"I think he deserved it so much. He just proved it week after week that he deserves to be the American Idol," Archuleta told reporters during a Friday conference call. "My main priority wasn't to win the competition. It was just to do my best, because you can suck and people can vote enough for you to win. That wouldn't feel very good."
Cook won Idol's seventh-season after "97 and a half million" home viewer votes were cast immediately following Tuesday night's live performance broadcast that saw both finalists each sing three songs.
The 17-year-old from Murray, UT was defeated by a 56% to 44% home viewer voting margin, or roughly 12 million votes.
"I think we both gave it our all -- we poured it all onto that stage on Tuesday night," Archuleta told reporters.
"We both feel really great about it. I don't think I could have done anything better or changed anything to make me feel any better about what I did. Not winning the competition won't limit me from trying to create an album and write. I think this has just been a great opportunity to open all those doors that weren't open and available before this all happened. To make it to the Top 2, I don't think there's any reason to be disappointed in that."
Despite not being disappointed, Archuleta explained post-finale comments he made about feeling a sense of "relief" that his Idol journey was over.
"On Tuesday night I tried to make sure I didn't regret anything I did, and I think I did that. It's just such a relief to feel good about what I did and the fact that that was the last impression I gave on the show," Archuleta told Reality TV World. "The competition is all over. Now it's time to really focus on music."
Archuleta said he also felt relieved because competing on Idol isn't exactly a walk in the park.
"Since the whole thing has lasted so long, we hadn't been living at home since the beginning of February. That's how long we've been working every week for each performance, having to compete -- even though I tried not to really look at it as competing against other people more than against myself," he told Reality TV World. "As the weeks went on, we had more songs each week to have to learn along with other things. With this final week, it was busiest of all. It was hard to even find time to rehearse, along with school and everything else going on."
However it's not as though Archuleta had never competed in a reality series competition before, as he was a Star Search contestant at the age of 12.
"They're both competitions and they both require you to edit songs and try to show as much as you could during that small amount of time on stage," he said. "They're both so different and so similar at the same time... Being 12, I was still so new to it all. I was just the little soul kid who's into soul and R&B music."
Archuleta added he also never really fully accepted that he belonged on Star Search.
"When I was little, I didn't think I even deserved to be on Star Search," he said. "I didn't think I was good enough. I was confused that I kept going on. I was such an airhead -- well I'm still such an airhead. But I was just like, 'I don't get why I'm still here? The people I'm going against are better than me.'"
Since then, Archuleta said he has come to "understand myself better" and added Star Search did pay dividends for Idol.
"It just helped me to really keep focused. I understand that it takes a lot of work to do these kind of things, to be able to do what in that small amount of time," he said. "But this show fortunately allowed more time since it lasted longer. It just allows you to prepare for the short edit of the song."
Despite his previous Star Search appearance, Archuleta apparently doesn't like the limelight very much. He said he's always "hated" having his picture taken and would constantly "run away from cameras."
"I hate looking at myself. I still really don't like looking at pictures of myself," he told reporters. "I never watched myself on the show. I would do something else when the show was on and my family was watching it. I can't stand hearing my voice."
Needless to say, Archuleta explained becoming comfortable with the camera "just kind of slowly happened."
"Each week you get a little more comfortable in-front of the cameras," he said. "Well, each time you're on stage you kind of forget that anything's there just because you get so into the song and you want to make sure that you really express what you wanted to with the song."
Expressing the emotions of a song is a big part of why Archuleta said he enjoys singing, and he was happy that the Idol judges commended him when he was able to do it.
"When they mentioned the fact that they could feel that I was connecting with the song -- and that they could feel it too -- means a lot to me," said Archuleta before adding he also took the negative comments, which for him were few and far between.
"When they have advice to give too, it helps a lot -- even the smallest of advice -- just because any piece of advice wants me to do better It's great when people let you know what you can work on. You can't do better when you're not aware of the things you can work on."
Archuleta said his best piece of advice came from -- of all places -- Paula Abdul.
"Something Paula said was just to really enjoy being on the stage," he said. "That just reminded me this is the chance of a lifetime and having every week to be able to perform for so many people each week -- be able to share what you love to do. It was a time when it was getting pretty rough, and she just said to remember to enjoy. She's right. This is such a great opportunity. I just had to remember to stay away from getting to technical with singing and remember to have fun up there."
Archuleta presumably had a large fan base to aid his Idol run since he was never among the bottom vote-getters, and he told reporters he appreciated the support from everyone who voted for him.
"To the people who've been supporting me so much, I just want to thank them first of all. It means more than anything to know that people are appreciating the hard work that we put into this. I want them to know that I'm feeling great about it," he said. "I don't think it really has hit me that there are really fans out there for me. It's just such a weird thought to think. But I do think of it more as people who have appreciated what I've done."
