After Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon sand an original song “Almost Heaven” during his first audition for American Idol earning himself a ticket to the Hollywood round, he not only became a viral sensation, the singer established himself as a clear front-runner to win Season 17 of the reality competition series. And if he is voted by viewers as champion, Harmon will be the first ever gay winner of American Idol.
Coming out of the closet was no easy feat for the 26-year-old form Catonsville, Maryland, who’s the gay son of a Baptist preacher. His father, Reverend Jerry Harmon, who’s 38-minute sermon condemning homosexuality and speaking of LGBQT rights as a sign of society’s downfall is available to watch on You Tube, and mother, who’s also a conservative Christian.
Harmon, who’s been dating boyfriend John for over a year, was studying voice performance at Towson University and working as a janitor before auditioning for Idol. He was set to graduate in Spring 2019, but his success on the show has since put his studies on hold. Now, he’s competing in the Top 6 alongside Laci Kaye Booth, Alejandro Aranda, Wade Cota, Laine Hardy and Madison VanDenburg.
Here’s what you need to know about Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon:
1. Harmon Was Working as A Church Janitor Before ‘Idol’
Before Harmon got his big break on Idol, he was working as a janitor, mopping the floors of his father’s chapel in Virginia, Grace Bible Baptist Church. “It felt like my music career hadn’t really gone anywhere, yet. I’d been doing music for a while and I figured I should probably take this opportunity,” Harmon said, of finally deciding to audition for the show after being prompted by Idol producers.
After coming out as gay three years ago, Harmon continues to be involved in church life. He said, “I first learned music growing up in church. I also grew up in the South and my dad used to listen to John Denver and Johnny Cash, so there’s some old country influence in there.” His only issues with religion is “when it becomes a barrier to a relationship with someone… Everything that I’ve learned through Christianity, being raised in that, just comes down to loving your neighbor as yourself, loving God. It’s very simple in its intent. My understanding has always been that Jesus was an example of how institutions and religion are really subservient to relationships and learning how to treat people with dignity and respect and just love.”
2. He Will Be Known For So Much More Than Being the First Gay ‘Idol’ Winner
If Harmon wins American Idol, he will be the first gay champion, a feat which he told Out “would be monumental, I think.” But Harmon wouldn’t be winning merely because he’s out and proud, Harmon would win because he’s so incredibly talented. Not only is he a great singer, he’s also a songwriter. It was a huge risk when Harmon auditioned choosing not to cover a popular song, but to perform an original piece that he wrote.
“That was what I was most excited about actually,” Harmon said, “because I’ve wanted to introduce myself to America as not just a singer, but a songwriter, and yeah, it was a risk. I didn’t know how they would respond to it, but obviously it was the right choice and I’m glad that they connected to it the way that they did. I’m excited for what that implies for me as a songwriter, you know, for my long term career after this show is over.”
3. Harmon’s Relationship With His Parents Is Not How It’s Shown on TV
When Harmon first auditioned for Idol, he spoke oh his parents’ opinion of him being gay by saying, “The consensus seemed to be that this is not a path that I should follow,” but the singer was quick to adjust the narrative being told of his seemingly unsupportive conservative parents.
In an interview with Out Harmon said, “I’ve never said that my parents have rejected me, or don’t accept me as me, their son. And that in combination with my parents not being able to make it to the first couple performances and [not being] featured on the show yet, you know, it’s easy for people to take that and run with it… but in reality, they’re just trying to integrate this experience and they’re processing it in their own way.”
During Queen week on Idol, Harmon’s parents were sitting in the audience while he belted out “Who Wants to Live Forever.” Afterward, his parents gave their son a standing ovation while his mother blew him kisses from her seat.
4. He Matched with Boyfriend John on Tinder Before Meeting Him at the YMCA
Harmon’s been dating his boyfriend John Keister for a year and two months, however, before they met in person at the YMCA in Kingsville, Maryland, the couple matched on Tinder.
“I was walking to the gym and he passed by and said hi, and I thought that I had recognized his face, and it took me a while to remember that a year and some change before that we had matched on Tinder… after my workout, I went to my car and grabbed this like three by five lyric card thing that I had been working out song words on, and I wrote my name and number on the back, walked up to him, and I said, ‘I feel like I saw you online somewhere, but in case you ever want to chat or whatever, text me.'”
That night, he and John grabbed dinner and have been together side ever since. John’s been present for every single one of Harmon’s Idol auditions and performances. “We have very similar backgrounds,” Harmon adds. “He actually graduated from the same college that my parents did, which is this tiny Bible school in Indiana. And he comes from the same branch of Christianity, Independent Fundamental Baptist. He’s also a musician, and so we’ve connected on a lot of levels, and he’s been really amazing and supportive.”
5. Harmon Plans On Finishing College No Matter What Happens on ‘Idol’
Finishing his collegiate eduction has not been an easy journey for Harmon. He dropped out of Lynchburg University three times before finally enrolling at Towson in the Spring of 2017. And now that he’s on the cusp of being named the next winner of American Idol, he’s not letting that success deter him from finally earning his degree.
In an interview with Towson he said, “I went through my coming out experience here, and I was really overwhelmed by the amount of support I was shown by the faculty and the students I plan to ride the American Idol train, and wherever it lands me, hopefully it will be an open door for my music career,” he said. “I would love to finish with my music degree and continue to pursue my own artistry at the same time. I’m right there at the finish line.”