Meet the band … so far!

Yo, "Hands"??? He's in!

Confession time, except in rare circumstances *cough*fellowCanucks*cough* I don’t pay a lot of attention to the changing roster of musicians who back up David Archuleta. So long as he’s happy with them, and they make David and his songs sound as great as they deserve, I’m good.

That said, I’ve definitely been curious about the reported jazz “prodigies” who’ve been hand-picked by David to rehearse/jam with him weekly and accompany him on the road.

Here’s what we know so far:

On keyboards, Mark Nilan Jr:

Here’s a cool news story about Mark from

The director called “cut” for the day, and Mark Nilan Jr. headed back to his trailer.

A crowd of high school girls had gathered outside the auditorium where Nilan and the rest of the band members had just finished their film “take.”

“It’s the band!” Nilan heard the girls shout as he crossed the parking lot.

It was one of the first moments when Nilan, 26, realized what was happening to him. The second moment came after opening a flooded inbox of “saw you on TV!” e-mails from friends and family.

Mark Nilan Jr. on the set of Glee.

The hit Fox television show “Glee” cast Nilan as the keyboardist of the William McKinley High School jazz band. Nilan played behind the high school’s show choir stars in several episodes during the last six weeks.

“I totally didn’t see it coming, but I’m loving every minute of it,” Nilan said while sitting at a keyboard station in his Saugus home.

While Nilan continues to adjust to his new television gig, a separate musical dream comes to fruition.

The California Institute of the Arts graduate has written and recorded his first jazz album “Hands On.”

This thing called jazz
From time to time, Nilan’s father still reminds his son of one particular car ride home. His parents had just picked up the 15-year-old from a summer course in jazz.

Nilan was quiet.

“My dad always tells me to this day that the ride home was the most quiet ride home ever,” Nilan said. “That’s because I was listening on my headphones to this new thing I found called jazz.”

Music in general was not new. His father, Mark Nilan Sr., was a television and radio music professional. Ray Charles’ voice was heard often around the dinner table while Nilan was growing up in Detroit.

For 10 years, Nilan had played classical music. But it became stale to him, and jazz offered a freshness that seemed incapable of spoiling.

“Jazz is all about improvisation and creating from yourself,” he said.

After the jazz summer course, Nilan immediately honed his focus and asked his father to show him anything he needed to know about the music genre.

“My life goal had fully hardened,” he said.

Playing with soul
Nilan went off to study jazz piano for his undergrad years at Wayne State University in Michigan. He studied under the same piano teacher, Matt Michaels, who tutored his father when his father was young.

It was Michaels who encouraged Nilan to play keyboard for a gospel church in Detroit. Michaels thought the experience would grow the college musician’s talent and confidence, Nilan said.

“You open the door and there is everybody praising it up,” he said. “Everyone is running around, fully Holy Spirit-ed up. It was very small, but it was a huge family.”

The gospel worship called for on-the-spot improvisation, learning by ear and following wherever the music leads you, he said.
Growth was instantaneous.

“It immediately makes you not shy,” he said.

Perhaps most importantly, it taught him how to play with soul, he said.

“If you study music too hard, like by the book, you don’t play with feeling,” he said.

Nilan later received a similar opportunity while attending graduate school at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia for jazz studies. Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship church needed a piano player. He moved into the role and immediately felt accepted.

Nilan also stepped in as the church’s music director for three years. Now he is directing music at St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church in Canyon Country.

Getting hands on
Under the direction of David Roitstein, CalArts’ jazz program director, Nilan began writing his album during his senior year.

After making some phone calls and working connections through his father, Nilan formed a band he considered to be “a dream come true” including: bassist Abraham Laboriel; drummer Gregg Bissonette; guitarist Ricky β€˜Z’ Zahariades; and percussionist Brad Dutz.

“These guys are the best,” Nilan said.

Nilan’s father owns a recording studio, so he always had the opportunity to record an album.