Those who appreciated Archuleta showed their support throughout Idol's seventh season, sending him numerous letters.
"A lot of people use the word 'inspire' in their letters," he said. "I just thought that was really cool, the fact that I was able to do that with my music. It wasn't just, 'I'm obsessed with you. Marry me. You're so hot.' It was just the fact that people were able to feel what I was trying to give off as I sang. It's one of the coolest feelings ever."
"I hadn't really heard much of it until later on. I tried to stay away from the press," said Archuleta. "[My dad] understood that I didn't like to hear anything about me in the news -- good or bad -- just because I didn't want it to distract me or let it go to my head. I just wanted to stay myself and how I was at the beginning of the competition, before all this happened. I just wanted to keep who I was, the normal teenage David."
However Archuleta wasn't able to avoid media reports about his dad being overbearing, as it "started coming up" in interviews as Idol dwindled down.
"It was just kind of strange because they're really weird things," said Archuleta about the rumors. "I heard one thing was that he refused to give me water. That's the weirdest thing. I'm 17. If I want water, I'm pretty sure I'd just go get it. Then another thing was he made me cry during one of the recording [sessions]. Just weird things like that. I'm old enough to have enough control over myself."
Not surprisingly, Archuleta defended his dad.
"He's a great guy. There isn't really anything he's done that's bad -- like the things that have been spoken about him," he told reporters. "My whole family has been such a great support, and they're the ones who kept me grounded and allowed me to be who I am today. No one understands what I'm here for more than they do. They get what I love about music and how it's changed my life. They've witnessed what it's done for me, so they understand what I want to do while I'm here."
Archuleta was definitely the darling of young female viewers, but he said that he's at a point in his life where he's not looking for a relationship.
"I think now it's time to really focus on making and album and writing songs and all that. I just feel like being 17 I'm not really mature enough to understand those feelings yet," he told reporters.
"All the drama, I just don't want to deal with all the drama right now. I just want to be able to focus on music. When I feel like I've met a girl who has a great personality and is someone I can connect with and has really good standards for themselves and respect for themselves, someone who cares about others as well. It's just something I definitely want to focus on later on in life when I'm ready."
"She was one that I spent a lot of time with because of school -- both her and [fellow semifinalist Alaina Whitaker]. We just all bonded and got really close and all understood each other because we had school along with everything else going on," said Archuleta. "She's someone that I just got along with really quickly in the competition for some reason."
When Lushington's ouster was revealed, Archuleta was caught crying and sharing an embrace with her.
"It was hard to see her leave. It was so unexpected for me," he said. "I thought I was handling it pretty well until she started singing the song, which is, 'If you leave me now...' I'm like, 'Oh my gosh. How ironic.' I was little embarrassed because I was crying on TV. But it was hard. I couldn't help it. Even though I was embarrassed, I couldn't hold it back."
Since he's just finishing his junior year in high school, Archuleta said he plans on continuing his education and hopes he can balance it with music.
"I'd like to keep trying to do school while I work on music. That's kind of what I've been doing during the show -- everyday I still had to do school, even after this interview I have to go to school," he told Reality TV World with a laugh. "I think school's really important. It was my main priority before this because I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get anywhere with music, but I was still hoping for something."
Archuleta said he'll probably follow in the footsteps of Idol sixth-season champ Jordin Sparks.
"I think home school is a good idea," he said. "I've probably home-schooled for half of my life, so it's not anything new to me. If that does come up where I have to do that, then that's something I'm up for."
Even if his music career takes off, Archuleta still stressed the importance of an education.
"If music does turn out to go somewhere for me, you never know how long it will last. So I just want to make sure I have something to back me up on that," he said. "I want to do music all my life, I just don't know if I'll be able to make a living off it for the rest of my life. So I'd like to have something else to be able to do."
As for what career path he's considering, Archuleta said he's constantly changing his mind but thinks he might have settled on something.
"Lately what I find really interesting is an ear, nose and throat doctor -- which I know would take a lot of work and education," said Archuleta. "But I think it's something that really interests me because it's something that helps people who've had the same problems as me with hearing and nose congestion and problems with your voice. It's just something I can really relate to people with."
But first and foremost, Archuleta is thinking about his debut album.
"I'd love to still do the pop thing," he told reporters. "I'm still a teenager. On the show, I was getting a little mature with my songs -- even though I love to do that stuff. But I still want to be able to relate to kids my age. I like pop music but I still want to have meaning in my music. So I could do some fun stuff along with songs that have more meaning in them."
(Photo credit Fox)
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