Michael Cook: The last year has been truly eye-opening for so many of us, but for you it has been a game-changer in several ways, is that fair to say?
David Archuleta: With the pandemic, I think we have all been on quite the rollercoaster this past year. I think we have all learned that sometimes you can’t plan for what is going to come next in life and you may not always know what to do. I think for me, it has been good and given me a lot of time to reflect, as opposed to being out on the road. I have been trying to stay busy and show people that I am out doing things and being productive. It forced us to have more introspective time, which was very helpful to me. I think it has put me in a good place for 2021.
MC: Your new single ‘Movin’ is a banger and is a great departure for you to be heard on dance floors!
DA: Thank you! Last year I released an album called Therapy Sessions and it was from actual therapy that I was going through. I thought that since 2020 was already a heavy year, I wanted to lighten it up in 2021 and not make it so heavy this time. I released a couple songs that were fun and fresh, and ‘Movin’ was that; I wanted to get people movin and let them to have a good time. I wanted to do something out of what I normally do also. I released two different videos, and I have already released a combo of the two, I learned choreography for the two versions which was a lot of fun. I am trying to go out of my comfort zone, but in a fun way.
MC: It is probably very surreal to hear people say that they were dancing to heard your music on a dance floor or heard a David Archuleta remix, is that fair to say?
DA: I don’t think I’ve ever heard my music on a dance floor, but at the same time I don’t really go out much. If I do, its Latin dancing so I dont hear my music I guess (laughs). If I have my own dance party at home, then I might hear it. I think it is fun to give people a time to enjoy and feel the groove and just have fun. My mom has always said that she always wants more music she can dance to, she loves to dance. So she is really happy about these songs! She’s Latin and she loves to dance.
MC: As you are now part of the LGBTQ community, going out to a club is almost a right of passage, so do you think it might be time to check that box?
DA: (Laughs) I am more introverted, so that is why I stay home usually and watch anime. I guess I’ll have to cut a rug sometime and not just a Latin one. I didn’t think that they would play my music, but if they did, that would be fun to hear.
MC: Many people compare the coming out process to the house landing in Munchkinland in The Wizard of Oz and the door opening to vibrant colors. As you are now on your own journey and are part of the LGBTQ community, how has your own journey been?
DA: (Laughs) that is so cool, I have never heard that before…. I feel more settled in myself, I feel like it is always great to have more honesty with oneself and I feel like I can be definitely more honest with myself. I also feel like I am a lot less fearful of who I am. It was something that I wasn’t never willing to confront about myself and now that I am willing to do that more fully and honestly, I feel like I don’t have to judge myself as harshly and be more compassionate. I understand myself better, which is nice.
MC: So many people have that one moment where something clicks and they realize who their truest self is. You were on a mission trip in Chile, correct? Being so far away from what you know as your own life and home must have made it truly a surreal experience.
DA: I think it was actually the perfect scenario for me to be away from everything and not have things that were so familiar. I had usually made assumptions about what I needed to be and what I thought other people wanted me to look like and how to be. Here I was being considered a teenage heartthrob and I didn’t know what to do with that, with my family and everything. Being in a different country and a different environment and completely different mindset allowed me to take a different perspective on myself and be vulnerable with myself. I think it was in a setting that made sense to me, I have always grown up in my faith and in my church. I think that is what I was always most insecure about; if this is really a part of me, where am I going to stand in what I have always known? That was really terrifying for me. When I did, I felt like it was a really tender mercy. I had a great mission president and he was so loving and embracing. He didn’t try tell me how to try and figure it out because he knew that he didn’t know. He just said that this was going to be the most important day of my life. I thought that I would be sent home for coming out, but I wasn’t. He still let me go about what I was doing, which was serving other people and serving God, and it gave me the courage when I got back home to tell my family. it was not until I talked to my mission president though, that was the first time that I had even come out to myself.
MC: What do you think prevented you from coming out prior to that?
DA: It was like my brain was not allowing me to do so. I would try to have conversations with myself about it, but my brain would push it away. I would forget what was going on, and I couldn’t remember what was bothering me. I knew that something was bothering me and I really just had to write down how I was feeling. Afterward, I looked at what I had written and I realized that my sexuality was very different from heterosexual, not the “norm”. I think what is scary is that coming from a lot of religous upbriginings, it is very conservative; I wondered what it meant for me, did it mean I would be a different person? I think a lot of people assume that you are choosing to be overly sexual, and whether you are gay or straight, there are people that live that life. It does not mean that you have to though, just because you are coming out as gay or bisexual. I think that was what was so important for me when I came out, to give people a different perspective on what that meant.
MC: How do you define yourself now and how have you reconciled it?
DA: So many people, the way that it is talked about in religion, they have one assumption of what that is. I wanted to show them that this is who I am, and I dont know what my sexuality is-I identify on the spectrum of bisexual-but I’m still me. I am not experimenting all of the time, and while some may feel they have to do that, I wanted to show a different take on it. I am still saving myself for marriage, that is not the same for everyone; some religous straight people don’t do that. I wanted to show that it is not as foreign as you thought that it was. It is not a choice; I have been trying my whole life to change this. I had to finally come to peace with God in prayer with him saying “David you have to stop asking me this, it is not something that I intend to change with you. You keep saying fix this flaw, I dont see a flaw to be fixed here. I need to help you understand that I see it differently than you do”.
