The Good Guy: David Archuleta Proves Why Being Nice Is All Sorts Of Cool

Making a strong case for the troubled good guy construct, David Archuleta proves why being nice won’t make you finish last. In fact, in this day and age, it makes you really, really cool.

Related: Silence Is Not An Option For Nico Tortorella

We don’t quite get it ourselves, but somehow, the good guy has accumulated a bad rep, especially where the Internet population is concerned. Ironic as it may be, firing up a Google search on the nice guy construct will be flooded with hits all concerning the appendage “finish last.” The definitive warm, compassionate, sensitive, and vulnerable man isn’t exactly what is deemed as cool these days. In fact, there have been accusations of it being thinly veiled ploy to get what they want. But here’s where it becomes problematic: What is so inherently wrong with being nice? Have we become so hurt and jaded enough to believe that kindness is overrated? Or conversely, why are we still commiserating an age-old dictum on masculinity that has long held us back?

The old geezers of society have long convinced us with the delusion that the man should be brusque, stoic and hard-hearted. Anything other than these tenets of the binary are considered straying from the assigned norm, making it quote-unquote uncool. However, as society moved forward in time, there rose a pervading consciousness that there isn’t a strict definition to masculinity. From the front lines of the long-standing discussion, valiant men have made great, noteworthy strides in shaking off the ridicule of an archaic perception, subsequently liberating boys coming-of-age from the shackles of the past, later on breaking down the barriers of stereotype as we know it. It is a long, long way to go until we reach an ideal equilibrium, but at least the discourse is engaged. It can only get better from here on out, especially where David Archuleta is concerned.

Black leather biker jacket by BALMAIN x H&M and black zip-down top by RAJO MAN

Once groomed to be a “white” Chris Brown (whatever that even means), the American Idol alum and arguably honorary Filipino struggled with finding his identity in the music industry. Yes, his voice was (and still is) distinct in its breathy, reverb-charged quality, but he was being forced into a box that wasn’t natural to him. “This is what will sell more,” he was assured, and so he relented. But as he was living the dream as we know it from the surface level, there existed a gaping void in his soul. Things weren’t just enough; He wanted something more out of the music.

So, he searched, far and deep, coming into his own eventually with a renewed purpose and an unapologetic sense of self. Straying away from is typical; David Archuleta continues to make a strong case for the unerringly nice. This vigor has seen him partnering with organizations here and abroad with a greater resolute to make a difference. Since then, he has made music with more meaning, lyrically as well as visually, which he has shared with his adoring audience all over the world. In the Philippines, he has struck a partnership with the Mabuhay Deseret Foundation, the largest surgical charity in the Philippines, facilitating free operations per year to correct medical conditions such as cataracts, crossed eyes, cleft lip and palate, burn contractures, post-polio and club feet for the poor, by mounting a holiday benefit concert that also introduced his Christmas album, Winter In The Air. “If I get to reach even at least one person, especially with my music and affect change, then that gives sense to what I do,” he says.

Black cropped blazer and wide-legged trousers both by RAJO MAN, white turtleneck by H&M and suede sneakers by CONVERSE

Since the debut of his self-titled album 10 years ago, he is still here, weathering and withstanding the tempestuous nature of the entertainment industry. Without a shred of resentment to him, he is still sprightly and spirited, being debilitatingly nice and incredibly kind, despite what others have to say about it. “I’m David,” he argues. “This is who I am.” With a lot more goals and dreams carefully hung on the horizon of possibility and opportunity, David Archuleta is consistently and maybe almost single-handedly brandishing his sense of awww shucks good to tame the unforgiving precedent for all the guys like him. So much for a nice guy finishing last, right? See, the good guys aren’t so bad after all.

Read the rest of the exclusive one-on-one interview with David Archuleta below:

Black textured jacket by RAJO MAN and black denim jeans by BENCH

We couldn’t believe it ourselves, but your debut self-titled album turned ten years old this year. What does it feel like to have that form of permanence in music?

I can’t believe it’s that old already. Yeah, it is like a child and to see how it has grown? Because at first, I was like, what am I Doing? I hope people like this music, and now ten years later, people are still like it and singing Crush. Wow, it blows my mind that music can last. And I’m grateful that I made music that can last, because I thought, people will forget about this in a few years. You know, people move on. But now, people still like it. It is cool.

What is it like navigating this career and industry, especially for someone who has had a start at a young age?
Yeah, I feel like I’m still trying to find my own, trying to figure it out. But I feel like I’m not afraid to try and be myself, whereas before, I always felt like I had to someone else. I thought, I had to be cool, to be edgy, and to be hip. Because that’s what they told…I was told to be the white Chris Brown. And I mean, I tried a little bit, but it wasn’t going to work, because I’m not Chris Brown. I’m David. So, I felt like I was a failure because I couldn’t be cool, I couldn’t be what it takes to be successful. And so, I was like, Okay, I’m just going to be myself and enjoy that for as long as it lasts. But I guess I’m not cool, so I won’t last very long. But I’m still here and I’m grateful for that.
How important is it for you to be able to help or make an impact, such as holding benefit concerts and the like? What is your goal or purpose with your music?
 Well, if I can’t give back then for me, there’s no point in it. Whether it’s my life, getting to do a benefit concert and work with organizations, or just being able to go and visit my neighbor, check in on her. With music, it’s the same.  If I can’t give back with what I’m doing, and if it’s doing whatever it takes to be important or special, I don’t know, it loses that magic and savor. I feel like that’s how I’m most fulfilled and successful. Being the person who can give back and make someone’s life a little better, then I’ve fulfilled my mission and purpose in life.
Black textured jacket by RAJO MAN and black denim jeans by BENCH

How did this partnership with the Mabuhay Deseret Foundation come about?

