Seven years after the release of his coming out album, I Am Who I Am, American Idol’s David Hernandez is back with Kingdom: the Mixtape.
The album includes 20 original tracks. Many of the songs reflect on the heartbreaks and loss Hernandez has experienced over the last decade since rising to fame on American Idol.
Corey Wesley had the pleasure of catching up with the hunky and energetic Hernandez to learn more about his latest endeavor. He was on point answering questions and friendly and gracious as Wesley pried into his personal life.
Before we took a dive into the interview we asked Hernandez to describe his music. He described it as empowering, raw, and relatable and we would agree. His songs come from a deeply personal place with lyrics that are universally relatable about love and relationships.
We took a moment to chat about life post-Idol. It’s not all glitz and glamour. Although being on the show has its perks and contestants are taken care of while they’re on the show, when they leave, nothing is guaranteed. Hernandez was thoughtfully advised by one of his coaches that the real work starts after the show. The idea that if you have talent you’ll walk into an executive’s office, sing acapella for them, and get a deal is a fallacy. Hernandez had to hustle every day and hustle he has. It was about six months before he landed a job after the show.
Fast forward to 2018. Kingdom: the Mixtape includes collaborations with fellow American Idol Blake Lewis and the Grammy winning producer of Black Eyed Peas, Printz Board. As executive producer, songwriter and arranger, Hernandez independently produced this album and by doing so he has proven artists don’t need fancy studios to make a great record.
Over the years Hernandez had offers to produce some of his songs but nothing ever moved forward. Instead of waiting any longer and listening to others tell him what to do he decided it was time to make a move. “I’ve been sitting on most of this materials for years, waiting for the right time to release it,” he says. “One day I finally stepped back and realized I had a great body of work that deserves to be heard, now,” he added.
We got personal for a moment by asking about “Break,” an introspective mid-tempo song where Hernandez opens up about his struggles with addiction. As we talked, Hernandez was open and honest about his experiences. Wesley even shared his own experience with crystal meth and Hernandez was supportive. He shared he is currently dealing with family and friends who are dealing with similar addiction. “I wrote the song at a time when I was drinking a lot and popping Xanax,” said Hernandez. “It was an awful time. We were being evicted from our apartment and everything was going to shit. I ended up in rehab and eventually got clean of prescription drugs and life became much better.” Putting out “Break” was a way for him to say, “I’m not perfect” and it acted as a form of therapy.
Hernandez felt compelled to put the song on the mixtape because prescription drug addiction has become an epidemic among youth. “Young people are dying and committing suicide. They need to know there is help,” he says. He is committed to helping youth and shared that he is doing some work with AIM Youth Mental Health to build awareness around the stigma of mental health.
When it comes to his feelings about the music industry all you need to do is look at the cover art for Kingdom: the Mixtape. The crown depicts Hernandez and his music and the robotic hand holding the crown, the music industry. It is intended to illustrate an industry that is fake and how it holds and controls an artist’s work and career; another reason he decided to independently produce this album. When asked about the treatment of out LGBTQ artists and the industry he said that there have been improvements but there is a long way to go for acceptance.
Wesley shifted gears and asked Hernandez how he works to stand out in the crowd. He thoughtfully reflected on his culmination of 10 years of experience. He said he used to try not being himself but that didn’t work. Instead he has chosen to accept who he is and to just be himself and that has proven to be much better. He’s had his share of bad business deals and bad relationships and said, “Just because you experience failure, doesn’t mean you have to give up.” Hernandez is making it work and has a lot going on. He’s podcasting and acting in addition to singing, “There are many ways to get to the end goal,” he said.
For all those readers wondering about Hernandez’ relationship status, Wesley did a little prying into his personal life. Hernandez was gracious and didn’t miss a beat. He shared that he has been happily dating someone for about a year and a half.
Keeping with the personal questions, Wesley asked what he would be doing if he weren’t singing and interestingly, Hernandez shared he was originally going to be an ER doctor. His mom is a nurse and he had initial goals of going to medical school. He ultimately ended up attending Arizona State University where he majored in broadcasting.
From the conversation, it was clear Hernandez is dedicated to and passionate about the craft of songwriting. He acknowledges there is a short period of time to capture someone’s attention so he strives to weave a story in his lyrics and evoke an emotion. He wants listeners to be moved, to feel something by listening to his music. He also regularly seeks out new forms of inspiration by going to as many live performances as he can and checking out new music playlists on various platforms. Through these outlets he is inspired and is always upping his writing game.
Hernandez began singing at age six, starring in musicals and performing with various theatre companies. At fifteen, he started writing original music and recording his arrangements. In addition to American Idol, he has showcased his talents on The Ellen Show, The Today Show, MTV’s TRL, EXTRA, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Teen Choice Awards, Idol Tonight, FOX-TV’s Idol Gives Back. He was also named among TV Guides’ Sexiest Stars.
Wesley took some time to ask Hernandez which moments in his musical career make him most proud. He was authentic when saying releasing this album was one of those moments. Opening for John Legend at the inauguration of President Barack Obama was another. And the third has been traveling to sing for US troops abroad as part of the USO Tour.
We ended our lively interview by asking if he has a motto or advice that he lives by. Hernandez shared this quote which did a good job of summarizing our overall conversation and his career trajectory, “Be fucking fearless; Have a vision; Stay hustling; Keep your focus; Get motivated; Get shit done; Live inspired; Live unfuckwithable.”