With budding maturity, David Archuleta captures two years’ worth of introspection and reflection, dozens of songwriting sessions, long days spent in the studio and nights in the air, all leading to The Other Side of Down, his highly anticipated second album.
Not only the follow up to David’s 2008 self-titled debut, it’s a reintroduction to the American Idol runner-up with the angelic voice who 30 million television viewers fell in love with during season 7—now older, wiser, with faith still on his side and an eternally optimistic wide-eyed outlook. Hence, the album’s title. “For me, it’s about moving forward and making progress,” David explains. “I’m heading towards ‘the other side of down,’ which is ‘up.’”
Actually, there are many sides to David Archuleta, all of which find a place on the record. There’s the youthful David, affectionately known as Archie, who often emerges on TV in the form of a mid-interview giggle; You can find him on the title track whose bouncy, island vibe vows that nothing’s going to break his pop stride.
Then you have David the inspiration and role model, who looks deep inside and up above for guidance on how to navigate the world around him—much as he describes on the track “Things Are Gonna Get Better,” which spots a silver lining in the darkest of clouds and enlists a full gospel choir to drive the point home.
And there’s the insatiably curious David, who doesn’t have all the answers but is resolved to keep searching for them. Look no further than the sugar sweet S*A*M and Sluggo-produced single “Something ‘Bout Love” for the sound of reach-for-the-sky bliss, and the hard-driving big chorus of “Complain,” written for David by EMan, David Hodges and Claude Kelly, which, despite its title, is an encouraging song beckoning the listener not to take anything for granted.
It’s a sentiment David is all too familiar with, not just from having reached second place on Idol, but seeing massive success straight out the gate with the song “Crush,” which charted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 the week of its 2008 release and has since sold two million downloads. “I wasn’t expecting to be in the finale and I wasn’t expecting to get a record deal right after my interviews that night,” David admits. “My plan was to go back to school after the Idol tour so I wasn’t entirely prepared to make an album, which is why I was really surprised that it did as well as it did.” David also released “Christmas from the Heart” which debuted at No. 2 on the seasonal chart behind Bob Dylan.
While no stranger to pressure—he did sail through three months’ worth of intense competition on TV’s biggest stage—having a hit record under his belt meant defining his place in music beyond being a pop culture footnote. “I don’t want my music to have boundaries,” David declares. “It was so neat to see how positive fans were about ‘Crush,’ but with this album, my participation in each of the songs ties them together and they’re all me.”
Indeed, David had a hand in co-writing the majority of the album’s tracks, including two of its quirkier numbers, the bouncy “Parachutes and Airplanes” with Matt Squire and Lindy Robbins, and the irresistible ride that is “Elevator,” written with Shelly Peiken and Mike Krompass, whose lyrics—“Elevator goes up / Elevator goes down / Just go with the flow / Until your feet hit the ground”—literally came to David in a dream. “I had this visual in my mind of all these elevators going up and down and I’m trying to figure out which floor to get off on,” he explains. “The next day, we wrote it in, like, 30 minutes, not thinking anything would happen with it.” But proving that age-old musician’s adage that sometimes the best songs come out in the shortest bursts.
“A lot of writers say ‘dare to suck’ and you have to,” David continues. “Because not everything that comes out is going to make sense. That’s not how it works. You pay attention to how chords make you feel or you see a picture and you just start writing about it. I love when things are emotion-driven. It’s not always about how hooky it is. There are songs like that, but it’s not what I’m trying to do.” Feeling a greater sense of purpose is nothing new to fans of the now 19-year-old Murray, Utah native who overcame vocal cord paralysis at age 13 while competing on CBS’s “Star Search.” The trying experience was chronicled in David’s 2010 book “Chords of Strength” and resonates in the overall message of The Other Side of Down. “Instead of acting like everything in life is so hard and confusing, look at it this way: the only way you can go from here is up,” he says. “It’s our decisions and how we handle things, even when they get rough. If we keep holding on, looking at things positively and working hard, we can improve our lives, help ourselves, and even help the greater good.”
Of course, with inspiration comes aspiration and David isn’t lacking in that department, either. He aspires to find everlasting love in the ballad “My Kind of Perfect,” assured that his time will eventually come but wondering when. “It’s about waiting and knowing that they don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be my kind of perfect,” he explains. And going beyond his world to address the harsh reality of war and natural disasters, David offers the hopeful “Things Are Gonna Get Better.” “It’s what people need to hear right now,” he says.
To that end, David’s current musical tastes run the pop-rock gamut, from acoustic guitar-driven singer-songwriters like Jason Mraz to the electronic sounds of female innovators like Imogen Heap and A Fine Frenzy. Surprising? Hardly if you consider David’s appreciation for the beauty of melody, a trait he displayed time and time again while performing on Idol. “It’s amazing how one song can change someone’s life,” says David. “It’s been done for me so many times and I want to give to my fans the same thing those artists have given me.”