So, they reached out and invited me, and I saw the familiar word—Deseret. It’s a term we use in church for the honeybee and the way the hive works together so they can create something sweet, [further showing] that there is power when we come together. I know their work ethic, and I always love organizations that help kids. I just love kids, and if I can help them get a good start to life? That’s awesome; because sometimes kids don’t have parents or maybe their parents aren’t to help them, motivate them or believe in them…give them a future. Or maybe they have illnesses and they need help? Okay, I’ll help—however I can. I’m glad that we can do a concert that it’s not about me or how much I can gain from this. I love that feeling. I’m doing this to pass it on to someone else.
What does music mean to you?

To me, music is language; it’s expression; it’s connection. You can help people understand things through music, especially like me, that you can’t through words. In just a few seconds of a song, you can be deeply connected to the listener. And I love that power. It can be happiness, sadness, anger, laughter…you can express all that in music and people will feel that. [My challenge is] how can I use this to the best way that I can. It’s not about how many people, but instead of doing whatever it takes to get as many people to listen, it’s not worth it to me if I can’t connect.

What for you keeps you centered and focused despite the noise that is part and parcel of the industry?

Something very important to me is personal time. I make sure I have time every day to pray, to meditate. Whether you’re religious or not, spirituality is important. There’s a spiritual nature to us that is more than our bodies, and you have to connect to that. If you try to keep yourself busy all the time, you never hear your spirit, what it is trying to tell you and what you need. Something inside of us knows what we need, and if we ignore it, we start feeling depressed. And it’s very easy to get anxiety by listening to all the other voices and comparing ourselves thinking: ‘I’m never going to be good enough’ or ‘How do I keep up?’ Sometimes you need to take a step back or take a social media fast. I get caught up, too. A few days, a week, or even a month and it was like, ‘There I am. I can hear myself again.’

Even if I have a few minutes, I’ll say a prayer, give thanks and just say, ‘God, what do you need me to see today? What do I need to learn about myself today?’ It’s easy to put yourself down, but through prayer, it can easily helps you look at yourself in a positive way.

With what you’ve attained at your young age, does it scare you that in the current currency of show business, that this all might be taken away from you? What do you do to make sure that you keep at this pursuit and journey of yours?
 I do get a little scared, because I do care what other people think? Will they think I’m a disappointment if I don’t meet their expectations? If I don’t continue to be as famous as they think I should be? But at the same time, I put that to challenge when I went on a mission and took a break. That was scary, because I was like, what are people going to think of me? Are they going to forget about me? But you know what, I did it. I took a step away and went to a place where no one knew who I was, and I found happiness that I didn’t have before. What I thought I needed to keep me happy was that I needed to get rid of to get happier.

I guess I might be a little bummed if it all ends, but at the same time, I know that I’ll keep giving my best. As long as i keep at it working hard, I’ll be happy. Whether everyone forgets about me or people know more about me ten years later, either way, I’ll be happy.

Black cropped blazer by RAJO MAN and white turtleneck by H&M
Is this what you want to be doing for the rest of your life? What are the other dreams that you want to tick off your list in the years to come? What else can we expect from you?
Well, I’ve seen the power and influence of music, it hasn’t gone away. So, I want to keep connecting with people. I do have goals. You can call them temporal or worldly goals, but I want to connect with people in Europe, more of Asia, and South America…just everywhere. But I don’t want to do just whatever it takes. It’s such a theme that I hear a lot in the entertainment industry, do whatever it takes, even sacrificing everything you have just to make it. But why? Maybe I don’t have to do whatever it takes, or throw everything of who I am just to become famous. I want to connect with everyone, but maybe in a way where people say, ‘Oh, you cannot do it like that because it’s cheesy or uncool.’ It’s a challenge, because maybe I can, I can try it. I can make good, popular music, but it has a message. I want to try that challenge, you know?

What is that singular piece of advice that you would give other young kids or even older people when it comes to pursuing their dreams?

It’s one of the biggest compliments when there’s a kid that wants to be like you, because they’re in their years where they are shaping who they are, molding their identities, and what they’re going to grow up to become. And if they are using you as a model, that’s such a huge honor, because that kid is important, too. For me, I take that seriously. You know, I like to respect myself, but I like to respect other people as well. One time, we were doing a video for one of my songs about love, and the proposed treatment was a party where everyone is passing out. I argued that it shouldn’t be like that, because if other people see that, they will think it’s okay. They might go and say, ‘Oh, David Archuleta is doing that? Maybe I should do it, too.’ I don’t even do that in real life, why should I portray that in a video for more hits? In the end, I wanted it to show different kinds of love, like someone helping another out. Whoever watched it, I don’t know, they learned something. And if that’s the difference I can make, then I did my duty and I’ve lived my purpose. It brings me joy and it makes happy to do it.

Styling and creative direction ANGELO RAMIREZ DE CARTAGENA
Special thanks to NIKO PEDRO and MAUREEN MANUEL