David Archuleta: ‘I dared to not be afraid to be a Mormon in the entertainment industry’

Concert preview • Ex-Murray resident and “American Idol” star says growing up and growing comfortable with himself have helped him push his pop career forward.

(Photo courtesy Jake Harsh) David Archuleta, a former Murray resident, "American Idol" competitor and platinum-selling singer, will perform at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. His first album in four years, "Postcards in the Sky," was released Oct. 20.

David Archuleta is back in Utah at this very moment, and does he have big plans.

Yes, of course, there’s the Monday performance at Abravanel Hall by the Beehive State’s favorite “American Idol” alum. But, as for the truly momentous and newsworthy way he intends to spend the rest of his time here …

“I’m gonna get a haircut,” Archuleta revealed exclusively to The Salt Lake Tribune in a phone interview.

Ummm, you’re a platinum-selling pop singer — surely you’ve got something epic going on.

“Not really, other than my haircut!” he added with a laugh. “I usually just stay home. My sisters show me anime, ’cause they’re big fans of anime. So they’re like, ‘Watch this one!’ They always show me really good ones. So that’s usually the thing.”

Haircut … anime … got it.

David Archuleta<br>When • Monday, 7:30 p.m.<br>Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City<br>Tickets • $35.50-$59.50; ArtTix

Of course, the former Murray resident and “Idol” runner-up’s life has not always been so sedate. But then, that’s precisely why he’s so enamored of his current calm.

Now 26 years old and going on a decade removed from Idolmania, he’s naturally experienced a fair bit of change.

For one thing, he moved to Nashville about three years ago. For another, his latest studio album, “Postcards in the Sky,” released last month after a four-year hiatus, saw a distinct shift from the Top-40-driven material of his earlier efforts to a more personal, heartfelt songwriting style.

The biggest transitions, though, have largely been internal. Mostly, he no longer feels like a scared kid putting on a brave face.

“I think I’ve definitely grown up. I was 16 when I started getting publicity, when people started watching to the degree that it was with ‘American Idol.’ It happened so quickly and I still didn’t know who I wanted to be,” Archuleta said. “I think a lot of that was I was a very conservative person, I was a very introverted person. … To be in a world where I had to be ‘on’ all the time, and all of a sudden to feel like I couldn’t be myself or people weren’t going to like me or watch me … I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know how to do this!’ … It was really overwhelming.”

And while it may ultimately have proved a mentally healthy thing that he never came to believe in his own hype, it certainly was not helpful in the moment that, as public adoration for him grew, he lived in constant fear of being exposed as a fraud.

“I never had the confidence before to believe I was good at what I did,” Archuleta said. “I got a lot of attention, and my worry was, ‘I don’t get why people like me. I must have fooled them, because it’s not like I’m that good at what I do.’ And I became very self-conscious, like, what if I mess up and then people are like, ‘Ugh, he wasn’t as good as I thought he was.’ ”

Like many other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Archuleta credits his religious mission with helping him gain needed perspective and maturity.

After two years proselytizing in Santiago, Chile, he returned far more comfortable in his own skin.

“When I went on my mission, it kind of gave me a step away from everything, and I was able to grow up a little bit, on my own, without everyone watching me,” Archuleta said. “When I came back, it was like, ‘I can still be introverted and conservative, prioritizing my religion and my spirituality, and always liking these positive things.’ That’s what I like! And I was always told before that I couldn’t — ‘That’s too cheesy. You’ve gotta be more macho. You’ve gotta be more mature. You’ve gotta have a little bit of a dark edge to you.’ And that’s just not what I am. … Now, I’m still me and I can still help people have a fun time at a show being who I am. It’s been really refreshing.”

Part of that has entailed folding his spirituality into some of his songs.

Though Archuleta is quick to clarify that “I’m not a Christian artist” and that “Postcards in the Sky” is “not a Christian album,” he points out that his desire to make more authentic music naturally precludes him from excluding matters of faith from his writing.

“It was always hard for me to sing breakup songs, especially as a teenager that had never been in a relationship before, even into his 20s! So, talking about life — ‘Who am I? Do I matter? Can I do any good in this world? Do I have a purpose?’ — those are all questions that I asked myself and I wondered about and I struggled with. So I wrote about that on this album,” Archuleta said. “Maybe there are other people out there who are having a hard time finding their worth, feeling like they’re good enough, and I can tell them a little bit about my challenge with those insecurities, and finding a purpose in spirituality. I dared to not be afraid to be a Mormon in the entertainment industry.”

He also dared to make other tough choices — the move to Nashville, for instance.

While acknowledging that he misses Utah’s mountains and loves coming home to visit, he maintains heading to Music City was necessary for the opportunities and the escape it offered.

“Interestingly enough, a lot of people who were on the show ‘American Idol’ have moved to Nashville. I think after ‘American Idol,’ becoming this big hometown deal to a lot of people … you still love home but you’re not sure how to be treated and what you consider normal anymore,” Archuleta said. “And Nashville is a place where they have this understanding in general of a musician’s lifestyle. So they’re not saying to you, ‘When are you gonna get a job?’ ‘Oh, well, I do music.’ ‘Well, what about when you need to get a real job?’ Things like that.”

And to be sure, this is Archuleta’s real job.

Earlier in his career, he acknowledged, “I was so caught up in wondering, ‘Do other people like what I’m doing?’ [that] I didn’t ask, ‘Oh, do I like what I’m doing? Do I enjoy this?’ ”

He knows the answer now.

“I want to keep doing this. I want to tell stories that are actually meaningful to me, that come from a vulnerable place in my life. I want to do that. So I’m gonna keep working at this,” he said. “I have to restart in a way, after being on a hiatus. I have to remarket myself to people and show them who I am. I mean, I’m still David, but ‘Round 2’ now.”

Speaking of Round 2, care for another go at divulging some even minutely entertaining activity you might be engaging in now that you’ve returned to your old stomping grounds?

“I just look forward to the simple things — being able to stay home, not having to go out to eat, because I don’t know how to cook. I mean, I try — I can make quesadillas, but that’s about it,” Archuleta insisted. “So to be at my family’s house and just have meals and not have to go out and figure out what to eat is a nice feeling.”

There you have it, folks: haircut … anime … meals sans quesadillas — an intimate peek inside the lifestyle of a pop star.