David Archuleta became a star when he was just 16-years-old. In 2008, more than 30-million television viewers fell in love with his angelic voice and their 44-million votes made him runner-up in season seven of American Idol. Soon after, the young Utahan had his first single, “Crush” debut at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart the week of its release. Three months later, David’s self-titled album, “David Archuleta,” went gold, selling more than 750,000 copies in the United States, and more than 900,000 copies worldwide.
With a massive social media following, Archuleta has toured all over the U.S., Canada, Asia and has even performed in the Middle East for the U.S. troops. This fall, Archuleta is set to release his eighth audio album, “Winter in the Air,” on November 2 and will kick off a month-long tour on November 26. Be sure to check out “Christmas Every Day” from the release embedded below.
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Mehnaz Ladha: Kicking it off with your hometown area of Salt Lake City, Utah what really stands out and makes it special to you? Where would you send a first-time visitor to get a real sense of the surrounding area?
David Archuleta: I think Utah is beautiful. Salt Lake City, where I grew up, is right next to the Rocky Mountains. It’s just amazing! Every time I come home and land at the airport, my mom picks me up and the mountains are just right there. It takes 40 minutes to get to the ski and snowboarding slopes. So, if people are there in the wintertime, I’d take them to a place like Park City for the experience, because it’s so quiet.
Utah is also where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Headquarters is in Temple Square and that’s probably what Salt Lake City is most known for. It’s probably most famous during Christmas time for the lights. People walk around Temple Square and there are nativity scenes from around the world – Africa, Korea, Mongolia. The last thing I’d say about Utah is, of course, the national parks, which are breathtaking.
ML: So, I know you’ve since relocated and are currently living in Nashville, Tennessee. How does the music scene compare to the different cities you’ve lived and performed in?
DA: I love Nashville! I used to live in [Los Angeles, California], as well. But, Nashville is similar in the sense that it has the accessibility to work in the industry. All kinds of people come and work in Nashville now from all around the world. They also have this southern community and hospitality.
ML: I’ve never been, but I’ve heard similar sentiments about it. It’s one of those places that feels like home even though it may be far from it.
DA: Yes, it’s so that! People just talk to you in the grocery store even if people know who you are. The city understands artists, because it’s what so many people in this town do. They don’t look at you like you’re some sort of foreign alien. Everyone knows at least someone in the music industry here. So, it’s just nice to be able to strike up a conversation with a cute, old, southern woman who’ll invite you over for dinner if you ever want a good home-cooked meal.
ML: Your career really launched in 2008 with American Idol and subsequently the release of “Crush,” which I remember being the biggest thing ever when I was in middle school. Did you anticipate the success of your career and more specifically, did you anticipate “Crush” going so viral?
DA: I didn’t. I never saw myself as a pop artist, but rather just as someone who likes singing. I didn’t see myself as someone in pop. So, for “Crush” to be my first single, I felt super grateful for the writers – David Hodges, Emmanuel Kiriakou and Jess Cates. What amazes me is that it’s been a decade since “Crush” came out, and still, in the last year, I’ve seen three-viral spikes and people still really liking the song. I’m just like, “Wow!” I just assume that people are going to get bored or sick of me.
ML: “Crush” is one of those songs you get really nostalgic about, like you remember where you were and what you were doing when it came out. It was one of those songs that everyone would sing along to anywhere and everywhere.
DA: Yeah, it’s been fun. It’s taken me places I never thought I’d go and allowed me to see people singing along who I never thought would be singing with me.
ML: You’ve toured around United States, Canada, Asia and even the Middle East. Have there been any destinations that struck a chord with you in terms of culture or just your experiences there?
DA: I’m a foodie. I really like food. Whenever people ask me what I like to do with my spare time, I tell them that I like to look up places on Yelp. So, Singapore is known for having so many great places to eat. I don’t remember every place we went to, because it was always so quick, but I just loved how they take pride in having a lot of great places to eat there.
Another place I really enjoyed was the Balkan countries in Europe – Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia. There are places in Slovenia with not as much tourism, so it’s pretty quiet and chill. The people are nice and it’s a clean country. They have places like Lake Bled and that castle that was built into the side of a mountain.
