Platinum-selling pop star David Archuleta doesnt like attention, but he deserves yours.At 6 years old, Archuleta, who grew up on a steady diet of musicals like Les Misrables and Evita, developed a love for singing as a way to find solace in the comfort of his backyard. Before long, family, friends and neighbors started to notice, and at 9 years old, coaxed by the promise of free quesadillas, he was singing for crowds at a local restaurant. And in 2007, when the then-16-year-old (now 26), appeared on American Idol, the world started noticing. Receiving 44 percent of nearly 100 million votes, the shy, fresh-faced vocal prodigy was runner-up on the hit shows seventh season, finishing behind David Cook.I didnt really want to pursue fame and stardom, Archuleta, a devout Mormon, recalls. But I felt like it was something I needed to do to fulfill one of the assignments Id been given in my life.A record deal with Sony/Jive Records, arena tours, a No. 2 single (Crush) on the Billboard Hot 100, acclaim from the likes Bruce Springsteen, Kelly Clarkson and Rihanna, and international fame followed. But even after running the gamut from Top 40 pop to holiday music on six studio albums and 21 singles, released over the past decade, including a two-year break from music to embark on life-changing missionary work in Chile for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the TV personality, bestselling author and former Star Search Junior Vocal Champion and one of American Idols youngest breakout wunderkinds was still just finding his voice.I think American Idol, the whole process, from the momentum on afterwards, I never took time to slow down and think about who I was, the singer says. People wanted me to work in an adult world without growing up. When I went on my mission, it was the first time that I took time to say, Who am I? What do I want?When I got back, I started doing music again, and thats when I started working on this project.Hes talking about a series of three four-song EPs that, due out over the course of this year (and later as a full-length LP with additional songs), starting with the May 19th release of Orion, combine to make a heartfelt artistic statement. Unburdened by the pressures and focus-group-think of industry handlers, yet set to pop tones sure to pleasantly surprise old fans and attract new followers to his already robust global fan base, its the first album the singersco-written and recorded as an adult.The music is all about saying, Wait a second, why am I doing this in the first place? Archuleta says, explaining where his head was at when he relocated to Nashville to start writingsongs with Music City luminaries like Jeremy Bose, Trent Dabbs, Katie Herzig, producer Jamie Kenney and others.It was therapeutic working with them, Archuleta recalls. I wrote these stories [my career so far]. That was a great experience and I learned a ton, and now Im here and Im like, Wow! I get to create music, but this time I have my own reason to do it.I connect to my songs more now than I ever have, he goes on to say. Before, my team had goals to fulfill; they didnt really care about my story, they were just like, Make sure you haveenough love songs that we can release, because thats what people want to buy. Ive never been about romance and breakups and high school love and all that. Ive always been about life, and self-introspection.I think Ill take a second change, Archuleta sings with a familiar bell-clear powerhouse croon on lead-off single Numb, an airy pop tune with a refreshing calypso feel that shows some of the Utah-by-way-of-Miami natives Latin roots. The track premiered via Billboard last November.This is like a new beginning, Archuleta explains excitedly, saying hes never felt so intrinsically fulfilled and electrified by his own music. Its not just taking another chance with music, its taking another chance on myself. I need to be who I am or else Ill go numb again.Like with Numb, the theme of the anthemic Invincible turns the phrase its title suggests.[Its] about not having to be invincible, Archuleta says. Ive felt too many times that I need to be perfect, I need to be invincible, I cant show any weakness. But really, thats what creates the battle with myself. [Then I have to tell myself], Its OK, you can let go. Let the armor down. Put the sword away. That idea carries on through Orions Up All Night. Its a dance-pop gem Archuleta wrote about a rural Tennessee fishing trip he took with a family he befriended. Coming during a rough patch he was having in Nashville, the trip gave the singer some much-needed perspective at a time when he was imposing a paralyzing amount of pressure on himself to prove himself.They just cared about each other, Archuleta says of the family. Whoever I was, they just loved me and accepted me, and made me feel like a was a part of the family. I felt wholeagain, I feel rejuvenated, and I went home and I couldnt sleep that night. And all that happened was I went fishing with this family. I was like, I have to get this feeling out of me. So I went over to the keyboard and [Up All Night] is what came out.Say Me, a string-section-boasting ballad co-written with Bose and Dabbs, is another rumination on the singers battle for self-discovery. I need you to say me, the lyric goes.That can be interpreted as a love song, Archuleta admits. I need you to say you, basically believe in yourself. Theres a difference between being prideful and cocky and believing in yourself.After a decade under the discerning eyes of American Idol judges, TV viewers, record label know-it-alls and music critics trying to shape and define his identity, Archuleta has discovered hes the only one who can find himself, and, with confidence winning out over self-doubt, thats what hes done on Orion.These songs are about the struggle of finding your own voice and how hard it can be sometimes to believe in yourself. Im David. Im the kid who always sat in his backyard, alone, singing to the cats. I dont have to be cool, I just have to be David.
