How David Archuleta Spun His Anxiety Into Perfect Quarantine Album Gold (INTERVIEW)
Whether displayed during his time as a contestant on American Idol or at one of the hundreds of live shows he's performed over the years, David Archuleta has a knack for delivering a vocal performance that can make you feel exactly what he's singing about.
However, far removed from the applause and love from his fans, the 29-year-old singer has been dealing with his own battles. From anxiety to the pressures of appearing on all the time, Archuleta is finally ready to speak about those imperfect moments on his illuminating new record, Therapy Sessions (out May 20).
"Part of my therapy was working on this album," Archuleta tells PopCrush from his home in Nashville, where he's currently quarantining during the pandemic. "I guess just being able to be open about what I was worried about, what I thought of myself, just feeling down, feeling anxious and depressed... All of that I was able to get out on this album."
In 2019, Archuleta kicked off his musical mental health journey with the release of album opener "Paralyzed," a "pretty intense [song] about my frustrations about myself." But before anyone could assume that the record would be a complete downer, his single "OK, All Right" dropped at the top of 2020. The track's hook can get stuck in your head for days, but it also offers the perfect mantra for those who struggle with anxiety or have a hard time thinking things can get better. It's a good remedy for Archuleta, too.
“It's like a little chant I just chanted to myself where I'm having this war with feeling lousy and all these thoughts in my head,” he shares. “I’d fight with my own thoughts saying, ‘You know what? Go away. It’s gonna be okay, I’m fine.’ And I just think positively. I changed my way of thinking. I'm just gonna get through this until the negative thoughts come back.”
While he admits it's sometimes a "battle" to make it through his daily anxieties, he adds "at the end of the day, I'm kind of like, ‘Whoa, this wasn't that great of a day. It was actually pretty lousy. And I still don't think too highly of myself. But you know what? I'm just glad that I get to try again tomorrow because I'm not going to let this work. I'm not gonna let feeling lousy beat me.’”
While Therapy Sessions was written specifically about Archuleta’s mental health journey, the current global pandemic has brought new meaning to the song “Just Breathe," which was initially written last year as a meditative song to help Archuleta find “the pockets of peace and quiet.” Originally, he had no plans to release it as a single.
“But we weren't planning on being in a pandemic either,” he adds. “It's changed so many things. You know, we've had to be in quarantine at home. Social distancing, businesses closing down... It's stressed a lot of people out [and] it’s made them anxious, made them worried.”
And so, on April 30, Archuleta released the track with a video — an effort he says is thanks to the hard work of his team, who incorporated parts of what the world looked like in the era of the coronavirus at the time, as well as self-filmed clips of Archuleta singing to camera. Playing to the artist's musical strengths, it's a powerful ballad that stirs tears but also offers hope on what the future can hold.
“‘Just Breathe’ is a perfect song because that's exactly why I wrote it, [so it can] help,” Archuleta says about the track, from which all proceeds go to Direct Relief in support of COVID-19 relief. “[I hope it can] calm you down and help [you] find that space where you can feel that things will be okay. And I feel like when you put yourself in that place and just breathe, you can even find solutions and answers to your troubles.”
Just like Archuleta's world came to a halt due to the pandemic, filming for music-based competitions like American Idol, from which Archuleta is an alumnus, had to stop as well this spring. But with some adjustment, the judges and remaining contestants kept the show going and continued filming Season 18 safely from their homes. Archuleta, who was the runner-up in Season 7, thinks the strategy has made the season especially memorable and special.
"I think it’s a very interesting approach, but of course very fitting since we’re all home and have all had to adapt to life in similar ways," he says. "It’ll make it a one-of-a-kind season for sure. I think it lets the contestants breathe a bit more and have a more laid back feel, too."
With everything continuously changing as we try to figure out what our collective “new normal” is, music has been a constant in bringing people joy and escape. And while many music fans have been revisiting their favorite records and songs for a sense of nostalgic relief, it’s reassuring to know that there are albums like Therapy Sessions that can help us as we heal.
As Archuleta says, “It just makes me feel really good to feel like I'm [fulfilling] the purpose that I wanted to in this project—and that's to help people through whatever they're going through. Just like writing, it helped me get through what I was going through.”