But he waited until he was ready, he said. When the time was right, Nilan gave his all in recording 10 contemporary jazz songs in “Hands On.”

“I’m very hands-on down to the smallest detail. I wanted it to be perfect,” he said. “I definitely took my time and made it right. I didn’t want my debut album to be cheesy.”

Nilan wants to break the stereotype that contemporary – or smooth jazz – is elevator music, he said.

“Being a young guy, I wanted to establish some youth into the jazz world and some freshness,” he said. “There’s no elevator music here.”**

Nilan said his music has edge, and it’s “enough to bring song back into smooth jazz, and bring some energy.”

The instrumental songs are an expression of diverse influences in Nilan’s life, from his hometown and discovery of his love for jazz to his transformation within the gospel church.

“I would create landscapes – pictures in my head and then score to the picture,” he said. “I would sit at the piano and visualize back (in Detroit) and write to that.”

β€˜Glee’ finds Nilan
Nilan had graduated and his album was coming together. Little did he know, more opportunities were in his immediate future.

Playing behind singer and SCV Most Talented contest-winner Lydia Saxton in December, Nilan caught the attention of Christine Day, musician casting director for “Glee.”

Not more than two months later, Nilan received an e-mail – its subject: “Glee work.”

What Nilan humbly anticipated as a one-time gig, turned out to be a serendipitous start to an unexpected realm of his career.

“Being a musician, you don’t think about being on a TV show,” he said.

He’s enjoying his time, dressed in nerdy high school garb and jamming out tunes like “Jessie’s Girl” or “Ice Ice Baby.”

Jazz is his forte, but Nilan is passionate about all music genres, he said. He recently wrote a single for rapper Obie Trice.

“I’ve always been raised on music as a whole,” he said. “It was Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire for lunch, and then Ray Charles for dinner. Then I’d go see the Dave Matthews Band in concert. I’m just in love with music.”

All the training, schooling and dedication are paying off. But Nilan doesn’t doubt some amount of good fortune has been on his side.

“All these lucky events have brought me here,” he said. “I definitely worked hard to get where I’m at. But either some higher power, or however you want to look at it, is looking out for me.”

It’s good to be in the right place at the right time, but you have to be ready, he said.

“Have it together, and just be ready for when those calls come,” he said.

“Glee” airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on Fox. Nilan’s website is
— Melissa Gasca, Signal Staff Writer

On drums, Steven J. Robinson:

Source: David Beyond Borders

Possibly Confirmed (see comments!) on bass guitar, Ben Shepherd (who plays in a band called MrDanZ with Steven Robinson, check out his YouTube channel BassBen):


So what do you guys think of the band so far? Are you gleeful about the Glee connection? Jazzed about the jazziness? OrΒ  mostly excited that Mr. Nilan tweeted about “tour dates”??? πŸ™‚ (Personally, I was hoping for @katedangerous on drums, but that’s just me…)

EDIT update: And thanks to Ben (see comments), we know that Brian Green is on guitar! (Thanks, Ben!)

**haha, guess again, bud! πŸ™‚

This entry was posted in david archuleta, Special event and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

76 Responses to Meet the band … so far!

  1. betsy says:

    β€œI would create landscapes – pictures in my head and then score to the picture,

    Thanks for the heads up, Deb. I can picture it now. And I like what I see. πŸ™‚

    p.s. Mark Nilan went to a local school. I love this. My niece attends Wayne State. She is a singer, grew up in Detroit, has a cd. β™₯
    I am so gonna ask her what she knows about him.

  2. MunkFOD says:

    I am mostly excited that David, the prodigy, is working with all of these genius musicians….and being jazz musicians, it will free David to express himself musically. I am not saying that David is going all out jazz. I am just saying that the influence of jazz is freer……. this is going to be awesome! And! tour dates…. yipppeeee!

