David Archuleta wants you to have a little faith in him. That’s the sentiment behind his brand-new single “Faith in Me.” The aptly titled ditty is unlike anything else in the American Idol runner-up’s discography: a giddy, uptempo rush that perfectly captures the butterflies that come with a new romance.
“Who cares what anyone else will say?/ No rules, no stops and only us/ We don’t have to stay here/ We don’t really have to take it slow/ Baby, you can put your faith in me,” he croons over churning synths and guitar on the ebullient chorus, proving he’s ready to take the leap if only the object of his affection will take his open hand.
That head-first attitude also reflects where Archuleta’s at in his life these days. Last year, he came out publicly as queer after spending the last almost fifteen years as one of the most prominent celebrity faces of Mormonism. The Church’s vehemently anti-LGBTQ doctrine was part of what kept him closeted for so long — and in the year since his coming out, he’s grappled publicly (and sometimes painfully) with that impossible dichotomy between the religion’s anti-gay stance and his own personal identity on social media and in the press.
The “Crush” singer’s new music video is the first time he’s fully channeled his queerness into his music, though — the visual starts with him receiving a flirty text and while the sender’s name is only identified by the letter “E,” it’s safe to say that the person on the other end of the line probably isn’t female.
“This is the first song I think I’ve released feeling like, ‘OK, I’m at terms with myself, I’ve accepted it, cool,” he tells Billboard during a visit to Utah, where he just spent the summer playing the title role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at regional theater Tuacahn Center for the Arts. “This is what it feels like when…I can just enjoy who I am. And I don’t have to feel like I’m a horrible, evil person just because of [being queer]. Maybe I can just be happy.”
Below, Archuelta opens up to Billboard about his new single, how pal and Glee alum Kevin McHale helped him navigate coming out in the spotlight, his changing relationship to his faith and more.
Congrats on “Faith in Me”! How does it feel to have the song out there in the world?
Thank you! I feel like I’m always so critical of what I release, ’cause I’m like, “Oh I could’ve done that different, mixed [that] differently…” But once I got over that phase and just saw how much my friends and my fans and my family all enjoyed it, I was like, “OK, all right, I don’t have to worry.’ And it’s fun. I don’t really release uptempo, energetic music. And the point of the song was to release something energetic that I could, like, jump around in my room to. I like songs that make me dance around my room and jump and [laughs] get a cardio in just from having fun with the song.
What was the inspiration behind the music video?
I wanted it to be a little more of an edgy video, but it didn’t turn out that way. But it’s fine. It’s still a lot of fun, because it captures that dancing around my room… Like, not caring that I’m dancing in the street, dancing in my room. But it’s also, like, going out of my house and going out in the street and not caring how ridiculous I may look to other people. I’m having a great time with myself and having fun… Dancing around. Get pushed into a pool by a dog. Which is my publicist’s dog, by the way. Stuff like that. [Laughs.]
Who did you work with on the video?
I think this is the fourth video I’ve done with my friends Justin Thorne and Kevin McHale. And it’s kind of fun, because Kevin was one of my only friends that I had that was out — that was, like, open and out with himself. And I feel like, because I grew up religious, I intentionally avoided that. Because I thought, “I don’t know if I should be around this because if I do, it might stimulate feelings that I shouldn’t have.”
But working with Kevin, I did a Christmas video with him of an *NSYNC Christmas song, I did a song called “OK, All Right.” He and Justin also did my “Beast” video, and now we did this one together. And it’s just fun. It’s fun working with people my age who are also performers. Justin and Kevin met through being in a boy band together.
Shout-out to NLT!
Yeah! Yeah, you know! So it was fun. And then Kevin also had to come out in a public setting. So it was kinda nice when I’d recently come out, I talked to him and I was like, “How does this work? I don’t really understand this, I don’t know much about this LGBT community and culture and what are expectations, how do you be… Like, can I still be myself while embracing this part of me?’
‘Cause when I was doing a bunch of these LGBT interviews suddenly — something I’d never done — a lot of them were asking me about, like, gay culture, things that I didn’t know! You know, I grew up in Utah, but also very conservative. I wasn’t around that, and a lot of these things I don’t know. Just because someone’s queer or LGBT doesn’t mean they really are part of this culture, necessarily. People were asking me what was my drop… kick move? Or like, what’s it called? Dead kick?
A death drop?
