Winter will officially begin at 5:22pm EST on Dec. 21. But for American Idol alum David Archuleta, it will arrive with the Nov. 2 release of his new Christmas album, Winter in the Air.
The holiday set, on Shadow Mountain Records, is Archuleta’s eighth album overall and second holiday release, following Christmas from the Heart in 2009.
“When we finished my first Christmas album, we were already talking about recording another one,” Archuleta tells Billboard. “There’s always a place for it because there are so many great Christmas songs.”
Archuleta has long been a fan of Christmas music. Growing up in Utah, his parents would take him and his siblings Christmas caroling. “I was doing that even before I could talk,” he remembers. “We’d sing ‘Feliz Navidad,’ ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas.’”
For Winter in the Air, Archuleta turned to some classic holiday tunes and co-wrote three originals. “I always wanted to record ‘Mary, Did You Know’ and I [had] wanted ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ on my first album. ‘Holly Jolly Christmas’ is one of my favorite Christmas songs. I usually listen to the Burl Ives version. For this album, I listened to Christmas albums by Michael Bublé and Nat King Cole. My producers’ goal was to get that sound with a big reverb board to capture the classic vibes of the ’50s and ’60s.”
While most Christmas albums are recorded in the summer in order to be ready for holiday season, Archuleta started work on Winter in the Air in January, while the weather was still cold in his new hometown of Nashville. “We had to cancel the original writing session because of a snow storm,” he says. When he rescheduled with songwriters Jeremy Bose and Cindy Morgan, they wrote what would become the album’s title track. “‘Winter in the Air’ was inspired by walking outside in the wintertime with the snow crunching under your feet,” he says.
Archuleta’s next writing session, with producer Cason Cooley and songwriter Isabeau Miller, was also cancelled because of an ice storm. But when they finally got together, they wrote “He Is Born,” one of the album’s more sacred songs. “I wanted to write a song honoring and praising Christ in his birth,” says Archuleta.
Auchuleta wrote the first single from the album, “Christmas Every Day,” with Cooley and Dave Barnes. “It was inspired by Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ and Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Underneath the Tree’,” he says. “Music usually comes out of me at a slow tempo but I wanted an uptempo song.” The song features backing vocals by fellow American Idol alum, Melinda Doolittle. “I had lunch one day with Melinda and Kris Allen. Then I ran into a couple of Melinda’s friends while I was salsa dancing, and then saw another friend of hers on an airplane. So week after week, Melinda was on my mind. When we needed background vocals, I thought Melinda would be up for it. It’s the first time I’ve had a friend do backing vocals for me.”
After sessions with Cooley, Archuleta headed back to Utah to work with producer John Hancock, who helmed his 2009 Christmas album. “John added a guitar loop to ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman’ and it felt very Latin to me so I started singing in Spanish.” That led to Archuleta recording Spanish versions of several songs, including “In the Bleak Midwinter,” which his aunt translated into Spanish after they failed to find a Spanish version. A four-song EP of the Spanish renditions will also be released, says Archuleta, “all thanks to John doing ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ with Spanish guitar.”
Archuleta will support the new album with a tour that begins Nov. 26 in Los Angeles and runs through Dec. 21 in Richfield, Utah. “I’ve always loved being on the road, ever since my dad took me to California when I was 11,” he replied. “When I’m out on the road, I get to interact with fans again. It’s different from the social media experience. You can see how music changes their demeanors.”
It’s been 10 years since Archuleta competed on season seven of American Idol as a 17-year-old, a decade where he’s grown from a boy to a man. “When I was on American Idol I was still in high school and was just getting to the beginning of adulthood. Now I’m an adult. I have found my voice and I say what I’m thinking. Taking that two-year break to be a missionary helped me gain independence. I was submissive before. Now I put more importance on myself. Ten years ago I didn’t know if I wanted a music career. I thought I was going to finish high school and college and then figure out what I was going to do for a living. Now I understand why I want to do music and where I want to take my life. I always handed things over to other people. Now I am the master of my own life.”
David Archuleta 2018 Holiday Tour
Nov. 26 — Los Angeles, Calif., Troubadour
Dec. 1 — San Bernardino, Calif.,Special Orchestra Show, California Theatre for the Performing Arts
Dec. 3 — St. George, Utah, Burns Arena at Dixie College
Dec. 4 — Grand Junction, Colo., Avalon Theatre
Dec. 6 — Mesa, Ariz., Mesa Arts Center
Dec. 8 — Logan, Utah, Logan High School
Dec. 10 — Provo, Utah, UCCU at UVU
Dec. 11 — Orlando, Fla., The Plaza Live
Dec. 13 — Franklin, Tenn., Franklin Theatre
Dec. 14 — Franklin, Tenn., Franklin Theatre
Dec. 15 — Athens, Georgia, Hodgson Concert Hall
Dec. 17 — New York, N.Y., Highline Ballroom
Dec. 18 — Fairfield, Conn., The Warehouse
Dec. 20 — Vernal, Utah, Vernal Middle School
Dec. 21 — Richfield, Utah, Sevier Valley Center Arena