, included the songs Invisible, If It Hadn’t Been for Love, Soulshine, Free Fallin, Gravity and American Woman.

Following his appearance on the show, Harris released his first single in 2019, titled In Love.

When did he die?

Harris passed away on Sunday 15 January after being taken to the Walker Baptist Medical Center in Jasper, Alabama. Per Variety, his death was confirmed by a spokesperson for the Walker County Coroner’s Office.

The singer died at age 31, less than two weeks before his 32nd birthday.

No details regarding his death have been officially shared, however TMZ reported that a family member had told the publication that Harris had suffered from a heart attack.

Tributes for C.J Harris

Following the news of his death, fans, friends, family and fellow musicians have shared their tributes for the singer online.

Jessica Meuse, who was also on American Idol alongside Harris, shared a picture of the two of them together on Instagram, with the caption: “My heart is heavy to hear of the passing of fellow @americanidol and friend @cjharrismusic. 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.

Jessica Meuse performs with C.J. Harris during the American Idol Live! 2014 Tour Kickoff at the Broome County Arena on July 24, 2014 in Binghamton, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

“I’ll miss your random phone calls asking for life advice and talking about the music world. When you go through something like Idol together, it brings everyone involved together like a big, weird, dysfunctional family. I’m grateful that our paths crossed and that I can say you were (and always will be) a part of mine. There are a lot of things I realise I will never understand - you leaving us so soon is one of those things. Rest easy, friend. See you on the other side.”

Caleb Johnson, the winner of Harris’ season of American Idol, tweeted: “Absolutely tragic. You were taken from us way too soon. Love you brother @CJHarrisMusic”

The official American Idol Twitter account also shared a picture of Harris, writing: “C.J. Harris was an incredible talent, and the news of his passing deeply saddens us. He will be truly missed.”