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

November 14, 2008 | 11:47 am

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