One of my favorite places I’ve been to as a tourist when I had some downtime, was a place in Croatia called the Plitvice Lakes. I feel like images don’t do it justice because you go there and even though it was rainy, the water was so blue and clear. They built this walkway that goes all across the lakes and even up some waterfalls. There are so many waterfalls, like little ones. You feel like you’re in Narnia or seeing the elves of Rivendell. It’s just a beautiful place.
ML: Those experiences are some of my favorites – discovering something so pure and magical, untouched by things like mass tourism and other things like that.
DA: It’s a beautiful place and I highly recommend going there.
ML: To create music, and traveling to promote it, must be such a feeling. What’s the most impactful and meaningful part you cherish about it? Does the travel help inspirationally?
DA: It does, because it’s amazing to see all the different cultures. Being on American Idol, for example, I never thought I’d be going to Southeast Asia to perform so much in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. They’re all huge fans of singing competitions and just pop music in general. What’s the background of your name by the way?
ML: My name is Persian, but I’m originally from India. My great grandparents were from there, but my parents were born and raised in Tanzania, East Africa. Then, my sisters and I were born here in the US. That helps explain why, for me, anything that has to do anything with culture is so exciting. That’s truly the best part about traveling. You can see and experience these cultures. It shows how connected we actually are versus how different we are.
DA: It’s amazing! Language is so different everywhere it goes. It can affect the behaviors and the cultures of the people. I did go to Southern India one time to Chennai, actually. Something that stuck out to me was when we were there for this organization called Rising Star Outreach that built schools there for kids from leprosy colonies. On one of the days we had off, we walked around the village and they had these dome homes. A guy that I had never seen before was just there with his wife and his mom. Even though we were strangers he was like, “Come eat with us.” And, they invited us for dinner. We didn’t have time to, but I was just like, “Wow, this is amazing.” I had no idea how to speak with him with words, but it made for an even cooler interaction. They wanted to connect with us too. Wanting us to have dinner with them was really sweet.
ML: Well, they say that food is a universal language that brings people together. Switching gears, your new Christmas album, “Winter in the Air,” is coming out November 2nd. Being able to listen to it early has been my excuse to listen to holiday music in October. So, describe the album a little bit. How is “Winter in the Air” different from other Christmas albums. Is there anything that’s unique or special to you?
DA: I tried to push myself out of my comfort zone a little, because I’ve done a Christmas album before called “Christmas From the Heart.” With this one, I wanted to have a little more fun. So, for the first single, I really tried to make it happy and bouncy, more like “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” or “All I Want for Christmas is You.” I feel like I was able to do that. So, I feel really excited now, since I did a couple others with a more classic Christmas feel like “Holly Jolly Christmas,” but I still wanted to keep some of the reverence and create more subtle-conditioning Christmas songs too.
The other would be that I made an EP of four of the songs in Spanish with translations. I took a break from music to be a missionary in Chile for two years and that was a huge, eye-opening experience. Living in an entirely different culture, being engulfed in the people and learning Spanish. Now, I’m a fluent Spanish speaker.
ML: Your mom is from Honduras and in previous interviews you’ve mentioned that Latin music has influenced you a lot. Is that something that still holds true?
DA: Yes, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. Some of the first songs I’ve ever learned were Spanish ones, but I didn’t know how to talk to the people. When I learned Spanish and came back home, I was able to talk to my grandpa. He’s like a book on the shelf that you always saw growing up, but never picked up to read. I didn’t speak Spanish and he doesn’t speak English.
So, when I got back, I got to hear all his stories. He actually worked for the newspaper and wrote articles. He told me about how he worked in the [United Kingdom] and Vietnam. I had never realized how much traveling he did as a reporter for the national newspaper in Honduras. To hear him talk about his childhood and hear about how my mom grew up, it was just amazing. I was so glad that I could connect with him. I’ve always wanted to connect with that side of my family and it was nice now to release that EP, which was the first, real Spanish release I’d had done. Even though I’m not the perfect Spanish speaker, I hope it opens doors. I’m excited!
ML: I learned Spanish back in high school and I’m happy it’s one of those languages I know a little bit of. I’m always trying to practice because when you have a conversation with someone in their native language, it’s just so much deeper than conversing in English.
ML: We like to ask well-traveled people like yourself if there are any destinations that they haven’t been to yet but need to see. What are your top three?
DA: Yes, I would really like to go to Mongolia. I don’t know if it’s because of when my sisters and I saw that video that went viral of this kid from China’s Got Talent he was Mongolian. Then I have some friends who live in Mongolia. I’d just really like to go there sometime.
ML: Why not? You know, there are so many places in the world. You have to go sometime.
DA: Yeah! I’ve been to Okinawa. Okinawa is not really in Japan, so I would love to go to Japan as well. I’d also love to go to Thailand because I was supposed to go and the week I was supposed to go, they had the floods in 2011, so we had to cancel that. But, I would like to go to Thailand.
ML: You’d have to check out the floating markets in Thailand.
ML: It’s kind of like the canals of Venice, but much more exciting. You can buy just about anything while floating along the river. I’ve seen pictures and videos of it, and given your sense of adventure and fascination with culture, I think you’d just love it.
DA: That sounds amazing! There are a lot of places I’d just love to see. I’d also love to go to Norway. One of my friends is Norwegian and I think it just looks beautiful in the pictures. I’d also love to go to Tonga Island. I was almost going to go there, but it got canceled as well. I love Tongan people and I just love Polynesian food too. I have a lot of friends who are Tongan. There’s actually a lot of Tongans in Utah and their singing is awesome. I know it’s a really small place, but I’d love to go there someday.
ML: One of our core objectives at SCP is to bring people together while traveling, not only to influence people to see and appreciate our beautiful world, but to also minimize cross-cultural divides. What effect does traveling, specifically surrounding music, have on humans in this regard? How has it broadened your perspective of the world?
DA: It helps you realize that there’s more to life than what you see because sometimes you feel like this is how you’re supposed to be, or this is how you’re supposed to think and this is how you’re supposed to behave. You go to other places and you see that what you think is normal, other people think is so weird. Like you’ll think, “You can’t do that, it’s not normal.” But, other people could think it is normal.
So, you see different ways to live and you can still continue finding joy, happiness and peace. But, it also helps you realize how similar everyone is because everyone still has those day-to-day struggles of feeling loved, feeling like you have a sense of purpose. You could be friends with all kinds of people from different countries even if they’re living completely different lifestyles than you are. It’s a really beautiful experience.
ML: What’s so special about life on the road and touring? How is it different than personal travel?
DA: Life on the road is definitely a lot busier. There’s not really much downtime. Rather than spending time and seeing what the country has to offer, you’re more focused on offering yourself to the country or the fans who are there waiting for you. So, a lot of times, it’ll be a lot of interviews set up or events. We’ll have time to maybe eat somewhere, have an hour or two to see the local sites, and then go and give a show, which is also really fun.
With music, it doesn’t really matter if they don’t understand the language you speak. They sing along even if they don’t know the words to your song. Music is a language that reaches far beyond. It’s a universal language and you see how it affects people. It shows how you can connect through a song, which is amazing.
ML: I wonder if you could travel back in time and tell the 2008 version of yourself that this is what you’d be doing a decade later if you would have believed it.
DA: Oh, my goodness. I never thought that I’d be an international artist. It’s been so eye-opening. It just brings me a lot of joy to connect with people no matter where they are and it’s a really beautiful thing.
ML: I think when you can strike a balance between pursuing your passion, doing the work you have to do, while also connecting with people is one of the most rewarding things you can gift to yourself. Lastly, you’ll be hitting the road for a month-long tour at the end of November to promote the album. What else do the next couple of months have in store for you?
DA: I’ll be working on my next pop record. I’m already working on pop music for my next record to be released in 2019. I don’t always have things planned far out, so every time it’s a new year. I don’t know what this year has to offer. I don’t know what’s going to come to me or happen. I’m just excited to see what it brings as I create new music to see what new opportunities are created.