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David Archuleta became a nationwide phenomenon back in 2008 when his audition on American Idol created an instant fandom. The talented young artist won the hearts of millions, leading him to a smash hit with his first-ever single, “Crush.” Competing on a reality series, making memorable appearances on kids shows like iCarly and Hannah Montana, and becoming a pop star at just the age of 16, Archuleta was thrown into the limelight with not much time to readjust.

Now residing in Nashville, Archuleta has had quite the rollercoaster of experiences. Last year at the age of 30, Archuleta came out to the public as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Growing up in a religious household as a member of the Latter-day Saints, his experiences with his own sexuality had been taking a toll on him for many years, and it was finally time for Archuleta to live his truth.

More vulnerable than ever, David has made a triumphant return to music with his latest song, “Faith in Me.” In the music video directed by Justin Thorne and Glee’s Kevin McHale, Archuleta expresses the importance of feeling free, letting go, and not caring about what others think – a true self-reflection when it comes to his experiences with coming out.

Archuleta now looks ahead. Continuing his journey of self-discovery, he also has some incredible plans for the future of his music career. This winter, he will be going on his own Christmas-themed tour across North America with The More The Merrier Christmas Tour. This comes after Archuleta’s first major push into the world of musical theater, recently finishing his role as the lead of the Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. With the potential to step even more into the musical theater industry, Archuleta also has a new collaboration with Lindsey Stirling for her holiday album, Snow Waltz, titled “Magic.” So much is going on for Archuleta, and we couldn’t be more excited!

Pop Crave had a tremendous chat with David Archuleta about his coming out journey, experience on American Idol, becoming friends with Jennette McCurdy, and his new single, “Faith in Me.” Keep reading for the full interview!

Courtesy of Zack Knudson

Hi David! There’s so much to talk to you about, but I first have to start with your brand-new single, “Faith in Me”! How did the process of this song come about, and what does the track personally mean to you?

This song, I’d actually written a while ago – like a year and a half ago – and it was originally called “Miami” because it had this Miami Vice feel to it. It was high energy and fun, but it wasn’t really where I wanted it to be. It felt like there were a lot of missing pieces. I put it on the shelf, and then I came out last year and have been on this journey with that. I’ve had a year of sitting with accepting being queer, and I came back to this song and was like, “I wanna release this!” I wanted something fun right now, something that feels like I’m breaking free and letting loose. I went back, rewrote the verse and the pre-chorus, and we changed some of the sounds and stuff. It ended up going from “Miami” to “Faith in Me.” I related more of the experience of what it’s been like coming into myself, what it’s like to now be in this new place of coming out, and how liberating it feels. I was very happy with having it come out, and I was very excited to put that energy out to my followers and anyone else who happens to come across the song.

“Faith in Me” also has a music video that feels very liberating, and I love the moments in it where you’re just dancing like nobody’s watching! How would you describe the concept of the music video, and what was filming it like?

Thank you, that was the goal! One of the most liberating experiences for me is to be dancing at home. You put on a great song and don’t care what anyone else is thinking because no one else is there. I wanted to give that feeling. What is that feeling like… but out in the open? To be honest, that’s what it felt like coming out [laughs]! You feel all this self-consciousness, and you’re worried, but it’s the feeling of dancing at home like no one’s watching. To explore that with dating guys and things, it’s been a very liberating experience. It was scary at first, especially coming from a religious background and being so committed to that before. It’s been great, and I just wanted to have fun with the video! With the directors Justin Thorne and Kevin McHale, we had a lot of fun shooting it and making some references to other movies.

Over the past year and a half, you’ve been on such a rollercoaster ride. You’ve experienced a coming out journey, which I think was beautifully touched upon during your 2022 LOVELOUD Festival set. How overwhelming was the initial reaction to your coming out post for you, and now that it’s been some time, how liberating has this past year felt?

If it’s an attention-grabbing post for me, I’d probably get somewhere between 30-50k likes on something. That’s a lot for me, at least. I know some people have more likes than I have followers, but I had gotten like 3-4 times the amount of likes on that post. I guess I didn’t realize how supportive the LGBT community would be. I was also surprised at how supportive everyone else would be. Especially people from my church community, like Mormons and Latter-day Saints, I thought it was going to be so disappointing. Like, “Oh, what?! This is so shocking and upsetting!” Really, the majority of people and my friends, even from church [supported me] … I was in this bubble and tried to protect myself from my feelings, my sexuality, and my attractions. To have so many people reach out and say, “We are so proud of you, so happy for you. This doesn’t change anything. We still love you, and we’re just so happy for you,” it’s relieving because you’re afraid to let people down. You’re afraid to let your community down. That was my everything before. At the time, it was my everything and my purpose for living. I lived my life for my beliefs and for my career, and so to feel like I was turning away from it and turning my back on people, I felt like people were gonna turn their back on me, and for it to not be the case – for the most part – was really wonderful.