  3. abanana77 says:

    I never usually pay much attention to David’s band either. But, you know, since we are a little scarce on news, I quite enjoyed reading this about his new band πŸ™‚

    Really like the sound of Mark Nilan. Sounds like a real musician, where this is his passion (or at least, that’s how that article made him sound lol). Cool that he’s got a backup role on Glee! Haha, I want to go rewatch and episode to try to spot him, lol.

  4. joymus says:

    Thank You for this well-researched post! I find this even more exciting than word of a record deal. To me, the fusion of genres from this new band represents a new musical freedom that David seeks to now pursue. Since the TOSOD debacle, record labels now mean restrictions and David has endured enough. Instead of waiting on radio station adds and radio plays -TALK ABOUT STRESS – I’m now looking forward to even more fantastic creative musical muses from David and co.

  5. vermeer says:

    Excuse my drive-by post but must spread the news (really hoping it’s all true/accurate/real!) Courtesy of Somethingaboutarchie Assuming Mark Nilan Jr. is referring specifically to David, which I think he is. *thud*

  6. --bianca says:

    Oh wow, this is awesome–great detective work. This Mark sounds like someone David can really relate to in his approach to music, soul, improv, the works.

    My hands are sweaty waiting for tour news!

  7. Ben Shepherd says:

    Yes it is true I will be playing bass for David Archuleta. Brian Green is on guitar!

    • refnaf says:

      Awesome Ben!!!!
      We are so pumped for what is coming up for David and that he is surrounding himself with great musicians!!! We are very passionate about David’s musicality and talent and eager for a tour!! His Canadian fans look forward to meeting you!!!

      Thanks so much for commenting and confirming!!! Awesome about Brian Green too!!!

      Ben are you on twitter???

    • TOfan says:

      Wow, cool! Thanks for letting us know, Ben!

      Can’t wait to hear you guys play live! Especially hoping you come up to Canada, of course! lol

      (hmm, wonder if Brian Green is this B.G.? … guess we’ll find out soon! πŸ™‚ )

    • Kizzi says:

      3 cheers for Ben!!!!!!

    • MunkFOD says:

      Hey Ben! So impressed with the musicianship and artistry of the band members. The best of the best with the best. LOL! I bet you are having a blast jamming together! Welcome to the Archie family! This is going to be one sweet ride! Looking forward to hearing you all! and heck yeah….David! LOL!

    • betsy says:

      Very cool!
      Really looking forward to the music. πŸ™‚

  8. SandyBeaches says:

    TOfan…when one has been in the desert for so long you should offer them just a few sips of water first off!! How many gallons is this??

    Wow and thank you and welcome Ben!! Welcome to all of the band if you should drop by!


  9. djafan says:


    I am loving the band!!!!!


  10. refnaf says:

    TOfan!!! Great research, you are the best!!!
    Looks like we have more homework to do on Brian Green, thanks to Ben…
    I am so excited for what ever David does next…

  11. karenkid says:

    Fun stuffs, thanks for the newsy post. I’m more interested in this band too for some reason. Guess they’re doing a good job of peaking our interest. HA!

  12. peppertara says:

    Sounds like David is surrounding himself with some superb musicians! Really impressive and I have to say congrats to the new band members. Thank you Ben for your post, you all seem like stellar artists and musicians. Really looking forward to what’s up ahead and to hearing the music!
    TOfan, great write up, lots to ponder and look forward to!

  13. kizzi says:

    TOfan. YaaaaaaHooooooo! Great research, great info. End of one era for David and start of the next. Exciting times. We first were captured by his talent, then his personage. We have walked together the past 3 years following performances, interviews, tours, tweets, etc. Next a new David, no Jive, no Azoff/WEG, just him without barriers, just his music, talent and voice front and center. Watch out naysayers and doomsdayers!

    Here comes David Archuleta, live, improv, real time. WOO to the MEGA MAJOR HOOOOOOOO!

    P.S. TOfan – You rock. I love u. XXOOXX. πŸ˜€

  14. Kizzi says:

    Oh, and I just wanted to add that I like the more sedate pace, relaxed, spa, yeah, zen-like pace of all of this. New David, new cyber fan space. Yep, very cool. Or in the words of ref, “eeeeep.”

