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American Idol Vet David Archuleta Opens Up About ‘Miserable' Experience On Show, And Why He's Hesitant To Talk About It

David Archuleta appears on Good Morning America.
(Image credit: ABC)

In Season 7 of American Idol, 17-year-old David Archuleta wowed audiences with technically perfect performances that propelled him through the singing competition on the wings of America’s votes. But that season's road to the final two was not an enjoyable one for the entertainer. When Archuleta, now 30, looks back at his American Idol journey, he can’t help but feel conflicted about the show that boosted him into stardom but made him “miserable” in the process.

David Archuleta shed some light on how the 2008 singing competition changed his life in ways that definitely weren’t all for the better. For one thing, there were the highly publicized stories involving his overbearing father Jeff Archuleta, with the singer saying producers tried to make his dad appear like an “evil man.” And that's on top of other disturbing situations he allegedly experienced backstage. But still, David Archuleta is hesitant to blame American Idol for what he told Variety was a “traumatic” experience, because of what’s come from it.

I get afraid to blame things on American Idol, because something in me is programmed to say, ‘I have to be grateful, because where would I be without it?’ But at the same time, I’ve talked to other American Idol contestants about how we all have trust issues. Like: ‘You can’t trust anyone anymore, not even your own family.’ That’s what we were told. It was like some weird grooming process, from the very first audition, the way that they were speaking to us, kind of like, ‘You’re powerless little bugs. If you step out of line, then you’re out of here, and you’re going to lose this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’

David Archuleta’s recollection definitely does sound miserable, especially for a web-behind-the-ears teenager who wouldn’t have been privy to the inner workings of the music business, with or without psychological brow-beatings involved. Those contestants knew what was at stake in the competition, which would be super stressful for anyone, and if the staff members who were supposed to guide them really did stress the idea that they couldn’t trust anybody anymore — particularly their family — that would really make an already complicated situation more confusing. 

When it comes to Jeff Archuleta's problematic involvement, the Idol vet said his supposedly private conversations with the competition show's staff about it were leaked to the press in an effort to villainize his father, who was a consistent presence backstage with the teenager. And at some point during the season, Jeff was not allowed to attend show rehearsals with his son. From the latter's interview comments, it doesn’t sound like his experience was a lone example, either. Hopefully, American Idol contestants aren't having to worry about facing experiences like that anymore.

Despite the awful position of being stuck in the middle of the show and his father, combined with a rising level of fame, David Archuleta made it to second place that season on American Idol, losing to David Cook, and he continues making music today. He released an album Therapy Sessions in 2019, which he will finally be able to promote with a tour next year, with the original plans having been delayed by COVID.

American Idol is set to return for Season 20 with judges Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie and Katy Perry in February 2022 on ABC. Check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what else is coming up in the new year.

Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.