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Catching up with David Cook - LA Times Interview
[mb] swagger;;
micheleeeex wrote in allsingalong
March 17, 2010 


Season 7 winner David Cook returns to the "American Idol" stage on Wednesday, much to this writer's delight. The 27-year-old Missouri native, who recently moved to L.A. but insists he still has one foot in his home state, is currently working on the follow-up to his platinum-selling self-titled debut, though he won't be playing a new song on "Idol." Instead, Cook, like the Top 12 contestants, will pay tribute to the Rolling Stones with his band's rockin' rendition of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" that's sure to be a gas, gas, gas.


But on the album front, Cook recently returned from songwriting sessions in Europe and is just about done with the demoing phase for his sophomore effort. He's co-written upward of 30 songs, with another 10 to 15 in the pipeline. He played two for us on Monday night, following a rehearsal for his "Idol" gig. Snap judgment? We'll give it three Hs: heavy, hooky and full of heart. Cook's voice has never sounded better. Like a favorite pair of boots, the wear and scruff only accentuate the quality leather from which it's made. (Yes, that's how we like to think of Cook -- with leather.)

Cook hopes to have a single ready in April, with the album to be released over the summer, which means he'll soon have to sequester himself in a recording studio (a producer has yet to be chosen). That may be part of the reason for this unexpected "Idol" appearance. Cook is also scheduled to visit the "If I Can Dream" house on Thursday night (fans can talk to him live via the "Dream" house Twitter). And guess who's tagging along?

Until then, the always eloquent and insightful David Cook gives us a career update and also his view on what the Season 9 Top 12 are going through right now.

This 'Idol' performance sort of seemed to come over of nowhere...

It was a late addition to the calendar. We kind of cooked this all together within the last week. I'm excited about it and also a little nervous to be performing such an iconic band's song -- you want to do it well. But I'm looking forward to getting back and seeing everybody on "Idol," as well as the new contestants.

You've appeared on the show a couple times since your win, but are you so happy not to be  judged each time?

More than you know.


Tim Urban, one of the current Top 12 finalists, performed your song "Come Back to Me" during Hollywood week. What was that like for you?

I saw that, actually. It was cool. I was flattered. Hollywood week is so tough, and I thought he did a great job with the song. He seemed a little nervous, which I probably would have been too. But yeah, I saw the sales numbers go up a little bit from that, so that was very much appreciated. He's helped me pay my bills. If Tim wants to do another one, I wouldn't be opposed.

Watching it must have been surreal.

I get kind of freaked out watching the episodes, because I remember Hollywood week -- being at the hotel bar, working on my song and thinking, "What am I doing here?" I buddied up with Josiah Leming,  Michael Johns, and Carly Smithson all during that week. We would hang out, and just be like, "What is going on?" So since then, I empathize with the people that have had to go through that.

What are they going through right now?

Man, it's tough. Being this close to the Top 10 and the tour and all that stuff. Ten was a milestone for me. I started out like, "OK, I made 24, now I want to make 12." Once I made 12, I said 10, then I made five and wanted to make three, for the hometown visit, then two and so on. It's tough now, every person that goes home, the bar gets raised a little bit. Once you start getting down to the last few, you just don't know.

David, you're someone who really made a name for himself by changing up a lot of the arrangements, yet this season has been getting a lot of criticism for trying -- and failing -- too hard to twist things up.

Sometimes I feel like too much emphasis is put on changing the arrangement or changing the vibe of the song. That's not necessarily what you have to do, you just have to make the song your own, whatever that means. For me, what worked is I knew my voice, but it's also about internalizing the song and putting it out there in a way that makes it believable coming out of your mouth. That's the big difference between "Idol" and karaoke.

You once made a crack about being a grandfather to these new contestants two seasons on, but Lee Dewyze is someone who can be looked at as a disciple of sorts.

Lee's interesting to me, he's got kind of a husky rock voice for sure, it seems like his musical tastes are a little different. I'd be interested in seeing what he does not only in the next few weeks but post-"Idol." That may be jumping the gun a bit, but he's a talented dude, and I think he's definitely heading in the right direction.

Anyone else stand out in your mind?

I really like Crystal, I think she's got a lot of talent and I'm looking forward to seeing her stretch her boundaries a little bit. I don't know, the people I've gotten into this season aren't on it anymore. I really liked Katelyn Epperly. I thought she was great. If it were up to me, she'd be in the top 12.

What about the criticism about this season? A lot of fans are saying it's just not as exciting as previous years.

We had criticism too. I saw a random article [recently] that asked, "Has Idol jumped the shark?" It's such a weird argument to make because it's still pulling 24 million to 30 million viewers per week, so you take it all with a grain of salt. I think by bringing Ellen in, the show's different for sure, but I don't know that enough time has gone by to really pass that kind of judgment. 

I would say we haven't heard much about your record, but you tweet about your progress pretty much nonstop. There's an art to Twitter, don't you think?

There is, man. I do this all the time -- I type something, step back, look at it, then I read it and think, "Who's gonna maybe get [angry about] this?" And if I think enough people will ...  I don't tweet it. I try to censor myself a little bit, because my brain sometimes comes up with stuff that has no business being on a public forum.

Speaking of words in another context, what are some of your new lyrics about?

It was interesting, I kind of write subconsciously and then look back at it, and a lot of the songs are about loss. But not in a hopeless sense. I wrote a song with David Hodges called "Tonight Is on Our Side," and the chorus goes: "So I'm leaving / See you in another life / Still I'm breathing our memories of our last July." On the surface, what I was singing about was young love, high school, the summer before they go off to different colleges and they know they're gonna split up, but they have that night. It's almost like being on that precipice of loss and that sense of calm about it. I haven't deciphered it all yet. Probably a lot is about Adam. [David's brother died of cancer in 2009.] Yeah, but some hopefulness has come out of that situation too.

Are you gonna write us some love songs?

[Laughs] Right now, I've got a song that I worked on with Kevin Griffin and Jamie Houston called "Fade Into Me." It's a love song, but those are tough for me, because I hate the whole, "Ooh girl, I love you, baby." That doesn't really vibe well with me, so in order to sing a love song, it has to say the same thing in a really different way, and "Fade Into Me" does that, which is really cool.

You recorded in London, Stockholm, New York City, all in the dead of winter. Should we be expecting a cold-weather record?

Vancouver too, which was surprisingly mild. It was like 55 degrees a month before the Winter Olympics. I've been joking about it. Even on the tour, I remember we hit Long Island when a massive snowstorm started back in February of last year. And then, we didn't get to Canada until October of last year, when it got cold again, then New York, Vancouver, London and Stockholm.

Do you feel like you have more freedom to do what you want on this album than the first?

In the sense of time, yes. You know, the last record was tough, because a lot of my voice was used in correspondence, through e-mail and iChat and stuff like that. I'm just stoked about being able to go in the studio everyday and really shape this record a little bit more fervently. I think any extra voice in the process has come from having more time to conceptualize an idea or a theme. I knew from Day One what I wanted the second record to sound like and what I wanted to get across, and to be able to have the time to actually implement that has been great. Plus, I learned a lot from going out on the road, and I want this record to have more of a live feel -- to take whoever's listening to it from point A to point B. And hopefully a bunch of places in between.

What have you been listening to lately?

A lot of Mae, Jimmy Eat World. ... I got the new Massive Attack record, which is really good. It's a little outside of my thought process right now, but I really like it. And I've been listening to a lot of comedy, like Lewis Black and David Cross. 

So you're looking at a couple months of recording to have it out in the summer.

If it were up to me, I wanted it out yesterday. I tell my manager this story all the time. My first record with my band Axion, we rehearsed for a few weeks, went in the studio, cut eight songs in two days, and we had a record. That's how my head is -- let's just get it done and put it out. That's not the best way to do it, obviously, but I get kind of uptight about how long this takes. I want to put a record out just as much as my fans want me to, if not more, because I don't like being in one place for too long. I love being on the road, and I hate routine, so I'm just champing at the bit to get rolling. And in order to do that, I need to get this record out.

Any special guests planned for the album?

No, but you know what? Consider this my open invitation, anybody that wants to come help on this record, please come help. It'll be fun, I'll buy some beer.

-- Shirley Halperin

Follow @IdolTracker on Twitter

Photo: David Cook in the studio. Credit: 19 Entertainment


This is a late reminder, but don't forget to watch American Idol tonight to see David Cook and the Anthemic take on the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" :)

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I love him so much. Champing at the bit? I wonder if he said that or if it is a typo. I would love it if he said it like that. Clearly, I need help. &hearts

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