It was a completely different concept to me that I just learned as a thirty year old; I am still figuring it out. I want to invite people to walk with me, especially people from my own church or from similar conservative and religous backgrounds to say “I want you to be compassionate and try to learn along with me”. I was scared of this to, which made me afraid of myself. I want people to be less afraid of talking about sexuality that is different than the “normal standard” that we see as heterosexual all the time. The majority of people are heterosexual, but not everyone can have kids, get married, and not everyone is heterosexual, even if they wanted to do this things. I am finding more compassion when I say that I am happy with who I am. I had to learn that because I wasn’t okay with it at first.
MC: So many that are coming out in today’s world are finding the spectrum of sexuality and gender to be freeing, where they dont have to necessarily commit to one particular kind of “label”, one that they may not be ready to apply to themselves. Are you finding that to be the case for you?
DA: Yes, that was really helpful to me. When I first came out to both my family and my mission president, I came out as gay. It was hard to fit into that, because I am not fully “gay”, so it took me a few years to figure it out and I started to see more and more that bisexuality is an actual thing. Even when I looked it up several years ago, I would see it say that bisexual people were gay and just didn’t want to admit it or that bisexual people were just curious and wanted to get with the person of the same gender and then they go back. I realized that there is more space than a black and white way of looking at it. That is why it took me a while to figure it out, I thought I had to fit in one or the other. But I don’t-and I am okay with that too.
MC: Several American Idol alumni like David Hernandez and Clay Aiken have had their own journey and come out. Have you heard from them or any other Idol friends or family as you embarked on your own journey?
DA: I have had friends reach out to me to say that they love and support me and are here for me, but I like to take things at my own pace; so I have. I have talked to some friends but not necessarily Idol friends. Some friends who are in the public spotlight who had to deal with people not being the way people looked at them initially, and how to deal with that publicly. It is still a surprising thing for people, and gives them a shock. I think a lot of people who are uncomfortable and don’t know what it’s like to have a different sexuality wonder “why you have to share that with everyone” and why can’t you “keep it to yourself”? I think it is important for people to understand. There was the NFL player recently who said he didn’t want to talk about it, but we are in a position where we still have to because people are still so uncomfortable with it. He said he’d like to get to a place where we get to a place where we don’t have to, where it is not a big deal to come out-but right now it still is. So we keep doing this so that it makes it easier for people to follow-and it has. Heres to getting to an even better place in the years to come…
MC: Your story is part of that fabric. There will be a story after yours that will make it easier for others, and so on. We have several gay people as part of the cast of Dancing With The Stars this season. The change continues…
DA: Absolutely. And I think the way to do that of that is going out of your comfort zone. Have the uncomfortable conversations. Feel a little awkward. I think it is totally worth it though.
MC: Was putting a lot of it into music in Therapy Sessions a vessel for you to be able to express your feelings, but musically?
DA: I feel that a lot of Therapy Sessions was influenced by my struggle with my identity and who I am really into. It gave me a lot of opportunity to be vulnerable in my songs. I feel that I was not completely wanting to admit to myself what was going on though, I was still trying to fix it .That is probably what some of the struggle in my Therapy Sessions songs was; I still wanted to fix it, thinking I could change who I was attracted to. Even my friends and some family don’t understand the same way I didn’t understand, so I don’t blame them. They will ask if it was a choice and what it is like for me; I like that question because it is sincere.
My mom asked, and I told her I wasn’t even thinking about it; if someone walks by you feel an energy. It is there and you feel this pull. The way other people talk about knowing when you are in love, I couldn’t relate to that. I knew if I applied it to men it would work, but that’s not right; so how do I make this work? Religion would say it was not natural, but it was so natural for me. What is hard is making it work with a girl, as opposed to what I feel naturally with a guy with no effort. It has taken me a while to get there. I can still feel attracted to girls, but I would say that on the spectrum I am definitely leaning more towards men. It is definitely easier for me to connect with men without even trying.
MC: Do you think that doing the children’s book My Little Prayer was a vessel for you to be able to sum up the way you are feeling in a pure and innocent way, a bit off the beaten path from what you normally do?
DA: My faith is still really important to me, I think that is what I identify with more than anything else, my relationship with my Heavenly Father. When I was a missionary, one thing that I realized is a lot of people don’t know how to have a relationship with God, even if they don’t believe in him. A lot of people have never said a prayer in their life. We spent time telling them how to have a personal conversation with him and I think that is what inspired me to do this children’s book. To give people an idea of what it is like to have an honest conversation with God. Sometimes when you ask God for help, it doesn’t always go the way you want it to and you might be dissapointed, but you can still find a lot of joy. Like with me coming to terms with my sexuality. it was something I prayed for, asking God to change this, it was a “flaw”. It didn’t turn out that way, but it turned out to be great. He was able to show me more than I could have ever seen. He let me now that I was exactly where I needed to be, and it was my job to figure out my place. Who I am attracted to is one facet of that and it is intentional. However people can relate to that, I want people to get to talk to God.
MC: When you are not making music how do you decompress? Are you going for a run or turning on Drag Race?
DA: To zone out, I like time to be alone, still, and quiet. I might go outside for a walk and feel that peace. That is what I love to do. I might play some music, I love hopeful music, If I just want to veg out and not worry about anything else I may put on some anime to just decompress.
MC: Where do you feel the most authentic yourself?
DA: I would say just when I am alone with myself. I worry a lot about what other people think of me, and it is nice to just not have to worry at all. I can feel God and feel the way that he looks at me. It is in so much less a judgemental way than I am judging myself. When I am alone, I can breathe, relax, sing at the top of my lungs, take a nap, I feel so at peace when I have that alone time.
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