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HOME > American Idol > American Idol 7

David Archuleta's dad: I'm his 'musical consultant,' not a 'stage parent'

By Christopher Rocchio, 04/24/2008 

Jeff Archuleta doesn't deny that he's involved with his son David's singing career, but he considers himself as more of a "music consultant" than an overbearing stage dad.

"First of all, I had to understand what the term meant. 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," Jeff told Us Weekly in an interview published Wednesday.

"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."

David was a Star Search contestant in 2003 and since he's become an American Idol seventh-season finalist, Jeff's demeanor when his son was a Star Search contestant has been questioned and included reports that he was banned from the Star Search set for attempting to intimidate another contestant.

Last week, Naomi Judd said she encountered Jeff when David was serving as a Star Search judge and commented that Jeff "is like the worst stage dad."  In addition, Jeff reportedly brought David to tears after yelling at him about his son's arrangement of "We Can Work Out" during an Idol recording session.

"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!" Jeff told Us.  "Because I'm also a musician, I'm probably a little bit more involved. I kind of look at it like, 'I'm David's music consultant' -- someone he can bounce ideas off, who can help him because I do have a lot of experience."

Jeff added he's never been tempted to confront the Idol judges about their comments -- including when Simon Cowell insinuated that Jeff was responsible for selecting "You're the Voice" for David during the Top 10 performance episode.  David subsequently denied Cowell's statement and said he chose the song himself.

"They're entitled to their opinions," Jeff told Us about the judges.  "Sometimes they overreact, but at other times, they've been very instructive. Most of the time I'm fine with them."

Jeff did admit that he and David to discuss song selection.

"He'll ask me what I think, and I'll ask him what he feels good about, and we'll arrive at a consensus," he told Us.  "Sometimes he'll call his mom up and get her input. We have a family team that tries to help David feel good about his song choices."

Jeff said all the work that goes into preparing David for weekly performances is worth it when he sees his son perform.

"It's hard to describe in words. Definitely a lot of emotions come across me; certain songs really hit me right to the core," he told Us.  "When David has a great performance, it's very easy to shed a tear or two."

In addition to discussing his own involvement in David's Idol journey, Jeff also provided some insight on the seventh-season finalist that Cowell and Randy Jackson have constantly characterized as the "one to beat."

"He's a reluctant singer. When he was young, he just couldn't understand why anyone would like hearing him sing," Jeff told Us.  "I think he was blessed with a musical ear that was so far beyond his years. 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."

Jeff said he first realized David's talent around the age of 4 or 5 when his mom taught him to play "Little Drummer Boy" and a church song on the piano.

"He played very well, but he was very shy and didn't really sing much," Jeff told Us.  "When we moved from Florida to Utah when he was 6, we didn't have a piano. I gave him a video to listen to one day just to keep him and his little brother busy while my wife and I were unpacking. He listened to this video of [Les Miserables] literally the entire day. When I came back, David had memorized several of the songs, complete with the Cockney accent. He was just belting out these songs, in tune, and I thought, 'Wow, he's really got a good ear.'"

Over the next couple years, Jeff said David became a musical buff -- watching videos and singing songs from his favorite shows.  From there, Jeff said David eventually started learning Celine Dion and Whitney Houston songs -- which was even more impressive to his father.

"I started hearing that he was going after the runs and the licks that usually [only] the divas can do," Jeff told Us.

Still, Jeff said his shy son was still reluctant to sing until he eventually became comfortable with his voice.

"We just tried to find opportunities for him," Jeff told Us.  "We never were the type of parents who had him be in every talent show. He was in one talent competition when he was 10, and the next one he was in was Star Search. He did very well. He had just turned 12 and ended up winning his particular division, Junior Singer. Obviously, he realized then that people like to hear him sing, and it gave him more confidence. The best thing was the feedback from people -- that's been David's motivation. He thought, 'Wow, if I can make people feel good through my singing, then I feel good singing.' That's what he thrives on."

While Jeff said he has "no idea" how the Archuleta family will celebrate if David were to win Idol, there's apparently already some material for his first album.

"He has written some songs, and they're more like the songs that you'd probably want to record when Idol's over," Jeff told Us.  "He's a very talented songwriter as well. When David was on Star Search, we talked with some record labels, entertainment attorneys and producers to get advice. All of them pretty much verbatim said, 'Have him learn to play an instrument... have him learn to write.' But at that age, David was still really too young to write. When he was 14, he started writing a little bit. Over the last couple of years, he's written some really nice songs, and he's continued to work on the piano. He started to play the guitar about a year ago."

Jeff also took the opportunity to debunk Idol host Ryan Seacrest's insinuation that a young girl seated next to Jeff during a March 25 performance episode was David's girlfriend.

"That wasn't accurate at all -- that was just something Ryan said," Jeff told Us.  "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."

While that might young girls across the country swoon, Jeff said David isn't exactly ready to start dating yet.

"He's the type of kid who will go on group dates. He'll get five or sic guys, they'll ask a bunch of girls who are friends and all go together as a group," Jeff told Us.  "David's still very conservative about [girls], and he doesn't see any rush with having to match up with a girl right now."

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