How David Archuleta Unlocked His Most Vulnerable Music Yet, Starting With New Single 'OK, All Right': Exclusive

David Archuleta
Cyrus Panganiban

David Archuleta

Everyone's under a bit of stress in these uncertain times. But long before a global pandemic was the source of worry, David Archuleta was experiencing anxiety in several different forms.

On Thursday (March 26), the 28-year-old pop singer debuts his new single, "OK, All Right," which uncovers the internal struggle Archuleta has faced over the past few years -- but also, how he's managed to fight his demons. "It's fine, I'm fine, OK, all right," Archuleta chants in the spirited chorus, mirroring the reminders he gives himself when he's feeling down.

"OK, All Right" marks Archuleta's first release of 2020, the introduction to his forthcoming album due later this year -- and arguably, his most honest chapter yet. The Utah native says the entire project includes sonic juxtapositions similar to "OK, All Right": introspective lyrics that narrate the ups and downs of anxiety, matched with upbeat melodies that make you forget your worries.

"A lot of [the songs] are basically the conversation I had with myself, where I’m trying to move forward, but I’m fighting a lot of the worries and negativity that I feel towards myself," Archuleta tells Billboard, explaining that he often battles thoughts about how he's not good enough, both personally and professionally. "The fun aspects of the tracks are almost like, 'C’mon, you gotta laugh at yourself a little bit -- it’s a little ridiculous how you’re thinking. Don’t let it get to you.'"

Archuleta shared a similar message with his 2019 single "Paralyzed" ("I wake up to another day/ Another chance to get out of my own way," he sings in the song's first chorus), as well as some of the tracks on his 2017 album Postcards in the Sky. As Archuleta recognizes himself, though, his last project was more about helping others strengthen and validate themselves by finding their voice and getting the help they need. This time around, he wants fans to know, "This is what’s been going on with me."

The key component of Archuleta's journey to "OK, All Right" is therapy, as it helped him realize all of the stress and anger he had been internalizing. He's been doing sessions for the past five years, along the way becoming more comfortable with opening up about his mental health both in song and on stage.

"With Postcards, there was so much of my own story to tell," Archuleta says. "My management at the time was like, 'You’re talking too much -- you just need to sing, because that’s why people are coming to your shows.' But after [shows] I would ask [fans], 'What stood out to you?' And the majority of the time people would say, 'It was when you said this.' It was validating. That completely changed my career for me -- how I experienced shows, performing, singing and songwriting." 

Archuleta faced a similar limitation after he was on American Idol (he was runner-up to David Cook on season seven in 2008), which stunted his ability to be vulnerable through his music -- before he even really understood what that meant. "The label was like, 'Yeah, you sang these nice songs on American Idol, but we want you to be a pop star,'” he recalls. "I never fully processed that. I didn’t know what I wanted to say, because I didn’t have anything to say."

Now, Archuleta has more than enough to share with fans, and he's ready to connect with them on an even deeper level with his next LP. But as "OK, All Right" indicates, Archuleta is also ready to let go of his inhibitions by simply having fun with the music he creates -- something he's been longing to do since the beginning.

"When I first started [singing], all I knew was that I liked to sing, it made me feel good, and it made me feel understood," Archuleta says. "I’ve realized I still feel more fulfilled when I connect to why I started singing in the first place. I can have peace, I can have fun, but I can be honest -- and have the combination of all that, rather than just go after the catchiest, poppiest, trendiest thing. I just feel more relaxed, and back into who I am."

Listen to "OK, All Right," premiering on Billboard below.