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"American Idol" David Cook: his new album, hair metal and the ladies

Davidcook_2 When David Cook sits down for an interview, he doesn't bring his iPhone. Despite being on a promotional mill that has one journalist handing him off to another, he works to engage with every one. Of course, since he's hitched his star to the Simon Fuller machine, he's almost certainly been pushed into submission at media-trainng boot camp. But he's managed to maintain the I-didn't-mean-to-be-here naturalness that's made his rise on "American Idol" fun to watch.

Cook spent an hour or so playing tracks from his upcoming solo album (streaming here on ClearChannel's I Heart Music site) and chatting about his hesher roots and pop star future. He laughed a lot. I thoroughly enjoyed him and quietly regretted making such a fuss about his "Idol" borrowings.

A full profile of Cook will appear in next week's Calendar section, but get a taste of our chat after the jump.

So you claim you are really a rocker. Convince me!
My first rock concert was Mötley Crüe and Ted Nugent! I remember being so enthralled. Nugent came out and they were playing "Stranglehold," and he was wearing a loincloth; they had set this archery target up on one of the light fillers and he came out with a bow and arrow and just nailed it, and all this pyro took off. There's something fun in that '80s excess, rock mythos kind of thing. And that's really what I want to get back to.

So the record sounds like hair metal?
We've actually got some twists and turns on this record, some secrets along the way to spice it up. There is a song that does have a little bit of L.A. rock swagger to it. The whole songwriting process was about how this is going to parlay live. I wanted big, open songs; I wanted those U2 bridges that could go on for a day and a half and the crowd would just eat it up. And I feel like we pulled it off. A lot of these songs are just very, very big. I love it!

You've enlisted a couple of your former bandmates from the Midwest Kings to tour with you. That seems like a wise move.
I just really want this to work, and to get out on the road, it's tight quarters and you gotta go with guys you can deal with. I wanted to grab guys from home whenever I could. Neil [Tiemann, lead guitar] and Andy [Skib, rhythm guitar and keyboards] are great musicians, I respect them as musicians and on top of that I've been in bands with them so I know I can get along with them. Neil actually played on the record, which was huge.

You're going to be playing in venues very different from the bars you played in with the Midwest Kings. How are you making the transition?
Before anything else, you have to have the songs. I want songs that are versatile -- that could be huge arena songs, or that you could go into a bar and play for five people and get the vibe across. That's what's great about rock, versus any other genre. There's a scope to it that I haven't been able to find anywhere else. You can take it anywhere.

The ladies love David Cook. Is that an issue for your credibility?
[Slightly flustered, or at least pretending to be.] The way that I've always approached music is just to write it. If more women than men like my music, I suppose that makes for a prettier audience. But I want to write music that makes me feel something, and if I feel something, I will perform it better, and if I perform it better, hopefully it engages more people. I'm not looking at it as a gender issue. It's more about inclusion.

Is there any part of you that misses the grassroots scene back in Oklahoma and Missouri?
There are aspects I miss, for sure. I've made it known that I would love to do underground gigs. Pick another band name and just go. There's something inherently rock 'n' roll about a dingy club on a Wednesday night, when the only reason anybody shows up is for the drink special. But I'm in a very amazing position right now, and whatever I can do to make this record a success is what I'm going to do live.

-- Ann Powers

Photo: Mark Mainz / AP Images for Fox

Comments () | Archives (17)

What a great read! Thanks for this little glimpse into the life and times of David Cook. It was nice to read your perspective after interacting with him.

I am really loving the new album. Bar ba sol and the hidden song are my favorites.

Ann, love your questions. These are the sort of things I always wonder about: what's it like to go from tiny bars to the big time? Fun answers: "There's something inherently rock 'n' roll about a dingy club on a Wednesday night, when the only reason anybody shows up is for the drink special."

Am excited by the streaming version of the album--I have that Lie song all up in my head now-- and look forward to reading the rest of your chat.

It is a great album and David can be proud of the quality of the songs. I have never heard an album that I loved every song on it before. There is a great variety and every song is completely different. To me it is like feeling what he is feeling and how cool is that! Permanent and Life on the Moon come to mind I can't wait until Tuesday

I think the album is great. I love the album because every song is different and each one is unique in it self. When listening to them I can feel every thing he is feeling as he sings. The songs range from rock to ballads and everything in between. I love every song on the album and that has never been true before. He is a genius at puting his feelings and emotions into his performances and that is why the women love him including me. franniewessel

This was quite an interesting interview that didn't judge Cook based on his platform (which would be the sparkly Idol stage) but got to know him a bit and then made up it's mind.

I've been following this guy's career for a while now and he seems like a genuinely decent guy who is personable enough that even if you go into the interview not particularly caring for him, it's hard to come out of it not liking him.

And the fact that he is interested about going back underground at perhaps a later time is a good indication this this guy is really about the music. That's refreshing, to say the list. Thank you for this, Ann Powers.

Great article and Great questions! I love hearing more about David's life before Idol with the Mid-West Kings. And I know what you mean; he's very easy to like, isn't he. We met him during his Idol tour and he was so friendly and approachable. I've listened to most of his album on the internet and there are some songs that just blow me away. I can't help but start to bob my head and smile when I hear "BarBaSol". I don't think I've ever cried during a song before but "Permanent" was beautiful and had the tears flowing. "Lie", "Mr. Sensitive", "Avalanche", "Life on the Moon" are amazing. Well, I pretty much love every song on the darned album because I can't stop watching the "Light On" video and his performance on SNL singing "Declaration". Oh, and there's that hidden track called "Kiss on the Neck"... I must say that I am north of 40 but that one is pretty sizzling if you know what I mean! I have to say that I haven't been this excited about an album in years.... only a few more days wait!

Nice interview. I've been listening to the pre-view, live streaming of Cook's cd..and I must say it is a good album. I will most likely buy most of the songs, maybe all of them...they are good, solid rock songs. Declaration is a good one and Light On, he performed these on SNL. The guys in his band are good, too. I think he will have a productive music career.

So refreshing to read an article about David Cook that doesn't immediately judge him as some kind of "ready-made reality-tv-fake-singer because that's absolutely NOT who he is!
He was a bona fide singer, songwriter, recording artist long before Idol days. Can't wait until every article about him is free of reference to IDOL so that those who know nothing about him can judge him on his own merits.

Truly LOVE the new album - was not able to find "Kiss on the neck" but it sure sounds sexxxxxxxxy like Mr. Cook himself!

Excellent interview, interesting questions. Thank God you didn't ask about boring topics. I want to learn more about David from the music point of view. He is very interesting and very talented and that's what I like to see on interviews.
FYI: he IS the real deal

Quite an enjoyable read! It's nice to know that there are members of the entertainment press with open minds who are interested in more than "who are you dating?" What has struck me following David Cook's post-Idol career here and there is that for him, the instant fame thing is an interesting ride, but he still approaches his music like the guy who was playing small gigs in and about Tulsa and just wanted people to take a listen. His enthusiasm for his new record is kind of infectious, and luckily, so is the music. Good stuff.

i can't wait for the full interview - the preview is pretty rad. thanks for the article! i've listened to the leak of dave's album about five times and i love it. standouts for me are "mr. sensitive", "life on the moon", "bar-ba-sol" and the hidden track ("kiss on the neck"?). it's all pretty great, though.

one thing: it's NEAL tiemann, not "neil."

Thanks for the interview - you asked great questions! I'm liking that record - Declaration and Bar ba sol are my favorites so far. Oh, and Light On.

Thank you for confirming what we already know about David Cook. He seems to be a great talent and a very nice person. I've read a lot about his debut album. Some have praised it and others have trashed it as being watered down Cobain. I do not know what is supposedly good and what is supposedly not so good. I just know what I like and I like the David Cook sound. The song Lies has got to be a single. It has a beautiful melody that just gets in your head and stays there. BarBaSol has to be a single. It is fun. It is sexy. It makes you want to move. Light On has not been embraced by the Top 40 stations, but I love the way David Cook can rock out one minute and caress the song the next with smooth beautiful vocals. I am a fan. I'll admit it and actually am proud of it. He has reawakened my love for rock music that kind of died with the rise of Seattle grunge. He is relateable to mainstream America and I believe will provide a huge boost to the lagging music industry. I wish him great success.

I didn't really get into last season's American Idol. The only contestant I was keen on (Brooke White) showed early promise and then kind of burned out (I love her expressive voice but found her 1st album so-so. Will still wait for her new one). The famous "Battle of the Davids" only held a passing interest, as their respective music didn't really ring a bell with me. With their new albums out, I've been doing some online listening. I was really expecting something along the lines of grunge / Nickelback from Cook. I was surprised that his album (to my ears) is more reminiscent of 80s rock (Journey, Eagles, a bit of chicago (!), whitesnake, and weirdly 80s country) - more 'rockiefied' if that makes sense, than flat-out grunge. He's compared a lot to Nickelback and Daughtry but his song lyrics are more interesting (unless they were written by other people?). Since lyrics plays an important part of music enjoyment with me (I know not everybody pays attention to this / to this first), what comes across is a very heart-on-my-sleeve kind of album. A very personal confessional feel full of songs that lay bare the singer's where-i'm-at life. Cook really likes those soaring guitars and high sustained vocal notes which makes the album feel like a concert version - which could be what he's aiming for. Reading this interview really jives with my thoughts on his album. I have to say I'm enjoying it a lot more than I expected.

David Cook is one of the best artists to cross my path in a long time and I am WAY north of 40! I loved that statement Brenda! I am excited about David's new album and I haven't been as excited about an artist since the 70's, I guess that dates me! Anyway, David you are a charmer and a true light, keep up the good work and rock the ages!

Thanks for the nice article of David Cook. I, like many others, are happy that you unlike many of your counterparts are able to keep an open mind regarding David and his music. The Idol title has many reviewers simply skimming the surface of the record and commenting in a very biased fashion.

I am all about the lyrics first, too. Shellghost (and anyone who is just discovering David Cook) should check out David's pre-idol music. You can find plenty on youtube. Search for Axium and/or Analog Heart. If you are into lyrics, David is the artist for you. Of all his pre-idol music, excluding a cover, David wrote all but one or two songs. I love his "heart on his sleeve" writing. It doesn't hurt at all that I love his voice, too.

Mostly, you should buy the new album. The bonus track (at the 12:00 minute mark of A Daily AntheM) is worth the price of the entire album.

David Cook can obviously sing, but will he gain lasting respect? I'm not so convinced.

I hyped David Cook on Everhype and scored it 54% which I think is fairly accurate.


I wouldn’t mind getting some opinions on it . If you get on there, rate me a 5 & request friendship.


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