By Linda East Brady (Standard-Examiner staff)
Nothing says Christmas like coming home. That’s where David Archuleta hopes he’ll be this year — where his heart is, in Murray, Utah.
“In this business, if you get a little time off here and there, many people will stay out where they are working and just relax,” said Archuleta, who is currently in Los Angeles. “But I say if I have time off, even if it is just a few days, I try to get home.
“I am not sure where I will be at Christmas. The tour schedule goes until right before Christmas, and the fact is, there isn’t really just one place I live right now. But I still call Utah home, and try to spend as much time as I can there.”
At the very least, Archuleta will make it home during Thanksgiving week. He plays two shows at Abravanel Hall, on Tuesday and Wednesday. He has played the venue before, once at an event for Sen, Orrin Hatch, and once, this past summer, for a pops concert.
“It was so neat, because I got to sing with an orchestra and choir. That was amazing, because so many people are involved in something like that, in making the song come to life.”
Ogden producer and DK Studio proprietor Derek Keith has worked with Archuleta since he was 11. He most recently helped get demo and backing tracks ready for this Christmas album and tour.
Keith built a studio for the Archuletas in their Murray house, where they recorded the recent holiday backing tracks and also the demos for shopping Archuleta to labels post-“American Idol.”
Keith met the family by happenstance when he sold dad, Jeff Archuleta, a sound card on eBay and came to help them install the hardware. David was then 11, not yet having had his first brush with national fame on “Star Search.”
“But his voice was already ridiculous,” said Keith. “Maybe even more amazing than it is now, because of the surprise factor. I remember that first day Jeff had him sing me a Christina Aguilera song and I was like, ‘What? Man, this kid will go places.’ And he has, of course. I remember how terribly shy David was back then. And there is still some of that in him, but he has come a long, long way.”
Dean Kaelin, a renowned vocal coach who works out of Salt Lake City, started with Archuleta about the same time as when Keith encountered him. Kaelin not only works with singers on their performance chops, but also on technical issues. He said Archuleta already had a lot of innate style, but he was struggling with a paralyzed vocal chord when he first arrived, likely weakened from a viral infection.
“We started working together when he was going to do ‘Star Search,’ ” said Kaelin. “The vocal chord paralysis has resolved itself for the most part, but it is interesting. I think that is why that David still has a sort a special quality to his voice, that teeny bit of breathiness. It is to his credit that it is not a handicap for him. He worked through it and it gives his voice a sweet, slightly airy quality that appeals to listeners.”
Archuleta said he chose to do a Christmas outing for his sophomore effort simply because he loves the season and the sounds associated with it.
“I could definitely have gone more fun, more mainstream, more radio-friendly and all that, but that is not what I felt I wanted to do with this album,” said Archuleta. “The songs I am singing have a real reverence in them. I felt like I needed to really portray that. Give that to people — what Christmas means to me, the bigger picture. It was a way of giving back, for so much has been given to me in my life.”
Said Kaelin: “We worked together again after his recent summer tour. The pop stuff is demanding on his voice. He has to be careful because when he is doing those tours with the screaming people, he naturally tends to push heavy and loud.
“But this Christmas album demanded some very technical work — ‘Ave Maria,’ ‘O Holy Night’ — things he really had to sing out,” added Kaelin. “But I think his voice is sounding strong, and the Christmas program itself should be kind of nice — a gentler and prettier concert than the pop shows.”
Most of the songs on the album are classics of the holiday, but Archuleta did pen a new number. It’s called “The Melodies of Christmas,” and the song addresses what such music means to him.
“That song talks about the memories that Christmas songs seem to bring back,” he said. “This is the holiday that brings back the most memories. … Like, I remember sitting around the Christmas tree, singing those songs with family. I try to capture that mood.”
There is no doubt that, though still in his teens, Archuleta has been able to tap into a world-class gift for interpretation. But lately, he has traveled far and wide to be mentored on crafting songs himself.
“For me, I am just beginning to write, but it is so much fun — I love it,” Archuleta said, “As a singer, it is your job to get the message across for the songwriter. But as a songwriter, you are able to tell your own story.
“Sometimes it is like journal writing, but out in the open. Some things I am like, ‘I can’t wait to share this.’ Other things are like, ‘Wow. Yikes! I am not sure I can share this with people.’ “
Archuleta was spending time in Los Angeles, and previously in New York, to work on his next project with several experienced songwriters.
“That is the best way to learn it, to see how other people do things. I’ve found that everyone has their own way of doing things. You really learn a lot — and then figure out what works for you.”
The major lesson learned? Not being afraid to take risks, said Archuleta.
“I had to get where I was not afraid to look dumb,” he said, “That is the biggest thing, not thinking, ‘I don’t want to throw that out there, because someone else might think it is just dumb.’ You have to get over that. It’s been a great thing for me personally.”
By Scott Iwasaki, Deseret News
He may hardly ever visit, but singer David Archuleta still calls Murray home.
“I’m not there a whole lot, but I try to go there as much as I can,” Archuleta said during a phone call from New York, where he is filming a TV special for Univision. It will air Dec. 10.
“If I’m in Los Angeles and I have a little break, instead of spending time off in L.A., I just go home for a bit. I’d rather spend it there.”
Although Archuleta will tour for most of the holiday season, he will perform at Abravanel Hall next week.
He’s excited to be performing in a smaller venue than the 10,000-plus-seats venues where he sang this past summer.
“It been a lot of fun getting to do arenas during the summer, but I love intimate settings,” he said. “It feels more real, because the people are right there and they’re not like two miles away.
“You feel less pressure at having to put on a big show for them.”
The “American Idol” seventh-season runner-up said he can be more himself in a smaller venue.
“The smaller it is, the more comfortable it is,” he said. “The more laid back the vibe, to kind of have that more close feel.”
His concert in Utah will primarily be Christmas-themed.
“It will mainly be a Christmas show because it’s Christmastime,” he said. “But I’ll add some non-Christmas songs into the mix, because everyone is familiar with (the hit) ‘Crush.’
“I want to see if I can change things up a little bit.”
Some of the Christmas songs will be on his new Christmas CD, “Christmas From the Heart,” which was released last month.
The songs include “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Ave Maria,” which were produced and arranged by Kurt Bestor. Bestor also produced “Pat-a-pan” with John Hancock.
Archuleta also worked with Sam Cardon and Richard Parkinson on “What Child Is This,” “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night.”
Other Utah talents who are featured on the CD include guitarists Rich Dixon and Michael Dowdle, harpist Lisa Rytting and vocalists Jenny Frogley and David Osmond.
“It was so fun to be able to have Utah people (on the album),” he said. “We have so much talent in Utah. So why not use them?”
Archuleta, who turns 19 in December, said he hasn’t been able to rehearse for the concerts as much as he would like because he has been so busy.
The day before he filmed the TV special in New York, he was in Washington, D.C., taping “Kaleidoscope,” a skating special that will air on FOX Thanksgiving day.
“It’s been crazy but a lot of fun,” he said.
Archuleta said there really isn’t any way to prepare for the demands of being an in-demand celebrity. That includes the busy schedules and the impact his fame has on his personal life.
“You just take whatever (life) throws at you, and you just learn how to deal with it, even when you don’t think you can,” he said. “It’s about pushing yourself and pushing past what you think are your limits.
“It’s about doing that and figuring out what you can do. That’s how you grow, pushing beyond what you think are your limits.”
- WHO: David Archuleta
- WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday
- WHERE: Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City.
- TICKETS: $28-$38, available from ArtTix, (888) 451-ARTS