We said positive vibes only!!!

Yeah, ‘cause I had heard so many things too. I don’t have a ton of friends anyway. It’s not like I’m making friends left and right ever in my life. From what I had heard, and from some of the rumors when I would come from a more religious-based background, people would always say, “LGBT people in the community! They’re so cutthroat, they’re so mean to each other, they’re all sassy and talk behind each other’s backs, and they tear each other down!” I mean, I guess that could exist in some circles or areas just because of everything that people have to go through. Being judged so much and criticized, a lot of trauma is a part of the LGBT community because of everything they go through. I can see that now. When you’re simply just existing, and you happen to be queer, gay, bisexual, trans, or just anything that is different from the heterosexual or cis norm, you get a lot of judgment and so you try to change what you are. With a religious background, a lot of us think it’s better to not exist than to live as we are. It’s not like you’re choosing to live as you are. You’re doing everything possible that you can to not be how you are, and you realize it doesn’t work, so you think, “Okay, maybe it’s better that I don’t live.” The discussions and the conversation that is had around you makes you feel that way. It makes you feel like you’re better off not being around anymore, not living than to live in such a horrible way. There’s a lot of conflict, and there’s a lot of mental gymnastics and things that people have to go through.

With people who are being rejected by their families, people who are being shunned, luckily there’s been a lot of turnaround recently, but I can only imagine what people have had to go through just a few decades ago. I can see why people think, “Oh, these people!” But do you realize you’re causing a lot of this because of the way you treated them, the way you shunned them, and the way you kicked them out? After I came out, I had some people who said, “We shunned our daughter. We kicked her out,” or “We stopped talking to our son because we thought it was the best thing, and now we’re realizing that was a mistake.” It’s the culture to think, “Well, if I discipline them with love and make them leave, it will teach them a lesson, and they’ll come back and be straight!” But it’s been nothing of the sort. They’ve been so supportive, and the LGBT community and queer community have been really walking me through, guiding and helping me know that I’m not alone in feeling like, “Is this okay? How do I go about this?!”

You also recently overcame a medical issue where you had to get vocal surgery. During your recovery process, you made a reappearance on American Idol! What was it like to revisit the show and have a segment dedicated to you and your super fans?

I thought that was so fun! It helped me heal a little bit too, because I feel like a lot of things can affect your way of thinking. I don’t know if that’s trauma? I guess it is. It’s like a form of being traumatized in a way, but I don’t want to overuse that word. Sometimes when you go through something, it changes your behavior, it changes how you feel about things, and you get more anxious in situations and nervous, and you’re projecting some of your past experiences onto where you are now. It makes you scared, and it makes you kinda hide. American Idol was such an incredible experience, and at the same time it caused a lot of sadness in my life. It was a lot of attention that I wasn’t ready for, and I didn’t know how to navigate it. On top of that, it wasn’t just positive stuff like, “Wow, you’re such a great singer,” kind of thing. It was a lot of this bad press and attention that I got because of my relationship with my dad. It was hard because that kept being exploited. When you’re a teenager, your relationship with your parents is an important one, and you try to have a good balance. You’re trying to have a good flow, and I felt like my relationship with my dad kept getting exploited. I felt like I didn’t really have a voice. Whether it was because my dad was speaking for me or because American Idol and the press was speaking for me, I just… It’s a hard thing to look back at.

I can’t watch American Idol, really. I’m trying to again. I’m trying to find my healing, but it’s hard for me because it brings back so much stress. It makes me kind of shaky because it was an experience that had a huge effect on my family. You’re talking about this person, but he’s also the father of several other kids. My mom’s trying to figure out things with him, I’m trying to figure out things with him, and my dad’s trying to figure out things himself. How do you figure out family issues when you’re having the most amount of attention on you that you’ve ever had? You don’t have a moment to yourself, and you don’t have privacy. I don’t know how to come to peace with that yet. Going back, it was really scary for me because I couldn’t get out of that mentality. It was a lot for me to take in, but going there and seeing some of the people again, having them hug me… I don’t know. In your head for some reason, you think everyone’s mad at you. I don’t know why, but just in my head, it felt like everyone who had worked there had something against me. I felt like I had to be guarded, I was scared, I was getting anxiety attacks and stuff because I’m like, “I don’t wanna be here! I don’t wanna do this! Why am I here?” I can’t watch any reality TV because of it, actually. I just can’t. It’s too much for me. It’s like a real person but with a twist… but seeing other contestants who went through the same thing, and seeing the producers that I worked with and realizing, “Oh, I actually have good memories as well!” Like, I have fond memories. I got along with these people, these are my friends, and they’re happy for me, they’re excited to see me! It was really healing. I don’t know why, but for some reason you think people hate you, and I don’t even know why! I have no idea why I was feeling like that, but it was nice to go back. The fact that they let me have a moment with those girls… They were all such good sports. It was a lot of fun!

