By Timothy Rawles, December 2019 Issue.
After David Hernandez became a famous face and voice on season seven of American Idol, he began a successful solo career and continues to be a popular performer at Pride events and music venues across the world.
We talked to him about what it was like growing up as a young gay man in Central Arizona, a life-changing car accident, working on his next projects that include an album in Spanglish, and collaborating with another Idol on an exciting new musical venture slated to be released next year.
Hernandez was raised by a single mother in Arizona and knows the area well. “I grew up in Mesa, my mom and I were like nomads, we literally lived everywhere,” he says.
However, he admits to not visiting too often. The hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, where he lives now, has a familiar rhythm that may be more his vibe. His City of Angels relocation happened shortly after being sent there by Idol judges. “You know, I miss my parents dearly, but no, I don’t really get a chance to come back that often and when I do it’s usually for like a gig — something really quick — where I’m in town for two or three days. Then I leave.”
Still, there’s more to Arizona than just work. In fact, he often comes back to put his feet up, switch on the television and ignore status updates.
“Arizona is a great place to kinda just unplug,” Hernandez says, explaining his professional life is uncertain most of the time. “I go on tour during the summer but then the rest of the year, sometimes it can be unpredictable. And so, you kind of get subconsciously caught up in the rat race, then of course you get on social media and everyone’s doing everything amazing.”
Family is important to Hernandez. Recently he came back and spent some time with his father. “I literally didn’t do anything.” But being the musician he is, Hernandez can’t stay away from the stage for very long even if he’s relaxing with his dad on the couch.
“I had a couple of shows with the band that I started with in Arizona; they’re called Str8 Up,” he says of his last visit. “I played with them a couple of nights and then the rest of time, during the day I hung out with my sister, I worked out with my dad and my stepmom. It was really cool just to chill.”
For all of its peaceful properties, Arizona wasn’t exactly known for its LGBT scene. And growing up Hernandez had limited choices about where he spent his time. “I think it’s better now, but it wasn’t as strong of a community when I was growing up there.”
It helped that his uncle John King is the founder and creator of Charlie’s, but there isn’t really a “gayborhood” per se.
“Since Arizona is so big and so spread apart, you have like the pockets, right? You have BS West and you can go downtown,” Hernandez explains. “Then you got Stacy’s @ Melrose, and then The Rock.”
“Back when I was growing up there were other bars that have since closed that were on that same strip; on Central Avenue.”
Although the gay community and music are very important to the singer, something happened last year that changed his life and led him to another business endeavor, endorsing of all things, a massager. But it may not be what you think.
On Easter Sunday 2018 he and his boyfriend were involved in a multi-car pile-up. The impact hurt their backs.
“l already had a little bit of an achy back issue but that really intensified it. It was four months of the chiropractor. And then we both had epidurals because the pain was that bad. So that lasted for like another four to five months, and you can’t have epidurals all the time because it’s a steroid. So essentially our backs are like fucked.”
A visit to a longtime friend’s house one night would change all of that. “We were there and I was complaining about my car accident then my friend’s like ‘we literally just invented this massage tool.’”
Called Pso-rite (SO-right), Hernandez says it basically takes the place of an elbow or a hand that a massage therapist would use.
“You can’t get into your body without the help of someone else. And nobody can afford a massage therapist on-call all the time. So basically, they designed this tool to mimic the elbow and the hand.”
“It hurts so good sort of feel to it,” he laughs explaining it’s a part of his morning regimen. “It alleviated my back pain almost immediately.”
Easing pain is the best thing that could happen right now for Hernandez because he is about to get back into the studio for another album and dream collaboration. He says it’s about time he did so. His last album was a sort of soundtrack of his life thus far.
“It was called ‘Kingdom the Mixed Tape’ and it’s a compilation of my best work to date but that didn’t necessarily fit on a cohesive album,” he says. “That’s why I called it a ‘mixtape’ because it has different vibes, different periods of my life and I just literally threw it together onto one album. I wanted people to feel the different transitions of my life; where I was, heartbreak and also love. Going to the clubs and drinking too much and you know … I was a whole sort of spectrum of David Hernandez.”
This new chapter of his includes a Spanglish album which he says is exciting and another project working alongside a fellow Idol alum.
“My very good friend Effie Passero, who was on American Idol two seasons ago on the reboot, she and I linked up because we have the same booking agent and we started singing together.” The chemistry must be good because they will also start a residency in Puerto Vallarta from December 25 to January 8 of next year. Add to that a potential hit song called “What I See” and a “super-moody, black-and-white” video being shot for it as I write this and it seems the duo seem unstoppable.
Hernandez says they named the band 2nd Hour. “We kind of wanted to re-brand our duo to be a separate entity between David Hernandez and Effie Passero. We wanted to create something special to our little niche. We’re writing some more songs together and hopefully, we’ll have an album sometime next year.”
He’s come a long way since making the determination to leave the desert suburbia of Arizona and move to Hollywood. But just as that was a conscious life-changer, Hernandez is ready to make another. He’s dedicated his soul to music and like those before him the path may not be clear, but that’s kind of the point.
“I look at some of my idols like George Michael, Madonna, and Prince,” he says. “And how over the course of their careers, they evolved and started doing different types of music. There is no one particular way to be successful, it’s just whatever makes you happy.”