  15. TOfan says:

    Interview update!
    Just a quick reminder that tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 8 a.m. EST, David will be doing a Delaware radio OC104 interview. You can listen online at: (β€œListen live” link)…. Or, like me, wait for some kind, generous fan to upload it to YouTube! πŸ˜†

  16. SandyBeaches says:

    Kizzi…I believe that you have said it all in a nutshell!… We have gone through the growing pains from site to site. I believe the quiet times are nearly over.


  17. stenocruiser says:

    Gosh, every time Delaware is mentioned I can’t help but think of this beautiful song by our talented Canadian, Dallas Green — and then I have to watch it over and over, so addicting.

  18. awestruck says:

    fabulous news TOfan – interesting how gospel music seems to come up when jazz musicians talk about their background.

    And, possible Christmas concert Vermeer – YES!

  19. TOfan says:

    Here’s David’s OC104 Delaware interview from this morning (thanks, Larissa!)


    (How David manages to do these early morning interviews without coffee is beyond me! *impressed* πŸ˜† )

    Update: Here’s the vid version, thanks to JR4DA!

  20. Archugeezer says:

    TOfan, I keep meaning to stop long enough to say thanks for this exciting info. You are a super cyber sleuth. And if I add my initial reaction to the news, I think we are close to a collective “Eeeeeeeep!”

  21. TOfan says:

    Thanks, AG! I prefer to call it “research” LOLOL

    With all these new jazzy band members, it’ll be interesting to see if David adds instrumental solos to his live act for the first time. As a jazz fan, I just take for granted that the bass or sax player, drummer etc. will get highlighted for a solo somewhere in a live perf. But one thing I’ve noticed about David’s live sets… maybe because those instrumental sections have all but disappeared from pop music… if there’s a stretch with no vocals, he usually starts singing anyway, lol, improvising or humming.

    Not that I’m complaining mind you! He can whoa whoa whoa like nobody’s business! πŸ˜† It’ll depend on what vibe they’re going for, I guess.

  22. TOfan says:

    Off-topic: For anyone who’s still watching Idol, lol, here’s Pia’s “exit” interview with EW (she mentions David’s DLTSGDOM at about 5 min. in πŸ™‚ ):

  23. TOfan says:

    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    FB message

  24. emmegirl says:

    A little late to the party, but cannot contain myself! And if we’re excited, imagine what he must be feeling.

    kizzi, “Next a new David, no Jive, no Azoff/WEG, just him without barriers, just his music, talent and voice front and center. Watch out naysayers and doomsdayers!”
    …think he’s gonna drop a few jaws?!

    Only true artists can draw this caliber of musicians. Imagination running amok.

    (when will we get that rehearsal vlog????)

  25. Jon Shepherd says:

    Can’t go wrong with an awesome bass player like my son!!

    • betsy says:

      Jon – I have seen some videos of your son and agree! He is so very talented.
      Welcome πŸ™‚

    • TOfan says:

      he is awesome!!! And he’s so very fortunate to have such a supportive family! So excited to hear their first live gigs!

    • MunkFOD says:

      I agree too! I have also watched some of your sons videos. And being a musician myself, I appreciate great talent. He is a gifted musician. Welcome to the Archuleta fan family. πŸ™‚

  26. peppertara says:

    Jon, I agree with you and Betsy about your very talented son! Really looking forward to music from the new band, very talented musicians. πŸ™‚

    TOfan, thanks for the “off topic” link to Pia’s exit interview. Don’t watch the show anymore really but I am a fan of hers.
    Sweet that she mentioned David’s cover of DLTSGDOM. We know David’s cover of that song was beautifully the best!

    • Jonathan says:

      Correction……our son – includes mum Lin too and his gorgeous sister Sarah………we were his first number one fans!!
      And Steve Robinson……….Dennis Chambers…..say ‘Yo man’!!

      • awestruck says:

        Welcome Shepherd family to the Archie Fan Family! So looking forward to hearing the music to come…

      • emmegirl says:

        Nice to see you Mr Shepherd, and mum Lin and gorgeous sister Sarah! We are so excited to see David and his new band. From what we have seen and heard they are a group of amazing young musicians. This is gonna be fun!

      • MunkFOD says:

        Yo man! LOL!

  27. jackryan4DA says:

    Ay-yay-yay! I keep posting in the wrong thread (snaps head)

    Anw, TOfan just sent you an email. Up to you how you want to share the subject matter πŸ™‚

  28. jackryan4DA says:

    David Archuleta Interview @ Good Morning Delmarva – CELEBRITY BASKETBALL GAME (15 April 2011)

    HE IS PLAYING! No ifs, no buts! Now am seriously wondering what he’ll wear, LOL

  29. cas says:

    Hi Canucks,
    Thanks for the research and this great post. These new band members are impressive! The videos give a taste of the treat that lies ahead. Nothing better in concert than watching skilled musicians who are passionate about their work and who have fun while doing it. Need to plan a May road-trip.

    • TOfan says:

      Welcome, cas! So you’re going to Myrtle Beach? Nice!!! Please report back! πŸ™‚

    • emmegirl says:

      Aaaah, you are going to be one of the very first to get a glimpse of David with his new bandmates in action? Make sure you take extra batteries!! πŸ™‚ And smelling salts!

    • TOfan says:

      eeeeep, and you’ll get to hear this!

      2Sunny Hilden tweet
      (Sunny is the Archuleta family friend who co-wrote Dream Sky High … and ironically travelled sky high with D. & his friends on the blimp ride! πŸ™‚ )

  30. betsy says:

    Deb, I saw that tweet of hers retweeted many times on my phone when I was at work tonight, and I NEVER tired of it. It’s so beautiful, so true.
    I KNOW that feeling.
    We all do.
    That’s God at work.

    I found this and thought it interesting.

    p.s. I have a 20 month memory of David singing “I’ll Be” outdoors, in the sun, and it still sends tears to my smile. Still.

    • emmegirl says:

      Thanks Betsy. Wow, she is really accomplished and her resume is amazing. (And I thought she might be another aunt!) She was in the audience at AI several times.

  31. TOfan says:

    This just in from Delaware!

    @melissad309 Omfg he is playing njfrujgtyrlknjfcrfdlkjxcrlfdx he is in shortsbngjhtuihgkuiolfvchyigtorfpd

    via @Zammie255’s shorts-cam:

    david shorts

  32. TOfan says:

    From @melissad309:

    Lupe is a beast at basketball. Theyre warming up and shes getting every shot

    Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

    Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

    Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

    From @Ashes05:

    Another one of @DavidArchie on Twitpic

    from @emilyluvsarchie:
    “David has tryed everything in his power to not have to play but they keep putting him back in lol! xD”

    “I would have played more, but I wanted my team to win” -David- Ohhh David hahahahaha”

    “Ok y’ I have about 10 minutes of David playin bball….then like 2 and 1/2 hours of him akwardly sitting and being adorable”

    from @AndreaFOD:
    “@Davidarchie came over to see his fans and thank US for being there, he is the BEST!!”

  33. TOfan says:

    From @maureen_abms:

    Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

    Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

    Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

    From @emilyluvsarchie:
    David and Lupe

  34. emmegirl says:

    Shorts-cam, lol! I hope he makes a basket. Any archufans there will go nuts!

    Go Lupe!

  35. amb4dja says:

    I’m sensing like minds:
    β€œMy dad always tells me to this day that the ride home was the most quiet ride home ever,” Nilan said. β€œThat’s because I was listening on my headphones to this new thing I found called jazz.” — (echoes of David discovering and being immersed in Les Miserables)

    β€œI’ve always been raised on music as a whole,” he said. β€œIt was Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire for lunch, and then Ray Charles for dinner. Then I’d go see the Dave Matthews Band in concert. I’m just in love with music.”

    β€œI’m very hands-on down to the smallest detail. I wanted it to be perfect,” he said. β€œI definitely took my time and made it right.

    ~~I get the feeling and am thrilled that David will be collaborating with kindred spirits and other prodigious musicians this time. And it does not surprise me one bit that he was self-aware and clear on “who he is” to make such choices.

    Kizzi…I love your entire post…and I couldn’t agree more or be more excited at the new day I feel dawning in Archuland.
    love this: just him without barriers, just his music, talent and voice front and center. Watch out naysayers and doomsdayers!

    Thanks TOfan for all the news…exciiiiiting stufffffff. Oh man, here we go…I need an entirely clear schedule for the rest of 2011!

    • TOfan says:

      so right, amb4dja, kindred musical spirits, for sure… like they all speak those “languages” he vlogged about. πŸ™‚

  36. amb4dja says:

    oh…well now Pia…ok, girl…I forgive u now (a little) for singing David’s song. πŸ™‚
    David’s remains THE BEST, for all time, forever n’ ever, amen!!
    …that said, she did do a nice job.

  37. peppertara says:

    Looks like David is having a great time on the court! Yay, he donned the uniform too. Good for David and good for Lupe…imagine she is pretty good! Had to smile at all the tweets about David, he may not be the best player but apparently pretty speedy on his feet with his little white legs and all, haha. Good for David!
    What a fun time for everyone and what fun it would be to witness it all.

    amb4dja…..Yes I forgive Pia too, pretty brave taking on that song and she did do a lovely job but I agree…”David’s remains THE BEST, for all time, forever n’ ever, amen!!”
    A big AMEN to that. πŸ™‚

  38. amb4dja says:

    oops.. just to clarify above …might come off like I’m slamming the other musicians he performed with before (Not!) who were great too (Kendra, Mike and all them peeps we loved)…just saying, “this time” as in…what’s happening now…and they seem on the same page and it all sounds verrrry promising! that’s all.

    ok, now that I cleared that up! LOL.. I’ve been on this dang computer “all over town” tonight…gonna give it a rest! David played after all?! Did we see any baskets? πŸ˜‰

    k, catch more later~g’Night!

  39. TOfan says:


    RT @AleshaRenee: @DavidArchie sang Ribbon in the Sky by Stevie Wonder the whole restuarant gave him a standing “O”!

    @AleshaRenee: I’m sorry @DavidArchie sand Ribbon in the Sky by Stevie Wonder the whole restaurant gave him a standing “O” !!! Ill upload the video soon


  40. jackryan4DA says:

    NO shorts, eh? You of sooo little faith.

    The thing is: shorts + an impromptu Ribbon in the Sky (w/c earned a standing o)

    In a day.

    Am convinced.
    David wants us daid.

    Or at least temporarily incapacitated.

    (dum-di-dum-dum-dum… waiting patiently for the vid of impromptu perf)

  41. peppertara says:

    Oh my heck, David sang Ribbon In The Sky at the restaurant??? I knew it, he cannot go anywhere without singing something (or at least a little humming). He simply IS the music that needs to burst forth…can happen at any moment, thankfully!! πŸ™‚
    I’m waiting patiently for the vid of impromptu perf too, like JR and countless thousands.

  42. awestruck says:

    “I knew it, he cannot go anywhere without singing something (or at least a little humming)” LOL

    Ribbon In The Sky – Stevie Wonder Oh My HECK! Good thing I am already DAID!

    • archiesfan4life says:

      Hi awestruck!!!! I agree – it is good that we are already DAID – cause this will definitely finish us off if we weren’t :).

  43. archiesfan4life says:

    Help!!!! I don’t know how to post videos – there are two videos on FOD of David singing Ribbon in the Sky!!!!

  44. TOfan says:

    New vids posted in new thread! Fasten your seatbelts!


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