David Archuleta Contemplates Christmas Cheer, Turning 20 and Looking for Love
When Christmas is brought into the conversation, Archuleta's already chipper demeanor seems to brighten, and a bit of youthful excitement takes hold. "I love Christmas music," Archuleta gushes, bringing some holiday happiness to the morning by singing the classic lyric "It's the most wonderful time of the year." The spirit of the season in mind, Archuleta has a candid -- and fun -- chat with PopEater about the meaning of Christmas, growing up as a 'Glee'-like music geek and how a personal 'The Other Side of Down' track has him wondering about the unpredictability of falling in love.
What do want most for Christmas this year?
[Sings] All I want for Christmas is you ... [laughs]. I don't really ask for gifts. The last couple of years, I told my parents, "Don't worry about getting me anything." Usually, I just like to be with the family. I would like to visit places where people may not be able to have that Christmas tree with their family with all those presents there, to be able to give that to them. There are a lot of people who don't get that chance, a lot of kids who have to spend months and months in the hospital or assisted living places where people forget about them. To be able to give back to them, that's where the most, the greatest, the best feelings are, even if it's just a visit to show you care about people. That's what the Christmas spirit is about -- caring about other people.
What is Christmas like for you and your family?
It's pretty typical. We actually go Christmas caroling quite a bit. That was one of my favorite things to do. People's eyes just light up, to have someone come and visit them and sing those special songs. It was always fun getting to do that with my brothers and sisters. Then, you know, just opening the Christmas presents on Christmas morning around the tree. Also, sometimes, my mom's side of the family, they'd party until midnight on Christmas Eve. And then at midnight, everyone gives each other hugs and stuff. It's a fun celebration. There's dancing and stuff.
What is the best gift that you've ever received for Christmas?
Being with my family is a huge blessing. I love just being with them and hanging out with them. It's the memories that really last. But one of my most memorable gifts, for some reason, was this motorcycle computer game that I got. I don't know why it was so memorable, but I really liked it [laughs]. I think I was in second or third grade. Now it's lost. It's long gone.
Have you ever kissed anyone underneath the mistletoe?
No [laughs]. No.
Listen to David Archuleta's 'Christmas From the Heart'
With songwriting, you really have to open up and maybe be more vulnerable than you'd normally be. Is that something that is sometimes difficult for you?
Yeah, it is. You don't know what people are going to think of it. It's like, you really have to open yourself with some of these ideas and you don't know how people are going to interpret it, if they're even going to get it. Sometimes, maybe I don't want them to fully get it -- and usually they don't, because they don't know completely what's going on in your mind. But sometimes, it's nice for them to understand what kind of emotion you're trying to bring out in the song and what kind of message you're trying to get across. You just don't know if they're going to be like, "Oh," or if they're going to really enjoy and connect to it. It's part of taking that risk. What if people don't like it, or they don't understand or really feel the song? It's just about going through and saying, "Hey, this really means a lot to me, this is important for me to say and I need to share it with other people." It pays off.
Is there a song on 'The Other Side of Down' that especially stems from something personal?
All the songs are personal, not in serious ways, but they're all very personal because that's what I tried to get in the album – just my ideas and my thoughts and putting them into these songs. The last song on the album is called 'My Kind of Perfect,' and that's pretty personal.
I've never been in a relationship. People ask me all the time: "What is the perfect girl? What do you look for?" They'll say, "Do you prefer blond or brunette? Do you like brown eyes or blue?" It's like, what does that matter, really? They can wear contacts. What if people's eyes change colors? Then that wouldn't matter. People can dye their hair. What about the things that last longer than that? You can change your hair color a million times, but there's something that lasts longer in a relationship, that can last a lifetime. Those are the things I wonder about. What is going to make me want to spend the rest of my life with someone? If they're a brunette, it's not going to matter -- it's eventually going to turn grey or white [laughs]. It's not going to matter anymore. So what is going to matter?
Someone who cares about other people, who has good values and has respect for themselves [is what matters]. It's so important for girls to respect themselves and not put themselves down and say, "Oh, my life is horrible," and "I'm not pretty enough." How do you know? There's this energy people give off that people can be drawn to. I can tell you now, it's not your eye color that's giving off that energy that people can be drawn to. It's more of the light in your eyes that you carry with you, the excitement for life that you have to try new things and be adventurous, and someone who wants to make a difference while they're here. It's those kinds of things [that matter]. [It's] someone who will help you become motivated. Relationships are about helping motivate each other to be all that you can be.
