Not only does David Archuleta’s dad claim he’s not the backstage terror that people have painted him to be, he says he wasn’t even familiar with the phrase “stage dad” until someone explained it to him recently. The “American Idol” front-runner’s dad — who was dubbed the “worst stage dad” by singer Naomi Judd, a judge on “Star Search” when a 12-year-old David performed on the show — told Us Weekly that he’s more like his son’s “music consultant.”
“First of all, I had to understand what the term meant,” said Jeff Archuleta, a small-business owner and musician from Salt Lake City . “When I think of ‘stage dad,’ I think of the overbearing parent who raises their kids to [compete] in every beauty pageant there is and puts them through a lot of dancing and singing and piano lessons. Once I understood what people thought of as a stage parent, I didn’t understand [why I was targeted]. I’m definitely involved with my son, and I encourage him, but I think that’s a lot different from forcing and threatening and all that stuff. There was absolutely no truth in any of the stories about me yelling at David, making him cry or withholding water from him. That was crazy!”
Admitting that as a musician he’s probably a bit more involved that most parents in his son’s career, Jeff said he sees himself as someone David can “bounce ideas off,” and who can lend an experienced hand to the song selection process. He added that when the two have time to sit down and chat, usually in the morning or at night, they discuss what song choices are available, and David asks for his dad’s input, sometimes calling his mom as well to get some feedback. “We have a family team that tries to help David feel good about his song choices,” Jeff told the magazine.
Though he thinks the “Idol” judges sometimes overreact to his son’s performances, he said they’re also “very instructive” at times and that he’s mostly fine with their criticism. He described his son as a “reluctant” singer who couldn’t understand why anyone would want to hear him sing when he was younger. “I think he was blessed with a musical ear that was so far beyond his years,” Jeff said. “His standard was set so high that he never has been able to live up to what he thinks he should sound like. As a result, he didn’t think other people would like to hear his voice, until he was about 10 or 11.”
He admitted to sometimes tearing up while watching David perform on “Idol,” even though he’s had years to get used to the sound of his son’s voice. The elder Archuleta told the magazine that he first realized David had talent when he was 4 or 5, when his mother taught him to play “The Little Drummer Boy” and a song from church on the piano. After the family moved to a home in Utah where there was no piano, Jeff was amazed when a 6-year-old David learned several songs from a video of the Broadway show “Les Misérables” that his dad had put on for the kids to watch while the adults unpacked. “When I came back, David had memorized several of the songs, complete with the Cockney accent,” said Jeff. “He was just belting out these songs, in tune, and I thought, ‘Wow, he’s really got a good ear.’ ”
From there, David got into other musicals, like “Evita,” before moving on at age 10 to songs by Celine Dion and Whitney Houston. “I started hearing that he was going after the runs and the licks that usually [only] the divas can do,” he told the magazine. “But he still didn’t want to sing much, so we just had to wait until he wanted to. Then when he did, we just tried to find opportunities for him.”
Without pushing him too much, Jeff said he and his wife entered their 10-year-old son into a talent competition. At age 12, he competed in “Star Search,” where he won in the Junior Singer division. What they also discovered in the ensuing years was that David was a talented songwriter as well, and now he’s got quite a few songs that he might want to record once “Idol” is over.
As for the most enduring mystery about David — the snapshot of a girl who host Ryan Seacrest said the singer was hoping to take to prom — Jeff said there is no truth to that story. “That was just something Ryan said,” he explained. “Someone must have said something just because there was a friend of his [there] who happened to be a girl. It wasn’t a girlfriend; she’s more like his sister.”
David has been to some dances, and if he could go to prom — an unlikely possibility, assuming he stays on “Idol” until the end — he would ask someone, but Jeff said his boy is more of a “group date” kind of guy. “David’s still very conservative about [dating], and he doesn’t see any rush with having to match up with a girl right now.”
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