The message that we should all be able to love ourselves is the central focus of “Beautiful,” a new single out Tuesday from season 7 American Idol alum David Hernandez, who impressed the judges with a searing vocal on the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” That performance placed in the top 40 on Billboard’s ranking of the top 100 performances in Idol history.
Billboard talked to Hernandez about the origin and significance of his latest release and what American Idol means to him.
How did the song “Beautiful” find its way to you?
My booking agent and friend Stephen Ford knows a guy named Joe Fontaine, who became my manager. Joe also represents Mark Grilliot, a producer. Joe pitched a couple of songs to me, and “Beautiful” stood out. It was written by Adrian Newman, Stephen Werner and Ryan Stewart. Mark Grilliot co-wrote and produced it. A few months later, we were in the studio cutting vocals, and six months after that, we were shooting the video. It all happened pretty quickly. It was my first time working with Mark but definitely will not be the last, as we are in the studio finishing up a full-length album.
Why is the message of the song important to you?
The message is important to me because it came at a really pivotal time. Learning to love and embrace yourself can be quite challenging, depending on where you are in life. Being raised by a single parent and growing up in a somewhat tumultuous environment can stick with you as you grow. Those instability and self-esteem issues can really affect you. I wanted to remind everyone that even with all of your flaws and trials and tribulations, you’re still beautiful, inside and out.
The video really drives home the message. Who came up with the concept, and are the couples real couples or are they actors that were cast in the roles?
The video was an amazing process. I wanted to stay away from what people would normally expect, which was a traditional boy-meets-girl love story. I dug a little deeper and focused on what was going on in society today with all of the hate and shaming that we all face. I decided to cast different body types, ethnicities, sexual orientations, religious beliefs and ages in my video. I wanted to show how our differences make us beautiful and that we need to embrace that. I pitched the concept and my team made some suggestions, so it became a collaborative piece of work. Some of the people were cast and some of the people were friends who agreed to be a part of it for free. A few of the couples have actually been together for years, another couple had just started dating and the others are friends who we paired up. I also wanted to show self-love, which is why there were several single people cast as well. The message was clear to me at the end of it all. I wanted people to walk away with love and acceptance for each other. We all might be different, but we are all beautiful and there is room for everyone.
How do you plan to promote the single?
I am promoting the single as an independent artist. I hired a publicist, and along with my agent and manager, we are hitting all markets with the song and video. Radio is coming soon and the interviews have already started. There are some live TV appearances in the works and I hope to perform it acoustically.
Now that American Idol is over, when you look back on being a part of it, what did it mean to you?
The show meant everything to me! It gave me such an incredible platform to launch my career. I have been making music and touring for a living the last eight years, since I left the show. That is pretty impressive and I am thankful. It has been the catalyst for so many amazing artists and their careers. It taught me so much discipline, and out of it, I made many friends that are still in my life today. [Associate musical director] Michael Orland is a musical genius and [vocal coach] Debra Byrd taught me to trust myself. I was such a baby on that show and had no idea what I was doing. They really guided me in the right direction. American Idol couldn’t have been a better move for me.
Watch the video for “Beautiful” below: