Celebrating May 31: 'American Idol' David Hernandez turns 41, releasing “I AM” of his earlier years

Wed. May 29, 2024 8:47 AM by Ross Forman

david hernandez

photo credit // provided

'I’m really optimistic about the future and feel like I’m just getting started,' says David Hernandez

David Hernandez, the openly gay former American Idol participant (from 2008), turns 41 on May 31 – the same day he is releasing a re-imagined version of the title track from his first EP, I Am Who I Am. The new version has been shortened to “I AM,” but still tells the story of his earlier years, growing up in a broken home among family members struggling with substance abuse, all while being bullied in school for his differences.

“Things are going exceptionally well. I’m releasing new music, doing shows and going back on the road,” he said. “I’ve also completely dove back into my acting career with a new agent and manager.” (Hernandez just finished shooting four short films and a feature.)

“I’m really optimistic about the future and feel like I’m just getting started.”

Hernandez was the twelfth-place finalist of FOX’s seventh season of the television series American Idol, which wrapped in May 2008. Now living in Southern California, Hernandez said he has no plans, yet, to celebrate his birthday.

“I’m really leaning into no stress and no anxiety and zero expectations these days; I’m open to whatever happens, letting the universe guide me,” he said.

Pride Month in June is always a favorite for Hernandez who added, “I wish it was actually all year round.”

“I love seeing everyone come together and celebrate each other. I also love that each year, the crowd gets younger and younger, which means that newer generations are being exposed to what Pride really means,” he said. “I’m not booked on the weekend that West Hollywood Pride is happening, (which coincides with his birthday), so I will be going down to the boulevard with some friends and watching the performances. I’m excited.”

Hernandez said his favorite Pride Memory was in 2016, while performing in Boise, Idaho, on the heels of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. “There was a sea of people and the roar of the crowd was palpable. Instead of retreating in defeat, the entire community stood together and was stronger than ever. It was incredible,” he said.

Hernandez will be performing at the Dallas Metro Ball on June 7, then flying to Canton, Ohio, for a Pride event. On June 16, he will be a featured guest in the San Francisco production of Broadway Bares!

“I celebrate my Pride every day of the year, but for Pride month, I will be doing some performances and celebrating my peers who are also performing and spreading the word,” he said.

“I AM” is the most personal song he’s ever recorded and he’s very proud of it, he said. “I think people are going to be able to relate to it on so many levels.”

The new version of “I AM” is an anthemic pop song, with Hernandez’ powerful vocals amplified by the addition of orchestral strings, piano and drums. Like the original, it delivers hints of soul and R&B, but the new version adds major and minor chords throughout that produce a sense of push and pull, reminiscent of the emotional tugs many people battle on their journey to self-discovery. There is also a climatic chorus and an ending choir that takes listeners to church with a spiritual experience meant to drive home the feelings of hope and redemption.

The “I AM” music video, co-produced and directed by Hernandez and Johny D. and shot in Burbank, Calif., echoes the sentiment of the song. It opens with Hernandez, the music star, about to perform on stage, greeted by applause and adulation from screaming fans while at the same time, facing an onslaught of criticism and homophobia from the media. The pressure is intense and an emotionally beaten Hernandez wonders, “Who am I?” A polaroid image of David as a child in a Mickey Mouse shirt is depicted on a screen and then we see a grown-up David in that same Mickey Mouse shirt as he looks back at pivotal moments of his life and career.

“I AM” is autobiographical and talks about being raised by a single mother and going through the trials and tribulations of growing up in a dysfunctional household with no money.

Hernandez first wrote “I AM” in the laundry room of his apartment in Phoenix, Arizona in 2006. “I put it on my first album and titled the album ‘I am who I am,’” he said. “I decided earlier this year that I wanted to re-record this song with new vocals and update the music so I enlisted my first producer here in Los Angeles, Alex Teamer.

“I’ve been singing the song for many years. But it always feels like the first time. Writing it was like therapy and every time I sing it, it’s a healing process.

“The beginning of the video shows me in turmoil with who I am, and who the public perceives me to be. It’s indicative of all the ups and downs throughout the years, performing on many different stages and being in the limelight. Throughout the video, I find myself going back to my roots. I go back to that little boy who had hopes and dreams and excitement for his goals and was fearless.”

This is Hernandez’ first album/EP since March 2022.

Simon Cowell makes a cameo of sorts on Hernandez’ video.

“My videographer found that clip and added it. I had no idea it was going to be in the video. But it’s appropriate and lends to the storyline,” he said.

“I’m all about creating a sound that is vulnerable, truthful and organic. I don’t write music to which I can’t relate. I won’t sing it if it doesn’t hit some part of my soul.”

Hernandez has two more music videos coming later this year and he’s working on a new album.

David Hernandez’s “I AM” is releasing to Apple, Spotify and all major streamers on Friday, May 31. The official video will also be released to YouTube on Friday, May 31.

For more on David Hernandez:  OfficialDavidHernandez.com

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