In person American Idol runner-up David Archuleta comes across as an average seventeen year old. Dressed in jeans and red t-shirt, Archuleta would have easily blended in with the swarm of fans cheering for him outside the Tacoma Dome.
However, Archuleta is not living the typical teenage lifestyle. He has appeared before millions of viewers on a popular TV show and is currently traveling the country performing on the American Idol tour. He’s also working on recording an album and has just released a new single, “Crush.” That’s a lot for a guy who hasn’t even finished high school yet.
Outside the stadium, teenage girls yelled out marriage proposals and held signs professing their adulation for him. I was told by one of the tour coordinators that it is the same in every city. Despite all of that, Archuleta seems unaffected by his new found fame. In fact, he still seems surprised that anyone takes that big of an interest him. During my conversation with him, I was impressed by how humble and well-grounded Archuleta is.
What is it like to perform in front of so many people across the country?
It's been fun. I mean, it's a lot more exciting than I thought it'd be. I thought it'd be more nerves, but it's all very exciting. It's fun to see how different cities react, different connections. Like some cities you can feel their vibe, it's like really powerful. It's neat.
Have you had any time off since it started?
Yeah. We've had quite a few days off. We had a day off two days ago.
Do you just hang out in the city you are in?
Yeah, try to do music stuff.
So you are recording an album now?
What’s it like recording and touring at the same time?
It's definitely a challenge, since you have such a limited amount of time. So it's kind of hard to work on your first album and tour when you have until fall to get everything finished. And you know the tour doesn't end until fall. But it's a challenge I'm up for. I mean, it's a great learning experience – especially for things to come in the future. If things get hectic and crazy, and you don't know what to do, then it's good to have had the experience before. But hopefully I have enough time to make a good quality album. It's hard to do that. Some people it takes years to work on an album. I have a few months along with the tour. It's something I've wanted to do for so long.
Where do you record?
L.A.'s where I've been recording.
So you have to fly around during the tour?
In a few days I will be flying back to LA to record. But what they've done before – like Jordin [Sparks], when she was in Nebraska – she recorded in some antique recording studio place with a nice mic. Really anywhere with a mic and ProTools [works].
What was your favorite part about being on American Idol?
My favorite thing was being able to learn from experience. Just from hanging out with everyone, you learn – but also just being able to sing. Really the best thing about singing is being able to share it. It feels good to share it. It's kind of like, there are those times when you get down and dirty and then you just want to relax. When you see the [results] you feel really good about it. It was like, ‘That was definitely worth it and I want to do it again.’ And you have the next week to do it and I was fortunate enough to be there until the finale. That was an amazing experience.
What was the finale like?
It was just so…it was like a dream. Because I couldn't believe I was chosen to be in the finale. It's like, 'That won't happen to me – there's so much talent.' I feel fortunate to have even made it to Hollywood week.
So you weren’t thinking that you were safe every week? You didn’t have the ‘bottom three feeling?’
No, I did from the beginning. I never knew who was going to the bottom three because everyone was so talented. I almost didn't audition. I thought I would be wasting my time. Waiting all those long hours and then not make it.
What was it like when you auditioned for the judges? Was it nerve-wracking?
It didn't seem real, so it wasn't really nerve-wracking. You were definitely thinking a lot when you're there. That's what's so great about the tour. Just to see the difference, because it's not like you have to worry about thinking too much. ‘Oh I hope I don't mess up on this, I hope I remember the words to the song I learned yesterday.’ You know, that kind of thing.
It must be nice to sing full songs now.
Yeah, it's really nice. It's like you're not there to see if you are good enough to be there next week or not. Whether they should vote for you or not. That's what really neat about it.
So you're happy with your second place finish?
Oh yeah. Just to see that over 100,000 people auditioned, that I was in the top two was a blessing. I mean, the top fifty was a blessing. The top twenty-four was a blessing. That was a huge, amazing step onto TV. Then to be in the top twelve was a huge difference. Being in the top ten meant you were going on tour. Each step you didn't think you would make it so it's just like, you're awestruck to see that you are still there. I wasn't like, ‘Oh I deserved to be here.' I mean, everyone deserves to be there. It's just that you can't believe you're among such talent.
It seemed like you gave a big push for your final performance – was that your plan?
Well, it was really important, that last one. And it was really difficult, especially at that point you are given multiple songs to learn in a week. To arrange and work on them, along with school and press and photo shoots and all of that, it's hard. But the things you have to do, [such as] recording all the little video things you gotta do. And it's like there isn't any time for anything. It's really overwhelming. It was like, ‘It's my last American Idol experience.’ I devoted the past few months of my life, and so now it's like I'm so fortunate to have made it this far. I had no idea I would. I'm going to give it my all and that's what's most important whether I win or not. [David] Cook deserved to win pretty much anyway. So I just felt honored to be standing next to him. That's amazing when you think about it.
You spent the whole time with David Cook. What’s he like?
Yeah, I did. He's amazing. He's one of the most down to earth people. Really concerned about how you are doing. He'll try to help you out. And I think he's a great guy. He's like, the definition of an ‘American Idol.’
What was your favorite personal performance?
Well, with “Imagine” it was kind of like my last performance where I wasn't being viewed as [a frontrunner]. After that my expectations were raised higher than anything I can imagine. I'm just going to have a great time with the song. [At the time] I felt people weren't really watching me and I felt really comfortable. So then everyone was like ‘David, David, David.’ I felt very awkward, because I was like, ‘I don't get it.’ I didn't even do anything fancy with ["Imagine"]; it wasn't very energetic or anything. I was like, ‘This might be the end of it for me.' I'll at least feel good about what I needed to do. Then [with] “Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me," I felt like I was really able to be myself.
That one was picked for you. You were happy with that one?
It was a good thing because so many other songs didn't work for me. It was hard to get songs cleared. I mean, there were like six songs I was trying to get cleared and then I ran out of time. So I had to do a song I had already done, unfortunately. I did “Imagine.” But it was good being able to do “Imagine” again. I think that is a great song.
Had you always wanted to be on American Idol?
I had always wanted to be on it until recently. And I started to think, ‘I don't think I could do that. I don't think that's the right direction for me. I don't think I'm good enough.’ And I almost didn't go because I had to quit my summer job. It's hard to find a job! It was just, ‘I've always wanted to do this, so let's see what it's like.’ And it was worth it, I guess. I'm here now touring, being able to do that. And it's just so great. What other opportunity would I get to tour the country and being able to perform to all these crowds? To hear that cheer and to feel the support the people have built on you? It's weird because you think that once they get to know me, they'll get annoyed by me. It's neat to see that they really appreciate what you are doing.
My time with David was up – he was needed for another interview. Before he moved on, he asked me if I was attending the concert that night. I told him I was. He was very excited about performing and told me, “It's a good show because everyone is really unique. There's country, R&B, pop, rock. You know, soulful Michael Johns. It's neat – it's a fun show.”