'Dad Picks David's Songs,' Says Coach


Apr. 22 2008, Published 5:36 a.m. ET

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Since rumors emerged that David Arculeta's dad is a notorious 'stage-parent', both father and son have stayed silent on the matter.

But OK! has been given the first real glimpse behind the scenes of the most talked-about relationship on American Idol.

David's voice coach told us that Jeff Achuleta does give David a shortlist of songs to choose from and that he coaches his son on interpretation -- but, he says, it's only to make things fair between David and his main rival David Cook.

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However, the trainer said that in six years of working with the Archuletas, he has never seen Jeff use, "any kind force or coercion."

And he trashed claims made by Naomi Judd last week that Jeff was put in a guards' hut to keep him out of trouble when David was on the Star Search talent show.

Rumor have been swirling around Jeff, 46, and his son since it was claimed that David was brought to tears after his father yelled at him in rehearsals.

Then an unnamed CBS exec and a crew-member came forward to say that Jeff was banned from the backstage area of the Star Search competition in 2003 because he tried to "psyche out" David's rivals in the children's talent contest.

Even Simon Cowell seemed to take a dig at Jeff's interference after he criticized David's rendition of You're the Voice on Idol, saying he would be "very surprised" if David had chosen it for himself.

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Voice coach Dean Kaelin, from Salt Lake City, Or., has worked with David since 2002, when the singer was just 11 years old.

Dean, who has also coached former Idol finalists, Carmen Rasmussen and John Praetor, is a vital member of the Archuleta camp.

Since he's been on the show, David has called Dean almost every morning to do a vocal warm-up over the phone, and they do exercises that way up to three times a day.

The 17-year-old has even made "emergency calls" to Dean just before the live performance, and the coach carries a portable keyboard with him at all times to make sure he's ready whenever David needs him.

Insider Dean told us how the Idol favorite and his dad work together.

"They keep David quite busy on the show," he said. "Plus there's the fact that he's at a disadvantage because he's a minor, so he has to go to three hours of school a day, and so the other contestants have quite a bit more time to work on their song and figure out arrangements."

David Archuleta
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"So David's dad spends a lot of his day just kind of looking for songs and screening songs.

"Idol give the contestants a list every week, saying, 'here's songs that are approved that you can choose from.'

"So Jeff finds them on the Internet, and he knows David's voice real well, so he'll maybe pick out a few and say to David, 'here's ones that I think will work well with your voice.'"

Dean says that Jeff and David then choose three of those for David to try out before making the final decision.

Dean says Jeff, who is a jazz trumpeter, "is really good with melodies and phrasing and interpretation", and that he can give David pointers about instrumentation to bring him up to speed with people like David Cook.

"One of the things that is an advantage to David Cook is that he's led bands before, so he has a lot more experience of arranging songs and knowing what he wants.

"He can go in and tell the band, 'I want this and I want this and I want this,'" says Dean.

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"So it's nice that his dad has been musical enough that he can offer some suggestions, and because song choice is so important, picking the right song, its nice that they can work on that together."

Dean says that Jeff sees David's career as a group effort, with the three of them making up Team Archuleta. "Jeff has described it that David is the quarterback, and Jeff's the offensive and defensive coordinator and I'm kind of the strength and conditioning coach," he said.

Dean, who travels all over the world to train singers, also poured cold water on claims Naomi Judd made last week about Jeff.

The country star, who was a judge on Star Search when David won it, said on the Today show that Jeff was made to sit in the guards' box to keep him out of trouble. But Dean says she never met the Archuletas, and put it down as hear-say.

He said claims made by the unnamed exec that David had been banned from backstage on Star Search and that he had brought David to tears during Idol are "ridiculous".

"The rumors have been unfortunate because David really is a good kid, and really humble, and actually a little bit shy.

"And I think people are starting to use some of these things about his dad to suggest that maybe that's why he's shy: because his dad's controlling him or abusing him.

"I've worked with him for six years and I've never seen anything at all that indicated any kind of force or coercion or bad relationships," he said.


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