I had the opportunity to participate in a media call with David Hernandez, the first eliminated contestant on American Idol. He had lots to say about the show and where he hopes his career takes him. I was able to ask a few questions and those are highlighted in red.
One of the ironies was that youíre the guy that took the Beatles course and Lennon and McCartney week was the week that finished you there.
D. Hernandez: Yes.
Was there anything that you picked up from the course that was helpful, or was there anything that you learned from the last couple of days how Lennon and McCartney music is maybe a little tougher on people than you thought.
D. Hernandez: You know, with the Beatles, and them being so legendary, itís really tough to cover them. Like itís hard to cover a Whitney or a Celine or a Luther song. Itís very challenging, and people almost have already set in their minds how they want the song to sound, so itís hard to change it and make it your own. In that aspect, that wasnít my first choice, however. My first choice was ďLet It Be,Ē but that was already taken. The course there was a next alternative, and, in my eyes, I did the best I could, and I made it my own. If I look back at my performances, Iíve been actually pretty consistent with my style. Iím R&B influenced, and I can look at the total package and be like Iím really proud of that.
The course really was more of an elective course, and doesnít necessarily mean that, just because I took the course, I was going to sing the song any better. Do you know what I mean?
What are your career plans short-term and long-term.
D. Hernandez: Well, right now, at the moment, Iím getting ready to do a bunch of press. Iím going to be on Ellen and The Today Show, and then Iím actually going to shop around a record deal. Iím actually looking for labels that are interested in me right now. I would like to have an album release within the next year, and then definitely other options like Broadway. Iím definitely keeping my mind open to all that kind of stuff. I would love to do Broadway, but, more importantly, and top of everything, I definitely want a record out within the next year. So, thatís my long-term goal, because Iíve been singing for awhile, and thatís just one of my passions. I mean, that is my passion.
With all the news floating around the past couple of weeks, do you feel like thatís been a distraction to you in any way, or have you managed to block it all out?
D. Hernandez: You know, I did a pretty good job of blocking it all out, as you probably saw on TV. I actually watched my performance back from Tuesday night and I was very happy with my stage presence and everything like that. It was just unfortunately not the best song selection in the judgesí eyes, and America voted. No, actually, Iíve been staying away from the Internet and the TV. If this is the worst thing that comes out of my career, then Iím pretty set to go. Do you know what I mean?
D. Hernandez: This has actually been really good for me, because Iíve learned how to have a thick skin and still be able to get on stage and perform for 35 million people.
What would have been the next Beatles song you would have sung if you had had the chance to get that opportunity?
D. Hernandez: You know, I looked through the list and probably ďYesterdayĒ would have been a really good one.
That would have been great.
D. Hernandez: Yes, it would have been good with the guitar. No, itís a great song, but it would have been amazing to tackle with all of that. I think my voice would have been really great on that song.
You probably havenít seen much on-line coverage, but weíve been hearing that David Archuleta has been having some issues, and there was some conflict between him and his father. We wondered if you wanted to comment on that.
D. Hernandez: Actually, Iím not really here to talk about any other of the contestants. If you want to ask me a question about anything pertaining to my career, thatís totally fine.
What did you guys talk about afterwards? Were you really happy for her?
D. Hernandez: Absolutely. There have been a lot of things in the works for me right now. Iím actually going to shop a record deal and hopefully, have a record out within the next year, and Kristy is a really talented girl, and sheís such a sweetheart. She and I still keep in contact. Weíre going to keep communicating and hopefully, her and I in the future, maybe weíll do a collaboration or something.
I noticed right after you were eliminated you said wow. Was that just the natural shock, or were you genuinely surprised? What was going through your head?
D. Hernandez: I was genuinely shocked. I really didnít think that I would be going home. Honestly, based on all the things the judges had said about my vocals, I thought that I would definitely be in the bottom three, but I didnít feel like I deserved to go home. But, everything, as I said, happens for a reason, as I said on the show. But yes, when I said wow, I was genuinely wow.
D. Hernandez: I was definitely shocked, but Iím very happy. There are probably a lot of doors that are going to open with this one closing.
The majority of people felt that it was Kristyís time to go. Why do you think sheís still there and youíre not?
D. Hernandez: Let me just put it to you this way. The competition right now is so intense, everybody can sing, that there is nobody thatís safe right now. Vocals, theyíre very important, but I think that, at this point, song selection is very important for people. So, I canít really say why it was my time to go, or why so-and-so stayed, but I can say that, at this point, Iím going to keep on shopping for a record deal. I hope that labels out there get in contact with me that are interested. Currently Iím unemployed, so I would love for any opportunities to come my way.