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Singing on stage at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles was a moment David Archuleta will never forget, but there were a number of pivotal moments that happened in his (even) younger days, and he'll never forget any of them either, including singing for the first season "American Idol" contestants in Hollywood in 2002, when he was just 11 years old.
The David Archuleta story began on Dec. 28, 1990, the day David was born to Jeff and Lupe Archuleta in North Miami, Florida. His father was a jazz musician who was always playing the trumpet around the house. His mother was a singer who performed locally with her three sisters in a group known as the Mayorga Sisters. David always enjoyed music, but wasn't particularly fond of his dad's jazz trumpet playing, covering his ears "because it was so loud."
But then came one of those pivotal moments, when David was six years old and watched a videotape with his younger brother as his family was relocating from Florida to Utah. It was the 10th anniversary concert of the stage musical "Les Miserables" and David became captivated with the music, playing the tape over and over, memorizing each song, complete with cockney accents. Then he discovered and fell in love with other musicals like "Evita" and "Into the Woods." He also listened to his mother's Selena and Gloria Estefan albums, but he didn't pay attention to radio much and wasn't really aware of pop music, until he watched the first season of "American Idol."
He was first mesmerized by Tamyra Gray when she opened the Top 30 semifinals with her outstanding performance of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." It was the first time he was aware of how expressive and soulful music could be, and what it was like to vocalize emotions. This was perhaps the most pivotal musical moment of his young life, the first step on the path that led him to who he is today, a musical prodigy, the runner-up for the seventh season Of "American Idol" and the newest artist signed to 19 Recordings/Jive.
After David started watching "Idol," his father bought recording equipment, hooked it up to his computer, and recorded David singing "God Bless America," "I Will Always Love You," and "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." When a friend of the Archuletas saw that "The Jenny Jones Show" was looking for "Future Latino Stars," she urged Jeff and Lupe to have their son try out. Based on a performance over the phone, a producer booked 11-year-old David to sing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" on Jones' show.
During that August 2002 performance, David met another young singer, AJ Gil, a finalist on the first season of "Idol." Returning home to Utah after the Jenny Jones experience, Jeff decided to drive to Hollywood the next day and surprise David by taking him to the first season finale of "Idol" at the Kodak Theater. He bought tickets on eBay, picked them up in Las Vegas, and then drove on to Hollywood.
It was during this trip that David met up with AJ again. Gil insisted David sing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" for Tamyra Gray. With Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini gathered around, the 11-year-old prodigy delivered, and his father captured it all on the video that has become an online classic.
Next, David tried out for "Star Search." The show didn't contact him the first season, but during the 2nd season, asked David to submit videos of him singing the Smokey Robinson/Jackson 5 song "Who's Lovin' You" and Billy Gilman's "One Voice." This time he was invited to compete on the show and appeared on three episodes in early 2003, winning the Junior category. A year later, he was invited back to compete against other winners. But this second run on "Star Search" was more difficult. David had been ill for a few months with appendicitis and bronchitis. Several weeks into his second "Star Search" experience, the Archuletas realized something was definitely wrong with David's voice.
A renowned ENT doctor in Beverly Hills diagnosed David with vocal paralysis and said the only options were either surgery or vocal therapy. They tried the latter, and after a frustrating couple of years of time and patience with the vocal therapy, the efforts worked and David was able to regain his ability to sing with confidence and endurance.
David continued to watch "American Idol" and thought about auditioning, but didn't believe he was "good enough." It was a moot point, because he was too young to try out. In the summer of 2007, at the tender age of 16, he was finally old enough, and his friends and family urged him to audition. He had to quit his job as a techie at a local amphitheater in Murray, Utah, and almost didn't go to try out because he was looking forward to this summer job.
Ultimately, David and his father went to the San Diego auditions. During the first round, while auditioning with other people, the producers dismissed the entire row and David walked away. "I'd been waiting in line for two days, and in 30 seconds it was all over," he says. "Then I heard someone say, 'Wait, come back.' I didn't think they were talking to me, so I kept going. And they said it again, 'Wait! Come back here!' I turned around and they said, 'You're through.' It was such a shock!"
The rest, as they say, is history. Simon, Randy and Paula sent David to Hollywood, where he made it into the top 24, then the top 12, and after never being in the bottom three, into the spectacular season finale.
Now David has had three songs debut at once on The Billboard Hot 100, is getting ready to tour the United States this summer as part of the "American Idols Live!" tour and is already recording his first album. Unforgettable moments? There are many more to come, for this is just the beginning of a long, successful career for the talented teen who captured the imagination of over 30 million "American Idol" viewers.