SALT LAKE CITY — In the 10 years since finishing as a runner-up on “American Idol,” David Archuleta has proved a valuable lesson: You don't need to be crowned champion to find great success.
Since his “Idol” departure, the 27-year-old singer from Murray, who now lives in Nashville, has released eight studio albums — with his debut album going gold thanks to his popular anthem “Crush.” He also took a break from music to serve a two-year mission in Chile for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, in 2016, Business Insider ranked him the 10th most successful “American Idol” contestant.
Most recently, Archuleta released his second Christmas album, “Winter in the Air,” and will bring those songs and other hits to a string of concerts throughout Utah, including Orem's UCCU Center, on Dec. 10.
Despite penning three tracks on this latest album, Archuleta still gets nervous when it comes to songwriting.
“I pushed myself (to write) 'Christmas Every Day,'” the singer told the Deseret News. “I was really scared, I (thought), ‘Maybe I shouldn’t do this — I don’t think I can pull this off,’ but it worked out and (the song) makes me happy and makes me think that it’s a happy time of year.”
“Winter in the Air” captures every facet of the holiday season — the classic jingles, (“Holly Jolly Christmas,” “White Christmas”) the religious numbers (“O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “He is Born”) and even nonreligious songs like the title track “Winter in the Air.”
With eight studio albums now under his belt, Archuleta has come a long way as an artist and individual since his “American Idol” days. But the journey hasn’t always been smooth. One of the hardest lines the singer said he’s had to straddle is being a Latter-day Saint in a cutthroat music industry.
“It’s hard to have a mindset (focused on God) when people (say), ‘You look so good, you are so great, you changed my life,’” he said. “(As an artist), you’re always trying to feel unique and stand out. … It’s hard not to become selfish with this (‘look at me’ mentality).”
While it’s rewarding to be admired, Archuleta said he always has to ground himself by remembering why he chose this career.
“As musicians are trying to succeed, they often think, ‘I have to sacrifice my own values,’ and sometimes it’s hard, sometimes you’re tempted to,” he said. “But you have to take a step back and be like, ‘I may be finding success,’ but at the same time, you have to (ask), ‘But why did I start doing this in the first place?’ I have to remind myself that I do this for God.”
Archuleta had to put that sentiment to the test when he decided to temporarily leave music and serve a church mission in 2012.
“A lot of people (in the industry) knew I wanted to go on my mission, and I got a lot of flack for that, … a lot of people saying, ‘That’s so dumb, why would you do that?’ … Then members of the church saying, ‘If you don’t go, God’s going to take away your talents.' … That was really hard as well.”
But it wasn’t just anyone swaying Archuleta — even his own family wasn’t sure if a mission was the best option for him.
“When I told my parents, they said, ‘Why would you want to do that? Don’t you think you’re already serving your mission?’”
But Archuleta felt going on a mission was the right step for him — a step of faith he believes will benefit him for the rest of his life. And since his return to the music industry four years ago, he continues to stay true to himself and be positive, though he admits that it’s never easy.
“My ultimate challenge is not worrying what other people think about me,” he said. “Living (in the music world), people can get very critical … sometimes people get (too) personal and hit a soft spot. … ( But I've learned that) I can't give other people the power to define my worth, and I have to make sure that I don't worry about receiving (other people's) approval.”
One way Archuleta has been able to work through the demands of the music industry is through therapy, something he first opened up about in an Instagram post earlier this year.
“For some reason … people think therapy is for people with issues and problems and (for those who) need to be fixed,” he said. “We can all use improvement, and to be honest, therapy helps you … be aware of who you are and your mistakes. It helps you understand things about your life that you can’t change and also how to change so you can deal with them. … It’s very healing.”6 comments on this story
And therapy has proved a valuable resource not just for Archuleta's general well-being, but also for his music — music he hopes in turn will be therapeutic for his listeners. Archuleta has weaved takeaways from therapy into his newer music, and perhaps the biggest lesson he's learned is best explained in his Instagram post: “Don’t be afraid to feel broken. A muscle needs to break down before it grows. … There is healing when we ask for help.”
If you go ...
What: David Archuleta "Winter in the Air" concert
When: Monday, Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m.
Where: UCCU Event Center, 800 W. University Parkway, Orem
How much: $24.90-$54.90