The battle of the Davids even inspired an iconic David Archuleta cameo on iCarly, with the premise making fun of the whole American Idol voting concept. That episode is one of my all-time favorites. I obviously have to ask, now that they’re doing an iCarly reboot, would you ever say yes to making another cameo as the legendary America Sings champion?

Oh my gosh [laughs]! I mean, I don’t know. I guess if it came up, I would have to think about it. One of my dear friends that I made from being on there is Jennette McCurdy, and she’s just released a book. She kind of talked about everything that she went through with her mom, going through with the show and stuff. I try and be mindful of my friends, and I try to be respectful because she’s become one of my dearest friends. Miranda [Cosgrove]’s super sweet too. I love Miranda and the others as well. I know some others have gone ahead with it and some others haven’t, so out of respect… Jennette and I have had a lot of talks together about our parents because we went through a lot of the same dynamics. A lot of what Jennette talks about her mom, I went through a lot of that myself. I try to be respectful with that, because she has other things on top of just her mom’s dynamic, but it reminds me of my dynamic I had to go through with my dad. It taints your experience because of the personal relationship you have going on that is coinciding with everything you’re going through. She invited me to come onto her podcast one time to talk about a lot of that dynamic, and it was so interesting because when we met, I think she was 16 and I was 17. We were both Mormon and grew up in the same religion, so we related on that aspect. At the same time, we always had this unspoken connection because we both had this interesting dynamic with our parents. 

The More The Merrier Christmas Tour is starting soon for the upcoming holiday season! What can fans expect from this Christmas tour, and what’s been your favorite part about preparing for it?

I’ve mentioned this a couple times now, but it’s been difficult trying to navigate Christmas for me. Before, it was always so deeply rooted in a religious tone. I made it central to my shows almost, to the point where I felt like I needed to take a step back because I’ve been on such a ride. I related so much of my beliefs and my faith to like, “This will help me change! God could change anything. He can change water into wine, he can make the blind to see, he can change people who are attracted to the same sex!” I’ve always been taught that’s such a bad thing. Like, “He can change that about me too! I have hope in that. If I have faith in him and lean on him, he’ll help me overcome my feelings for guys!” It’s gotten to the point where I’ve learned that that’s not what it should be. It’s not the case, and I shouldn’t be so afraid of this that I need a savior to save me from my sexuality, because it’s a beautiful part of me. It’s hard to be on this journey of accepting myself and then going back to this place of Christmas. I love Christmas shows, I love Christmas songs, and there’s this beauty, nostalgia, and light to that time of year. Revisiting it now at this time of life is very interesting. I’m not making it as deeply in those roots [of religion]. I think I’m gonna look back at it out of the nostalgia of it, but I’m gonna make it more of just fun and relate it to where I am at now in life. That will be interesting, but I think it’ll be good! Owning back this piece of myself, because Christmas has been such a part of my life, and kind of just redefining that now. That’s a little tricky, but I’m looking forward to it!

You’re just so talented, and I cannot wait to see what comes next from you! You just finished playing the lead role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and you also have a new song with Lindsey Stirling for her holiday album, Snow Waltz, titled “Magic”! As a whole, what can all the Archuleta stans look forward to in the near future?

I honestly have no idea what this next year is going to look like for me, because I feel like this last year I’ve been just trying to figure out, “What do I do with myself? Who am I now?” Now I have to figure out, “Okay, what am I gonna do with figuring out who I am?” Because I was so deeply integrated into my purpose being with my beliefs. As a Latter-day Saint or Mormon, your purpose is so much in a man and a woman marrying each other and having kids together. That is the ultimate godly experience in the Latter-day Saint faith, and to no longer have that as my ultimate purpose… I’m not saying it’s a never-say-never, but at this point I’ve said to one of my church leaders, “I’m much more likely to marry a man. What would that mean for me?” I’m like, “Okay, what’s my purpose now?!” Literally, it was to marry a woman and have kids with her, and it’s not that anymore. I’ve had to deconstruct a lot of stuff. I would always refer to making music that’s gonna help people feel closer and connected to God and stuff. I’m like, “What do I do now?!” I don’t know [laughs]! I need to figure some of that out a little more, but maybe more musicals? Those are fun, or maybe more fun stuff like I did with “Faith in Me,” because that was a lot of fun as well. I’m excited about this Lindsey Stirling song because I love her, and I love the song that she asked me to do with her. I’m so excited for people to hear it!

David Archuleta’s new song, “Faith in Me,” is out now.