That! Yeah. And I was just like, ‘I’m not sure what that is… Am I supposed to [know]? I’m not sure.” [Laughs.] Some of my friends would be like, “So what kind of gay are you?” I’m like, “I…I don’t know.” They’re like, “What are you into? Oh, we’ve got to show you drag and stuff!” And I’m like, “I don’t know, I’m into anime… I like playing my phone games…” And they’re like, “Oh you’re a nerd. You’re a nerd [pauses] gay.”
And, like, I don’t even know what I am. I don’t really call myself gay. I know I’m David. I know who I’m into… So I think I’m still trying to figure myself out. But that’s why I just say “queer,” because that helps people know I’m not a heterosexual person.
But Kevin helped me be, like, you know what? You don’t have to feel like you have to go to these gay nightclubs and have to go to the gay drag things and stuff just to accept who you are. You don’t have to become something just to become it, just out of expectation. Allow yourself to become whatever it is naturally…That feels more normal to me. You know, I’ve been what I am all my life up to this point, I can’t just suddenly become something else. But I will allow myself to become whatever I become naturally. However long that takes, even if it’s not what people expect it to be, whether it’s from people who are from my religious background or it’s from people from the LGBT community.
So correct me if I’m wrong on the timeline, but is this the first song that you’ve released since officially coming out?
I’ve released two other songs. One was a song called “Movin'” I did last summer. I had already written it and recorded it and it was already produced…and then I came out. And then I released the song! And so that was interesting.
Then I released a song called “Beast” later last year. And that song was basically…I hadn’t come to terms with myself yet. But I was in a relationship with someone. And it kept going wrong, and I kept feeling these feelings of anger and resentment and bitterness and, like, it made me feel very hostile in the relationship that’s supposed to be a great relationship with a great girl. And then a few months later was when I came to terms with myself, but that song was basically talking about this turmoil I felt that I didn’t understand. So this is the first song I think I’ve released feeling like, “OK, I’m at terms with myself, I’ve accepted it, cool.”
Sounds like you’ve maybe gotten some distance from the turmoil you were feeling last year.
Yeah, it’s kinda like — this is what it feels like when you’re not in the turmoil and feeling like, “What is wrong with me?” You’re just kind of like, “Oh, maybe there isn’t something wrong with me and I can just enjoy who I am.” And I don’t have to feel like I’m a horrible, evil person just because of this. Maybe I can just be happy. And that’s kind of where I’m at with this release.
You also recently starred in your first musical as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat! How was that experience?
I was really nervous. I was afraid that it was going to be overwhelming. ‘Cause I had seen people in musicals in high school. Those were, like, my only close-up views of it, or like local community theater. And I thought, “This might be a little over the top for me, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to handle it.” ‘Cause I get very overwhelmed by stimulation. Like too many lights, too much energy… I think if it’s too loud, it’s just too much for me. But going into theater, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing! This is beautiful!”
It was really beautiful to be part of an art form that took a team. Like, we were all collaborating together to tell a story and I loved that. ‘Cause as a performer, I’m used to just being the one singer on stage for 90 minutes. But here I am now with 35 other performers plus an orchestra plus a children’s chorus in Joseph...There was like a hundred people! [Laughs.] But I loved it! I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it that much. I was really scared. I was like, “I can’t act, I can’t dance. And I don’t know how to get into a character.” But Joseph was the perfect first role to experience. It was just wonderful.
And the symbolism as well, with the technicolor dreamcoat. That’s not what the story’s about, but taking in this technicolor coat and embedding into yourself… I started the show in street clothes with a leather jacket. And then I go through this whole Bible story and at the end, I’m back in the street clothes but as I’m singing the last song, I open my coat and there’s that technicolor rainbow inside of my coat.
So it’s like I’m taking it and it’s a part of me now, and I’m embracing it and I’m moving forward. And it was just kind of beautiful for me, ’cause it’s been really hard for me to accept that I am part of the LGBT community — something that I was always told I needed to oppose before. And now I’m like, “You know what? It’s OK to allow this to be a part of me and move forward and see how much I’ve grown.” So I just really loved doing it. I loved the whole experience.
You’ve also been open on social media recently about some of the backlash and homophobic bullying you faced after starting the show. What made you decide to speak out about it?