Do you think there are other factors involved? Do you think people are voting for Kristy maybe because they like country music better?
D. Hernandez: No, not at all. I actually I think the way that everything is happening now is based on song selection, and some people have bigger fan bases, and some people donít. It just really depends on the voting. I think that I canít really speculate why I went, but I think that it was my time to go regardless, and Iím grateful for the opportunity.
Now that you have a taste of the fame, and you know what direction you want to take your career in, what sort of role model do you see yourself being and what sort of person do you want to inspire with your career?
D. Hernandez: Since I was a little kid, Iíve always been touched by music, so I would like to touch people with my music as well. I write my own stuff, and Iím shopping a major deal right now. Hopefully, I can get signed very soon and have a record out within the next year.
Basically, as far as role modeling is concerned, of course, I would like to inspire people, but I can only be me, and I can only do with it whatís within my capacity. Singing, thank God, is something I was blessed with, so I would like to basically reach out to people through my records.
I was wondering what you would like to say to everyone who was a fan and supporter of you while you were on the show.
D. Hernandez: Thatís a good question. I would like to say thank you very much, and if it wasnít for you voting for me, I would not be where I am with today with the huge platform that Iíve been given from American Idol, and all the millions of fans out there that have supported me through everything. Iím very grateful and thankful.
What advice do you have for future contestants?
D. Hernandez: Never doubt yourself, always go with your instinct, and usually your first song selection is the right one.
Do you think your Idol experience was shortened because voters or the public was uncomfortable with your past as an exotic dancer?
D. Hernandez: No, I really donít think so. I actually believe that it was based on song selection. I think Americaís smart enough to know by know that peopleís personal lives should not influence their musical career.
How did the song selection thing go where you wanted to do ďLet It Be,Ē but Brooke White got it. How does that work in terms of who gets dibs on what songs?
D. Hernandez: It just is a first come, first serve basis, and it was between ďLet It BeĒ and ďI Saw Her Standing There,Ē and I chose the more upbeat song, because I wanted to perform it and have a little bit more of an upbeat paced song. Thatís basically how it worked.
Talk about all of you guys on the show. You make this almost overnight jump from aspiring singer to overnight sensation. What has that been like for you? What will you take away from it the most?
D. Hernandez: Itís been a roller coaster, but through all of the madness and chaos, I think that I have gained a deeper respect for myself, and an appreciation for the music business, and also, I have a newfound confidence in myself as a performer.
I had heard that Chikezie was your roommate.
D. Hernandez: Yes.
Was it hard for you to room together being the two R&B guys jockeying for the R&B spot in the top ten?
D. Hernandez: No way. We actually fed off each other in that aspect. We really encouraged each other from the beginning. We went through the first auditions together, and we ended up being roommates until the end. We actually would listen to each other and critique each other, because even though itís a competition, we were still best friends. It was pretty cool. We never really had that animosity or anything like that. We both have very different voices. Heís more like a soul and Iím more like an R&B, so, if you listen to us, weíre very different.
Who are you rooting for now?
D. Hernandez: Actually, Iím so close to everybody, Iím going to vote for everybody or not vote at all, because I canít get myself in that kind of predicament. Everyone is so talented.
I do agree with your comment on the depth of the talent and song selection this year. I think it is anybodyís race at this point.
D. Hernandez: Absolutely. Youíve seen how things change so quickly overnight. For example, Chikezie was at the bottom one night, and then bam, he was at the top, because he had a stellar performance. Each performance really does matter. Youíre only as good as your next performance.
Will you go back to college? I didnít hear that on your list of things to do.
D. Hernandez: You know, thatís at the bottom of my list. I actually would love to get a record deal right now. Iím actually unemployed, and I would love to have a record out within the next year, so Iím looking for prospective record labels to have meetings with and talk to.
Were there any songs that you were really looking forward to being able to perform on the show before being eliminated?
D. Hernandez: Yes, absolutely. Actually, I wanted to sing ďI Believe I Can Fly.Ē
D. Hernandez: That was actually one of my favorite songs. Itís like a staple of mine. I always sing that song, and I was actually getting ready to sing ďAinít NobodyĒ by Chaka Khan, but make it my own little version, and then ďYesterdayĒ by The Beatles, of course, I was going to sing.
Okay, and who in the top 12 were you closest with?
D. Hernandez: I was actually really close with Chikezie and that was it in the top 12. Iím close with everybody, but Chikezie was with me from the beginning of the audition to the end, so he was like one of my closest friends and confidantes.
Iím interested in asking you about last week even more, because last week all this news comes out and Iím thinking how do you even walk out on the stage? I couldnít even breathe when you first walked out, and then you went out there and you more than nailed it, but what was going on inside? Would you think you even gave a better performance because you were going through such an intense time?
D. Hernandez: I think adversity is my best friend, to be completely honest. I think itís something that inspires me. It makes me work harder and I donít have anything to say to the people that try to bring me down or count me out. I just tell them to count me back in, because, honestly, thatís all you can do. In this industry, you really have to have thick skin and know that people are going to say bad things about you, and if this is the worst thing that people say about me in my career then I think that Iíll be okay.
On this morningís broadcast of The View, Elisabeth Hasselbeck thought your elimination might have been some kind of a conspiracy. Do you have any belief in that, or do you just think it was a lack of home viewer votes?
D. Hernandez: First of all, I would like to thank Elizabeth for defending me and feeling that I was eliminated a little prematurely, but I donít like to speculate about that kind of stuff, because I like to have faith in Idol. Theyíve given me this huge platform and I totally respect everything that they do on that show. If that was the case, it really doesnít matter anymore. Iím off the show. Iím not going back on, obviously, unless they were to pull me as a wildcard, which would be amazing. But, I would like to think that America voted on me and it was legitimate.
I know you donít want to drive on this too much, but when you went into the top 24 and you started to do really well on the show, did you worry that anything of your past was going to come out? Was that something that was on your mind?
D. Hernandez: Absolutely not. Iím not ashamed of anything that Iíve done in my past. Iím actually looking forward to moving on in the future, because singing is really what matters in my career, and thatís what mattered in the competition. So, no, the only thing I was worried about was my song selection.
What did you miss most during your time on Idol from your day-to-day life, and is there anything that youíre really looking forward to doing back home just to unwind from the whole experience?
D. Hernandez: Iím looking forward to eating pork flavored Ramen noodles.
D. Hernandez: And having a deep breath away from paparazzi. Iím definitely excited about that.
D. Hernandez: Absolutely. I just want to go to my momís house and lie on the couch with her cats for 48 hours and watch nonsense TV.
Are you a big fan of other reality shows other than American Idol obviously?
D. Hernandez: Iím going to stay away from reality shows for a while. Iíve been on one for the last eight months and Iím just a little bit needing a break. Iím probably going to actually watch reruns of ďFriendsĒ or something.
D. Hernandez: I just want to relax and take a deep breath and then go right into shopping a major record deal, hopefully, and getting an album out within the next year.
You said you spent nine months in this crazy intense situation. What do you think that youíve learned about the business, particularly the whole L.A. aspect of it that you didnít know before you started?
D. Hernandez: Iíve learned that all is fair in love, war, and entertainment. Itís been an interesting experience that Iíve only begun to see the tip of the iceberg, because I really believe that this is the beginning of my career, and I think that Iíve been given an amazing platform. I would like to get a major record deal and have a record out within the next year or so, and Iím definitely hoping to Broadway and other things. I have huge aspirations for myself. Iíve learned a lot about self-confidence and about being a great performer.
Would you suggest to other people coming up that they try to get into the business this way, even if they donít go as far as they would like to in the competition?
D. Hernandez: Absolutely. Even being in the top 24 is a huge honor. You have to realize that even when youíre in the top 24, millions of people are watching you. I used to dream about having a fan base of 1,000 people, and now I have I donít know how many millions of people that would go out and support me and come to a concert. So, absolutely. No matter how far you get in this competition, especially this season, I think that all top 12 are going to be winners.
While youíre on the show, is it like a bubble? I know that youíre allowed to look at the Internet and everything, but are you told not to, and are the contestants supporting each other by saying donít go on this certain site?
D. Hernandez: Absolutely. When I was in the media for a while, all the contestants were, and I remember one instance when we were upstairs in the red room. They all huddled around me and they just gave me a big hug. They were like donít you get on the Internet and weíre going to keep the TV off and weíre not going to worry about any of that stuff. Itís really like a family, all 12 of us, so it was sad to leave, but itís going to be great, because I think thereís a lot to come ahead. Iím going to be on Ellen and The Today Show, and hopefully, we get some prospective companies from there.
Can I ask you too, you mentioned the paparazzi. Is that a problem with you guys? I know you can only go out in twos, right?
D. Hernandez: Now I donít think they can even go out in twos. I think you have to go out with your own security now, because I know I tried to go to the store yesterday and I had to take security with me. Itís not a problem. Itís just different. Itís not what youíre used to. You go from being anonymous to whatever it is, famous, so itís just crazy.
Okay. I just wanted to clarify on the song selection issue. You said you were hoping to do ďLet It Be,Ē but it was already taken. Then later you said you picked the upbeat song. Just to be sure, did you want to do ďLet It Be,Ē and it was, in fact, gone when it was your turn to pick?
D. Hernandez: It was, in fact, gone. I did want to do ďLet It Be,Ē but it was, in fact, gone when it was my turn to pick, but just to clarify, I am happy with what I did choose and in no way do I feel like Brooke White didnít deserve the song. Do you know what I mean? I donít want there to be a misconception there for everybody thatís listening. It was fair. Everything was fair, like it always is on American Idol, and I felt confident in my song or else they wouldnít have made me move forward with that song. Itís all up to the contestants and they choose their songs.
Okay, but just to be clear on this first come, first serve thing, how is it decided who gets first crack at the songs? I understand you had maybe 25 songs to choose from, is that correct?
D. Hernandez: Yes.
How many were gone by the time it was your turn to pick?
D. Hernandez: I donít really recall. I donít think there was any gone. We just put in our top three and then itís chosen from there.
Chosen by the producers?
D. Hernandez: No, itís actually chosen based on the availability of the song. If someone has the same song, then we draw out of a hat.
Okay, but again, you said you were okay ultimately with the song that you performed.
D. Hernandez: Yes, absolutely. You have to roll with it. The biggest thing is getting the song and feeling confident with it. It doesnít matter if you walk up there in a pink suit, as long as youíre walking it with confidence, people are going to love it. I look back at my performance and Iím happy with it, and thatís really what counts.
Are you going to be coming back home to Glendale?
D. Hernandez: I am in probably another week.
Are you going to move back here? Are you coming to stay, or are you just going to be here for a little bit?
D. Hernandez: Iíll be here for a little while. Iíll be there for a little while. Sorry, Iím still in L.A. Iíll be there for a little while, and then, obviously, right now my main goal is shopping a record deal. I would like to have an album out within the next year and then maybe some Broadway prospective things. Iím just looking out to see whatís available.
What do you miss most about your hometown?
D. Hernandez: What do I miss most about Arizona? I miss the lack of traffic in Arizona. Do you know what I mean, because here in L.A. itís so busy and jammed up. Also, Arizonaís home to me and I miss the warmth and how everything is so spread out and clean. I miss that and I miss my family.
You had mentioned about how it was cool to be a Hispanic contestant on Idol. In this season, for some reason, there are a lot of Hispanic contestants on Idol. Why do you think that is?
D. Hernandez: I donít think thereís any particular reason for it. I just think that there is some talent in the Hispanic community and Iím glad that itís coming through in major ways.
David, the judges, several times on Tuesday night, talked about whether they liked or disliked the arrangements. How much input did you as a contestant really have into the arrangement of the songs that you choose. Who does them, and do you think thatís a fair criticism coming from the judges?
D. Hernandez: Youíll be surprised to know that actually the contestants have a lot of say with the arrangement of the songs. Then, of course, we have mentors that help us to make sure that weíre still staying true to the original artist that recorded the song, so we do have a lot. In my song, ďI Saw Her Standing There,Ē I added those breaks in the beginning, and then I did some different things in the verses. Youíre able to switch it up and make it your own definitely, within reason, of course, because it is a show, and you definitely want to give a consistently good performance and still pay respect to the artist that did it.
Do you or any of the contestants actually score music and write the arrangements?
D. Hernandez: No, we actually sit down with the piano player, who is Michael Orland, and a vocal arranger, Dorian or Bird, and we sit down with them in a room. We have several rehearsals and we come up with the arrangement, all of us together.
This season the results show has gone to an hour long show. Did the contestants feel that thatís a lot of pressure to be out there for an hour with lots of other things going on in between picking the bottom three? It seemed like it went on a while.
