Hilarious, intimate, and inspiring. These are the words that best describe David Archuleta’s self-written book and New York Times Best Seller entitled Chords of Strength: A Memoir of Soul, Song, and the Power of Perseverance. Being an American Idol star and a platinum-selling artist, David shares his life as a normal kid before Idol, how he overcome his self confidence issues and partial vocal paralysis, his unexpected and inspiring journey to stardom and how he stays true to himself and maintaining a strong relationship with the divine frequency. Chords of Strength isn’t just about following your dreams, it offers hope to anyone.
David starts out his story by introducing his family and how well his roots influenced him as a musician. He was born in North Miami, Florida and the second from the brood of five to musically-inclined parents. His father, Jeff Archuleta, is a jazz trumpet player, and his mom, Lupe, a gifted singer and dancer from Honduras. Both of his parents were also born into the magic of sound. His Latin environment exposed him to lots of salsa and Spanish music around their home and where music and spirituality always went hand in hand. His family moved from Florida to Murray, Utah where his father found an opportunity to work with his friends and to be with the larger part of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. There the family also had the chance to perform at a few church activities, weddings, hospitals and nursing homes.
On the next chapter, he recalls how he and his brother Daniel were enthralled by the musical, Les Miserables and mentions his admiration to Natalie Cole, one of his musical influences up to the present. Gradually, his passion for singing grew even though he hated how he sounded, it didn’t stop him from singing his heart out. His dad taught him how to give the listeners the impression that they are hearing the song for the first time while he was pretty much inspired by the way his mom sings powerfully.
However, David faced a lot of insecurities and self confidence issues. Such as when his mother signed him up for the 2001 Utah Talent Competition without his consent. Aside from the fact that he extremely hated his voice, he can’t imagine performing for a huge crowd. Just as before he performed, he was in an extreme panic attack. But when he and his father humbly prayed, it miraculously calmed him down and was able to sing “I Will Always Love You” flawlessly. He ended up winning the kid’s division at the age of ten.
Since then, he started to realize that by confronting his fears, he could actually find a way to overcome them. He had an opportunity to sing for an international TV show called the Jenny Jones show, met Natalie Cole, Tamyra Gray, and Kelly Clarkson and even had the chance to sing for them. When he joined Star Search 2, he managed to end up as the Junior Vocal Champion but didn’t make it during the “Battle of the Champions”. David was invited to compete for the second year of the show but went through series of medical conditions. Later on, he was diagnosed with partial vocal paralysis.
With David’s diagnosis, the family was given the option to place him on a high-risk surgery or a vocal therapy that would slowly recover the damaged cord with no guarantees. They wisely chose the latter. The doctors didn’t tell him to quit singing so he tried to sing locally but avoided to do so for prolonged periods. When he turned 13, he started to accept that maybe singing wasn’t the right career for him. So he rediscovered running, focused on good grades, thought of becoming an ENT doctor or a veterinarian and make music a hobby.
After three years, his voice became stronger to his astonishment and he could sing several songs at a time. Little by little he started to sing regularly then accepted to sing for a full set gig. His father helped his arrangements and always supported him. When he was 16, the auditions for the seventh season of American Idol came, and it was taking place in San Diego. His parents and friends encouraged him to audition but he would always decline. But as the day of the auditions neared the decision whether to go or not bothered him. Also, he was in a huge dilemma. Auditioning will also mean that he might lose his job as a sound tech which meant a lot to him. His thoughts became frantic so he started to pray humbly to God. Shortly, he felt strongly that he has to accept the opportunities God is giving him and give back by doing his best every time. The answer was yes, he should go.
So off he went to San Diego with his father with enough courage and preparation to go but didn’t tell his friends about it. He described the process as tedious. Again, he felt unconfident as he was surrounded by very talented singers not to mention that hundreds of auditionees were rejected and then it was a long wait until he could see someone holding a golden piece of paper. He had expected that he wouldn’t make it but to his surprise, he passed! And after several more screenings, he finally got to sing for Simon, Paula, and Randy with his rendition of “Waiting on the World to Change” by John Mayer. When the words “You’re going to Hollywood,” came out from them, he just couldn’t believe his ears.
Making it to Idol meant changing his life and had to let go on things that he held on dear, but there were a lot of things that he didn’t see coming. It struck him when his principal suggested him to withdraw from schooling. No matter how much education means to him, he reminded himself on what he was in Idol for. He moved on. He started to work on songs twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. He revealed that having the camera on him was one of the most difficult things to get used to, and that they couldn’t just sing what they wanted due to licensing issues. This time, he was no longer watching Idol, he was now part of the big show that everyone around the world are looking forward to. David had always expected that he would be sent home for every round they have to go through. Though there was so much about his insecurities, he let himself open to whatever the judges would tell about his every performance. He was hungry for a deeper advice that would help him improve his singing passion. For him getting into Idol means evolving into a better musician, to show to the audiences how much he loves music and to reach out and connect his personal feelings with others. It felt surprising to him by the way it seemed to affect others, such as his renditions of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Mariah Carey’s “When You Believe”. Then he discovered that he eventually had fans that called themselves “Archies” or “ArchAngels” and thinks it was funny and sweet.
When Idol finale came, he felt a rush of nostalgia as the season was almost wrapping up and a sense of relief that he thought that after the competition he could at least somehow return to normalcy. David was totally prepared that he wouldn’t win to David Cook because as he described him, was an amazing singer, an all-around musician and mature as a person. Although many people find it hard to believe, he wasn’t really into the competition side of things and didn’t know he’d be ready to face the responsibilities of being a winner. He was in Idol for music.
Cook did win the title as the winner of American Idol Season 7. But as David was thinking about having the chance to relax, a group of record label executives immediately approached him to sign for 19-E/Jive Records. When the show ended, he felt like someone had just pushed the fast forward button for him. It became clear that it wasn’t going to slow down anytime soon so all that he could do was to brace himself for what might happen next and reckon his blessings. There were more interviews, touring around the world and at the same time more recordings for the release of his debut album. Just as before his self-titled album was released, his single “Crush” came out and ended up at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the best chart debut in more than 18 months, despite all his doubts. All of the time he seemed bewildered how his life changed tremendously. His blessings just didn’t end there. He had two more albums, talked in front of large group of people for worthy causes, became part of the Haiti project, more international tours, plus three more albums despite the fact that he’s on his missionary duty until year 2014.
On the last four chapters, David tells us how he maintains his relationship with God, staying true to himself and dreaming on. For him, it’s important to continually remind himself of his original motivation for singing, something deeper, even more divine. Of course all of these happened had it not been for American Idol, which, he would never have done had he not reflected at first and surrendered humbly to the uncertainty and prayed to God. He believes that prayer is very powerful and faith always builds an unimaginable strength that aids him to step forward. Even his terrifying “vocal paralysis” diagnosis has turned into some kind of a miracle and a blessing when the doctor rechecked his vocal cords and told him that the damage is giving his voice a distinct sound. He believes that God is very powerful and can turn your fear into courage. He says:
“At first I needed the help of God to decide if I should take the first step to cross the bridge. Then I needed His assistance to actually cross the bridge. And finally, when I got to the other side of that bridge, it turned out that I needed Him the most.”
Even on the midst of fame, he had learned to say “no” on things that he probably shouldn’t be accepting especially if it doesn’t fit his personality even though that this and that could actually bring him to a larger world of stardom. He tells that “when we learn to and follow our “conscience”, which I believe to be the promptings from the Spirit, we feel truly happy.” To him, there are two kinds of success: success in the world’s eyes and success in God’s eyes.
Any amount of triumph cannot make a person’s life whole. To him, everything takes time and that life isn’t always pretty. We can actually make use of pain and hardship for “putting things into perspective”. He says that there’s no use of complaining and that we just have to enjoy the process and appreciate the beauty of everything we have done all the way, nevertheless of the result. David also advices that we should never “lose sight of who we really are”. The future can be a scary thing but nobody knows what lies ahead. Just as he said, “you just have to have a little bit of trust and a little bit of faith” and everything will fall into place.
“And remember, even when you can’t sing, you can always plant a tree”.
Indeed, there’s so much about David Archuleta than meets the eye. The book shows how he stays mature and optimistic, how beautiful he perceives life, how he upholds his strong commitment to his passion and keeps a close affinity to God, and how he keeps grounded despite all of the fame and financial success he has and still he’s getting. This book might just be the perfect tool to keep on inspiring others through David’s pure, sweet, and fascinating personality.