"I write whatever it is I am feeling in that moment," David Hernandez on his new album 'Kingdom: The Mixtape'

At the release of his second album, David Hernandez talks about his music, the celebs he looks up to and the challenges of being an openly gay artist


                            "I write whatever it is I am feeling in that moment," David Hernandez on his new album 'Kingdom: The Mixtape'

Former American Idol finalist, pop, soul and R&B singer David Hernandez has just released his second studio album 'Kingdom: The Mixtape' through his own label. After self-producing and recording his songs in various home studios in Los Angeles, California, he proves that artists do not need any hi-tech studio time to make a record any longer. 

'Kingdom: The Mixtape' is David's first full album in around seven years since his 2011’s 'I Am Who I Am'. His new album features collaborations with fellow American Idol contestant Blake Lewis and the Grammy-winning producer of Black Eyed Peas, Printz Board. Apart from the release of his album, he has also unveiled the music video for his first single 'Shield (Coat of Armor)' that is available on YouTube. 

Davids's feelings about the music industry are reflected in the cover art for 'Kingdom: the Mixtape'. (CD artwork by Stephen Lind)
Davids's feelings about the music industry are reflected in the cover art for 'Kingdom: the Mixtape'. (CD artwork by Stephen Lind)

This album has 20 original tracks and a cappella versions of 'Kingdom' and 'Where Love Begins'. He has also added a bonus cover of Hailee Steinfeld’s 'Starving,' featuring YouTube star Rajiv Dhall. 

In an exclusive interview with Meaww, David speaks about the message in his songs 'Shield' and 'Beautiful' among other things. 

It seems like 'Shield' and 'Beautiful' have a similar message of acceptance. Is that what you are going for with your music?

It wasn't what I intentionally went for. It's sort of just how it ended up. I wrote "Shield" about a year and a half after releasing 'Beautiful. I'm happy if people take that message away from my music. I think that means I'm doing something right. I love empowering people and putting positive messages out there because we need that. But I write whatever it is I am feeling in that moment. Sometimes it's happy and other times, as you can hear from the mixtape, it's sad. 

Tell us about your collaboration in 'Kingdom: the Mixtape' with your fellow American Idol contestant. Did you two stay in touch after the show?

I've known Blake for years now. I love that dude. He super chill and mad talented. He came to my show earlier this year and I didn't even know he was in the audience. I noticed him about halfway through the show sitting with my other friend Elliott Yamin, who had come to perform that night. I called Blake to the stage and I was like "alright bro, this is my original song, just do what you do" and he got on stage, totally improv, and just beatboxed the hell out of it.

A couple weeks later I went to his home studio and he laid down the beatbox. From that point, I took the files to my producer, Daniel Braunstein, layered some electric guitars and the Kingdom you hear now is the result. Before it was just piano and vocals. So they added a lot of dynamic and power to that song. I'm really proud of it. And proud that my fellow Idol alum agreed to be a part of that. 

I write whatever it is I am feeling in that moment. (PC- Bobby Quillard)
I write whatever it is I am feeling in that moment. (PC- Bobby Quillard)

You have said that no two songs in this album are the same, so each of them must hold a special meaning for you. Is that so? If you had to pick your top three, what would it be?

Every song most definitely holds a special meaning for me. There are like pairs of 2 that came at certain pivotal points of my life. It's hard for me to pick a favorite honestly. They're like my children. Lol. But right now I am listening to 'Kingdom', 'Dear My Future Self', & 'Unbreakable' a lot. 

There's a recurring theme of acceptance and tolerance in your music, is that a correct interpretation? Please shed light on these themes.

Yeah, it is. I was bullied a lot as a kid for being different. It really sucked taking the bus to and from school. I think that is where most of the bullying happened because the driver couldn't see what was going on in the back. So I would always try and sit toward the front as much as I could. I see a lot of that stuff happen with adults too and it's pretty gross to me. If I can in any way help to change that, then great! 

How has your journey in music been since the 'American Idol'?

Music itself is always great. The industry is not so much. It has it's ups and downs. I've reevaluated the idea of success for myself. Certain things don't appeal to me anymore. I don't feel the need to sacrifice who I am and that makes me happy. I no longer need to "betray" myself to move up. As an independent artist is amazing to see how much love and support I still get from fans, both old and new. 

Right now I am listening to "Kingdom", "Dear My Future Self", & "Unbreakable" a lot. — (PC- Bobby Quillard)
Right now I am listening to "Kingdom", "Dear My Future Self", & "Unbreakable" a lot. — (PC- Bobby Quillard)

Who are the queer celebs who have inspired you to embrace yourself? Who are the celebs you look up to now? 

Ellen is an amazing example of not compromising who you are and still being able to achieve success. I think people like Sam Smith, Adam Lambert, Troye Sivan, and Frank Ocean are incredible to name a few. 

What are some of the other genres and artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?

I would love to collaborate with an amazing rapper. Kendrick Lamar is insanely talented but who knows when that opportunity would arise! Never say never!

You are out and proud, do people thank you for it? How does it feel? Do you think it is limiting to be an openly gay artist? 

People do thank me for it. I was just recently performing at Raleigh Pride and this little 10-year-old girl in the front row, who identified as gay, thanked me for being me and she was a fan. That touched my heart. 

I no longer need to "betray" myself to move up. — (PC - Bobby Quillard)
I no longer need to "betray" myself to move up. — (PC - Bobby Quillard)

What were the most important things you learned from doing theatre at such an early age? 

The show must go on! Lol. Do your homework, be prepared, be on time and it's better to give too much that not enough. 

Do you have any message that you would like to pass on to your fans and other people who face the daily struggle like you?

Just keep fighting to be heard and seen. Ignore the haters and do what makes you happy because ultimately you'll attract like-minded people. Have a purpose and work towards that dream every day. It'll get you up every morning! 

'Kingdom: the Mixtape' is available on all digital platforms including iTunes, Spotify, Pandora and Tidal. 

Watch the music video for 'Sheild' here: