By Steve Stratton
At long last, “American Idol’s” David Hernandez is out with a brand new album, “Kingdom: The Mixtape.” It’s the follow-up to 2011’s “I Am Who I Am” and displays a wide array of new sounds from the sexy crooner, from pop to dance and R&B.
Hernandez began singing at age six, performing with theatre companies. After competing on “Idol,” he was signed to a major music label, but couldn’t meet the high expectations of its executives, who wanted him to fit their mold of what David Hernandez was supposed to be.
His feelings about the music industry are reflected in the cover art for “Kingdom: The Mixtape.” It depicts a crown, symbolizing Hernandez and his music, being held by a robotic hand, representing the record labels. It is intended to illustrate a mechanical industry that holds and controls an artist’s work and career.
We spoke with Hernandez to learn more.
Why was now the time to release “Kingdom: The Mixtape”?
Honestly, I’ve been sitting on most of this material for years, waiting for the right time to release. I’ve listened to too many people’s opinions about when, how, what image was right, what content was appropriate. I was just over listening to what other people think I should do. One day, I stepped back and realized I had a great body of work that deserves to be heard.
What are some of the important subjects that you explore in the album?
A lot of heartbreak. I seem to always date guys that are bad for me. Not sure what that is about. My therapist knows more. But heartbreak is universal. Everyone has been through it. I also explore rebuilding trust and love in a relationship. Not giving up. I talk about self love and being a better person. I touch on loss, pain, joy, forgiveness and love. Then there are the fun party songs, because life isn’t always that serious, and sometimes you just wanna let go and rage.
Let’s discuss the first single release, “Shield (Coat of Armor).”
“Shield” is super personal to me. I traveled to the Middle East with my band and got to meet the soldiers that fight for our freedom, which I think we all take for granted. I got to thinking about the ways we fight for the ones we love every single day, and it struck a chord in me. Some of us aren’t able to fight for ourselves, and we need that protector or shield to defend us. Whether it is a boyfriend, girlfriend, sister, brother or just a friend, we all need help at some point. I think it’s important, especially with today’s crazy political climate, to stand up and fight for what we believe.
You collaborate with “American Idol’s” Blake Lewis on the album!
Blake and I have been friends for years. I had a show last year, and he was in the audience with my other friend from the show, Elliott Yamin. I randomly brought Blake on stage for “Kingdom,” and he started beatboxing underneath the vocals. I was blown away. Up until that point, “Kingdom” only had piano and vocals, no drums. Blake inspired me to get back in the studio and add drums. So I went over to his house, and he recorded it.
Is it true you recorded most of the album from home studios?
Yes! Just proves you don’t need fancy studios these days to make a great record.
I’m a big fan of the song “Break” on the album.
I am, too. I wrote it at a time when I was drinking a lot and addicted to Xanax. It was an awful time in my life. I was evicted from my apartment, and everything seemed to be going to hell. I ended up in rehab and got clean of prescription drugs, and life has become much better.
Congratulations on your sobriety.
It’s a daily struggle, and I guess that I wanted to put “Break” on the mixtape because prescription drugs are an epidemic in this country. Too many young people are dying and committing suicide, and they need to know there is help.
That’s powerful, David. For fans who want to reach out and learn more, are you on social media?
Of course. Social media is key to engaging with fans and supporters. I always try and respond to everyone when they comment or send me a message. The love and support I have received from fans has meant more to me than they realize.
We hope to see you in NYC soon!
You can count on it.
“KINGDOM: THE MIXTAPE” is available on all digital platforms including iTunes, Spotify, Pandora and Tidal. Visit davidhernandezofficial.com.