D. Hernandez: Itís kind of nerve wracking, because we go through so much stress already as it is that, when we finally get out there, itís like our stomachs are turning for a full hour. But, on the flipside of that, itís cool to see guest performers like Katherine McPhee and Blake Lewis, and all those other people that come and perform on the show, so itís like a free mini concert for us.
Was it fun to meet Jim Carey?
D. Hernandez: Heís so funny. I met him at the Horton Hears Who premiere too, and heís just really funny. He offered words of advice to me. He was like stay off the TV, donít get on the Internet, so heís awesome, and you would be surprised that most of these celebrities we meet are actually really good people.
Somebody mentioned earlier in the call about how you and Chikezie were battling it out for the R&B thing. I donít know if that was necessarily true, but did you feel it seems to me a lot that the judges try to put the contestants in boxes, and then they make their judgments based on how well theyíre sticking to the box. If youíre the rock guy, oh, wait, youíre not being true to yourself. Youíre the rock girl, youíre the R&B girl, youíre the country person. Did you ever feel like they were trying to put pressure on you to stay in one box, or do one style?
D. Hernandez: I think in America people can relate to certain types of people, like the rocker type or the R&B type, so I think everybody fell into their own little pocket, and I just happened to fall into the R&B zone a little bit. Chikezie is more on the soul side. There was never competition with Chikezie and me, besides the general competition itself. Iíve never felt threatened or anything, and neither did he. We have two completely different voices. I donít think itís really forced. I think America helps with those pockets. I think that itís a combination of the artist, because I know who I am as a singer and what I want to put out there, and I think Iíve been pretty consistent with that.
Also, Iíve heard this before and I donít know whether itís true, but maybe you can clear it up. When you become an Idol contestant, do they ask you about everything in your past that absolutely could come out?
D. Hernandez: Yes.
So, things in your past you had told. The producers were aware.
D. Hernandez: Absolutely. If they werenít comfortable with it, I wouldnít have been on the show. Everything was totally out there and open. The media can be vicious sometimes. Thank God I have thick skin and a great family behind me.
Several different times youíve said album out within a year, so if you sit down tomorrow with an executive, what are you going to pitch to him?
D. Hernandez: My first album is going to be pop R&B influenced. I would like to collaborate with people like Alesia Keys, David Foster, and then also, I would like to write my own songs on the album. Itís definitely going to be an eclectic kind of vibe. I would like to put a little bit of a rock R&B in there too, and thatís the image Iíve put out there. Iím more of an urban R&B grit and grime singer. Youíve heard me on the show. People have heard me. I think that they can gather what type. Iím definitely more comfortable singing my own songs that I write, for sure.
Give me an example of what your songs are like.
D. Hernandez: My songs are, as I just said, theyíre more of an R&B pop influence kind of songs. Theyíre real songs. Iíve written several songs. I actually had an album that was never released and I had a single that was played on the east coast and everything. You would have to hear some of my songs to know that theyíre very personal songs. A lot of them are autobiographical.
You actually got the sense the Jim Carey was watching the show. That he was talking to you guys as if he knew who each of you were.
D. Hernandez: He definitely did. He watches the show for sure, because he would say specific things to us and he said a specific thing to me with everything that had gone on, so, yes, he definitely did. A lot of people do, and itís great, because a lot of the celebrity mentors that come on and things like that, itís awesome.
I wanted to know, because you said in your taped piece that you were a broadcast journalism major.
D. Hernandez: Yes.
What did you hope to do with that?
D. Hernandez: I was actually hoping to be a TV anchor either on a show like Entertainment Tonight or Access Hollywood.
Not Entertainment Tonight. You mean Access Hollywood.
D. Hernandez: Access Hollywood, yes. I wanted to actually do that. That was one of my big aspirations.
Will you still try to do that?
D. Hernandez: Right now, singing is taking priority, and with this platform Iíve been given, I would be crazy not to take advantage of it, so Iíll probably skip that. Yes, Iíll probably just keep with the singing and hopefully have an album out soon.
Did being on the show and anything that was out there about you take a toll on your body stress-wise? Did you lose weight, lose sleep, or anything like that?
D. Hernandez: Yes, I definitely lost a lot of sleep. I think I lost a little bit weight from not eating regularly, because thereís so much stress involved with making sure your performance and your song are perfect. I definitely lost a little bit of weight and I lost a lot of sleep, so Iím excited to get back to the gym and to get some sleep and to get more of my tan back.
Thank you to FOX for allowing us to participate in this media call!