I wanted to bring attention to it because I didn’t like that it was OK for them to speak like that. Like, “Oh, well, they’re not really being mean.” So I didn’t like that you can be passive-aggressive and shame someone, but it’s OK ’cause you did it in a nice way… I don’t know what you’re upset about. I was in a musical called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which is about a story in the Bible! And his coat has a lot of colors. And people thought I was posting something, like, LGBT-related when I posted about myself in the coat.
And I was like, “There’s no reason for you to be ‘disgusted’ by what I’m doing…” It’s not gay-related, but even if it was, what am I doing that’s so disgusting? If I was doing the exact same thing and hadn’t come out, you would be totally fine with this. So what’s the difference? If I was a straight guy — if I were Donny Osmond twirling in that coat — you would be totally fine with it. But because I came out, you are now disgusted with it. Because of what you think of gay people. I was like, “That’s not OK.” And I had to call it out.
I did a Live [on Instagram], and I had just put chili flakes on my pizza and so my lips get red. And I had people commenting, like, “Oh you’re wearing makeup now? You’re wearing lipstick? It doesn’t suit you.” Like, “Oh, how disappointing.” You guys are projecting your discrimination towards gay people onto me. I haven’t done anything, but you were looking for something to hate about me just because I came out. They’re like, “Something about him I don’t like. Oh! It’s because he’s wearing lipstick! Now I can be a bully to him. Now I can outwardly express that I don’t like that he came out because it looks like he’s wearing lipstick.” Guess what, I wasn’t! So why are you upset at me? What have I done to you? Why are people getting mad at me? [Laughs.]
And this happens a lot more than anyone cares to admit. So I had to call it out and I felt like a lot of people were able to check themselves and say, “You know what? This does happen and I usually just let it slide.” They think it’s OK for them to be mean like that, and it’s subtle so maybe I shouldn’t do anything. But I’m like, you know what? No. I don’t think subtle judgement towards gay people is OK. There’s nothing they’re doing that’s wrong. Nothing that is going wrong that’s affecting you. I’m not even doing anything gay, you’re just interpreting it that way. I don’t know, it was frustrating.
But despite that, it sounds like you might want to do more theater? Any Broadway ambitions?
Yes! I get nervous because I feel like Joseph is not too demanding of a role. It’s not complex with its acting. It’s, like, all singing, which I love about Andrew Lloyd Webber, it’s all singing… Whereas in other musicals, I’m intimidated, but I’m also excited. I don’t know what role. Several of the cast members [in Joseph] were like, ‘You should be Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors sometime!’ I would love to be Marius in Les Miserables. I would love to do more.
First, though, you just announced that you have a Christmas tour coming up. Are you excited for that?
I’m, like, torn. It’s bittersweet. I love Christmas. At the same time, it’s hard for me because Christmas has always meant something to me. Coming from a very religious aspect, I was very religious. Hardcore. And all of this has really shaken up my experience with it. ‘Cause it was always my foundation, it was my rock, it’s what kept me safe. And since I’ve come out and people know that about me, I feel exposed. And people don’t look at me the same.
Christmas is about light and hope and love and all of that being born into the world… And it’s very difficult for me, because I always had a spiritual spin on my shows before. I incorporated that so much. It’s very difficult for me. I thought this was my safe place before, and this is what I was rooted in, and it’s really difficult.
I still have fun with Christmas music. It’s nostalgic, it’s beautiful, it’s filled with light and Christmas lights and it’s a beautiful time of year. There’s still a magic in the air, but it’s gonna be difficult for me. Because if you’ve been to my Christmas shows, I know this is what you experienced before. That’s not where I’m at now. I’m trying to figure this out and I feel like everything’s kind of up in the air right now. I’m afraid of what people are going to think of me. ‘Cause I’m not going to be as religiously planted as I was before.
You know, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was my everything. I did everything for it, I sacrificed so much because that was my number one. I was like, ‘This is more important than my career, than any relationship I could have, this is the number one thing.’ And now I’m just kind of, like, thrown for a loop. And most of these shows are in Utah, so I guess I just have to be honest with them like I always have. Like, I was honestly, genuinely in love with my beliefs before. And now I just have to be honest with, like, “You know what? This is where I’m at. I’m in a limbo state now.”
But how do I incorporate the David Archuleta Christmas show now? I have to accept that it’s going to be different than before. And I just hope that people will accept that as well. That they will come along with me on my journey.