David Archuleta’s self-titled debut album was released in November and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts. As of May, it had sold more than 700,000 copies in the U.S. No matter what the cuddly, cute 18-year-old accomplishes from here on out, nothing is likely to compare to the goose bumps that viewers felt during the “American Idol” finale in 2008 when Archuleta lost to the considerably more experienced — and scruffier — David Cook.
Although he didn’t capture the “Idol” title, he succeeded in building a fan base known as the “Archies,” who seem poised to make David Archuleta one of the biggest names in American pop music for years to come.
Bankrate spoke to Archuleta about the release of his first CD, that first exciting recording experience and how he’s coping with stardom.
Bankrate: Tell me about the recording of the CD.
David Archuleta: If you include roughs and demos, we probably did over 25 songs, just to see which sounded best. Sometimes, there were songs I didn’t like until I went into the studio and started recording them. I mean, I liked them but didn’t know if they were for me, and then they worked out really well.
Bankrate: Can you give me an example of a song you weren’t that high on until you recorded it?
David Archuleta: “Your Eyes Don’t Lie.”
Bankrate: Why did you initially think it wasn’t for you?
David Archuleta: I just thought it was really different. It was a more groovy song. Then, there was another one that I actually wrote that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull off. But now it’s one of my favorite songs to perform.
Bankrate: Which song?
David Archuleta: “Don’t Let Go.” It was one I co-wrote with JC Chasez (from ‘N Sync) and Jimmy Harry. They’re just really cool guys to work with.
Bankrate: Did you have one or two producers who were your main mentors guiding this record?
David Archuleta: There wasn’t really just one person. Every song had a different producer. One of the writers of “Crush,” Eman, I did more with him. There were three songs he co-wrote on the album, so I think he wrote the most.
Bankrate: What were some of the things he brought to the record and helped to teach you about making records?
David Archuleta: I was really comfortable with the way he worked. The way he did things really suited my style of pop, and the way I sing. He was a really great fit. Another one of the writers, David Hodges, it was really cool to be able to talk to him because he’s worked with a ton of people. He worked with David Cook and Kelly Clarkson, and he used to be in Evanescence. I was actually a fan of his already because he was in a band called Trading Yesterday. So it was really cool to work with him — someone I looked up to already. Also, Eman wrote “To Be With You” with Kara DioGuardi. She did the backup vocals for me on that song, and she’s the fourth judge on “American Idol.” … She worked with both me and David Cook.
Bankrate: Working with all these great people, what were some of the things you learned about recording a CD?
David Archuleta: It was really interesting to see how it all worked, and doing writing sessions with other people. I’d never paid attention to the way a song was mixed until now. I think it’s really fascinating. With all the writing sessions I had, I was a little hesitant to give my input. But the more sessions I had, the more input I gave, and I was really willing to say, “How about this,” and, “That didn’t work that great.” … You just keep bouncing (ideas) off each other until you are really happy with the song.
Bankrate: Considering that this is your first album, did you find the process intimidating?
David Archuleta: It happened so fast that I was so excited. There were a few months given to work on the album, and since I was on tour for most of that, it was like, “I wonder how I’m going to pull this off.” But I’m really happy with what we accomplished in such a small amount of time.
Bankrate: Do you have a favorite song on the record?
David Archuleta: I don’t have a favorite yet. At first, I was recording them and learning them, and seeing how I sounded and how the production sounded, and all that. Now I’m just kind of listening to see how I’d see the songs as a listener, and try to think of it as a first impression. There are a few I like. There’s a song called “My Hands” that I felt sounded similar to too many other songs, but it’s really growing on me now. I think it sounds like me when I sing it, and I really like that about it.
Bankrate: You were on tour with the (other) “Idols” and doing appearances with David Cook, who beat you in the finale to win “Idol.” Are there any weird feelings for you when you’re around him because of that?
David Archuleta: No, not really. There wasn’t really a rivalry between us on the show. It was a competition, but it didn’t really feel like we were against each other. At least that’s the way I looked at it. He tries to look out for me and always wants to make sure that things are going well for me. I don’t see how you could feel awkward around him.
Bankrate: In the final moment of the finale, it was kind of like the two of you (were) against the world.
David Archuleta: Yeah. It was a lot of fun. I know that I did my best, and I was happy with what I did. It was one of the best moments ever in my life, the whole experience.
Bankrate: Considering “Idol” history, once you’re up in that top five or so, does it even matter if you win?
David Archuleta: Winning was never a big priority when I was there. I didn’t even think I was gonna get past the first round when I auditioned. It was just about enjoying whatever (happened). You never know how long you’re going to last, and there’s so many talented people there, it’s like, “How the heck am I gonna keep moving forward? There’s so many people that deserve to be here.” … When you get exposure, it doesn’t really matter (where you finish). If you look in the past, (Chris) Daughtry was fourth. … I think everyone looked at this season as a way to open new opportunities, to get something out of it and learn from the experience. It wasn’t like, “I wanna win, I wanna win.” We wanted to become artists, and do our own stuff, and write our own stuff, and perform.
Bankrate: With all this fame happening so fast, have your parents talked to you about how to be smart with your money?
David Archuleta: Oh, yeah. I’ve always been cautious with money anyway. I hate spending money. It’s really interesting to see the business side. … I’ve performed a lot and I always loved singing, but seeing the business side of the entertainment world is really interesting. There’s a lot that goes into it, a lot of people involved in making sure you do the right things with your money and don’t spend too much, because a lot of people go bankrupt with these kinds of things. People think you’re rich if you’re well known, but (you’re) not really. There’s a lot of money that was put into this project. I guess in becoming really successful, writing comes into play with credits and stuff. It’s really important to be smart with the way you spend your money.
Bankrate: So what is the most important lesson you’ve learned about being smart with your money?
David Archuleta: There are so many things. One thing I was really interested in was the different costs for songs — how much money went to complete a song, and also promotion and advertising and production of songs, (and) how different writers and producers have different rates. I thought it was interesting to see how it differentiates, and how it comes down to management, how there are percentages for all of that, and then the label and everything it’s doing.