“Hope” is a word that American Idol veteran Danny Gokey lives by.
In 2004, he married his high school sweetheart, Sophia Martinez. Four years later, when he was getting ready to audition for Idol, she died during her third surgery to treat her congenital heart disease.
He admits to being depressed and suicidal after her death. But if he wasn’t hopeful and a firm believer of God, he wouldn’t have lived to find his wife, Leyicet Peralta, and their three children, Daniel, Victoria and Gabriel.
“I’ve had bouts of depression, anxiety and suicide, having to deal with the loss of a spouse,” the Christian singer says. “These are pretty big battles.”
Faith helped him conquer the war. He believes he’s going to see Martinez again.
“I learned there is still a lot more life to be lived,” he says. “Life starts with how you think, feel and act. It feels like the end. If I took my own life, I wouldn’t be married, living a really good life and having three kids.”
To help spread his message, Gokey is headlining The Hope Encounter Tour, which comes to the Celebrity Theatre on Saturday, October 13.
“We have fun making good music that entertains people,” Gokey says. “At the heart of it all is allowing the message in the music, which is hope. We want to change how people are looking at life, especially the disappointments. We want to keep them running the race and fighting the good fight.
“The epidemic of suicide and depression is really affecting our culture. We want to be counter culture.”
It has been Gokey’s dream to headline a tour since American Idol, which saw him placing third behind Adam Lambert and winner Kris Allen. Gokey released his debut album, My Best Days, in 2010. It debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart. Since then, the Wisconsin native has celebrated a series of No. 1 album debuts, including his first award-winning holiday album, Christmas is Here, as well as singles including the recently gold-certified “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” and “Hope in Front of Me.” His latest album, Rise, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top Christian Album chart and garnered his first Grammy nomination.
“I don’t take any of this for granted,” he says. “I just think, ‘Someone slap me, please.’ It’s a privilege what I do. I just want to keep getting better and better at what I do.”
Danny Gokey, Tauren Wells and Riley Clemmons, Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd Street, Phoenix, 602.267.1600, ext. 1, celebritytheatre.com, 5 p.m. Saturday, October 13, $27.80-$84.25.