I don't think people ever really know what they're "looking for." Love is something that just surprises people. It catches you off guard. It's never really what you're expecting. It's not like, "I want her to be named Samantha, and she's going to be 5'3" and she's going to have blond hair that's 3 feet long." It doesn't happen that way! It's feelings. It's totally unpredictable. It always just kind of hits you on the side of the head.
You recently got to meet a musical idol of yours, A Fine Frenzy's Alison Sudol. You seemed super inspired and smitten by her. Has any of her creative advice sparked new writing from you since then?
Man, that conversation ... I'm really grateful to Alison and very appreciative that she was willing to take that time out to do that interview because she shared a lot of really cool things. It was just neat. It was crazy that it was the first time meeting her because it felt like a conversation I would have with my friends who I've known for a while, just that she was willing to be that open and that teaching. It was so cool.
It wasn't just musically that she made an impact on me. She probably has an influence on the things I've been trying to write about. You don't have to be this crazy, mindless psycho genius to make good music. You can be very grounded. You can understand where you're going and what kind of direction you hope to go and what you want to do with your music, what kind of message you hope to leave with people. That really made an impression on me.
This year, your 20th birthday is actually coming right after Christmas. How does it feel to know you're leaving your teens behind?
I'm excited because now you feel like you hold new responsibilities. You're a step away from being a kid and being viewed as a kid. Usually, people have certain perceptions of teenagers. [When you're] a teenager, you grow a lot and you experience a lot. Now, leaving that phase and focusing on being an adult is exciting. I mean, 20 is not 21 yet, so I still feel like I'm kind of a kid, but I look forward to maturing and the new experiences that await next year.
When you were younger, how did you picture your 20-year-old self?
Going to college. I always wondered if I'd get to do music and stuff, but I didn't know how realistic that was, so I tried to be logical and realistic. But what is kind of cool is that what I thought wasn't logical and realistic is logical and realistic now. It's cool to think, "Wow. It is realistic, and it's actually happening right now."
But I wanted to be a biologist. I wanted to do something with the world and animals and science and nature and things like that. I just loved to be a part of that and learn about it, just all the things that you can learn about what life gives you and what the earth gives you. There's so much out there and there are new things being discovered every day that we don't even know about. It's such a big world.
On your Christmas album, you have a duet with Charice, who recently was a guest on 'Glee.' How would you feel if 'Glee' approached you?
It would be cool to make an appearance on it because it's a fun show. It gets all these geeks who love music. I think that's great. That's the category I was in. I wasn't the most athletic person. I didn't really fit in anywhere. Even the people who were in music, they were very good [and] technically musical, so I didn't feel like I'd fit in with them. I just loved music and how it made me feel. Even with musicals, the theater people, I didn't really fit in with them. I mean, I got along with a lot of different groups, but there wasn't a place where it was, "Yes! That's where I fit in." I was just a geek who loved music. That's what I was.
Being a music geek, what's one classic album from your collection that you'd suggest as a Christmas gift idea to another music lover?
I like Michael Jackson. I love all his hits, so 'Ones' by Michael Jackson is a very good one to get.
Do you have a favorite Christmas song that you wish you could have included on your own holiday album, or is your favorite already on there?
I love 'O Holy Night' and 'Silent Night.' Those are both on there. I like a lot of Christmas songs, that's the thing. I love 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree.'
What is your favorite holiday movie?
I liked all those 'Frosty the Snowman' and 'Jack Frost' movies, the claymation ones. I've always liked watching those ones when I was little.
When we talked to you when you were 17, you said, "When you're 17, it's not like, 'This is what my life is.' You're still trying to figure it out as a person." Do you feel the same now?
[Laughs] Yeah. There are just so many surprises in life that you're very grateful for. The more things start happening and the more you start taking risks and see what those results are, you understand that there are more possibilities of things happening in the future. But you don't know what's going to happen in the future. Sometimes you're wondering, "Have I done all I could?" But that's never the case. As long as you're here, there's always more that you can do.
I was talking to someone who is older, in their 50s, and I was wondering: "After doing something that you feel very accomplished about, it's like, well what do I do now? What do I do next after that?" I don't know how I can continue living up to this great moment that I just had. I don't know what more I can do with myself. And they were saying, "You know, David, I still feel like that all the time. It never goes away. You're always trying to figure out what you're supposed to be doing next, even when you get older. It's not something that just happens when you're a teenager. It's happening all the time." That's true. You don't know what life's going to throw at you ... Who knows? The wildest things and craziest things could happen.