Friday, I had the opportunity to participate in a media call with the newest American Idol, David Cook. He had lots to share about his experience on American Idol. I canít wait to see where his new career will take him and wish him success with it.
At the beginning of the season, Simon calls you cocky. He calls you pompous and then suddenly on Tuesday night heís calling you one of the most sincere contestants heís ever met.
D. Cook: What a journey, huh?
Yes. So hereís the question: Did Idol change you? Did you change yourself? What happened?
D. Cook: You know, I really didnít change much of anything as strange as it is. I went into this with kind of a different perspective from everybody else. I didnít have any expectations as to what the show was going to do for me or what I was going to do for the show. I just went into as an opportunity to expose myself musically to a large audience. So my confidence level really never wavered and maybe thatís what got misinterpreted as cocky or arrogant. I think as the season went on maybe he saw the work that I was putting in not just on my own stuff, but really just to try to make it a positive working environment for everybody.
Do you think that to some degree you maybe didnít understand what the scale of American Idol was at first and that over the course of the long season you sort of got a sense of just how big this thing is?
D. Cook: No. I think I understood the brevity of what the show encompasses, but I just donít think I chose to get wrapped up in it. I think for me I just wanted to not just experience the experience, but enjoy the experience.
Why donít you tell us about your first album coming out of the Idol gate? What sort of songs are going to be on it? Are you going to write a lot of them, all of them? Best case release date?
D. Cook: I think itís going to be a mixture of my writing and hopefully writing with some other people. The bottom line is I just want to come out of the gate with a solid record, so if can do that Iíll be happy.
But the type of the music and the ideal release date?
D. Cook: Well, the ideal release date is as soon as possible if youíre asking me, but obviously these things take time. As far as the type of record, itíll probably be a rock record, but I think thatís a pretty vague generalization. I just want to make a record thatís going to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
How is it that youíre still single?
D. Cook: Well, I have no idea. Thatís all I can say.
I wanted to know if youíve had any sleep. I saw you on a bunch of TV appearances yesterday and Iím thinking is this guy getting any rest? Are you awake right now? Whatís going on?
D. Cook: Well, I got an hour nap in about Ö rest of the day, which was nice. Then as soon as I got done yesterday I went straight to bed, so Iím actually moderately rested today.
How did you deal with all the songs? I was trying to count here. You had the group numbers, the duet with Archuleta. You had three songs that you performed in the final and then the new song, the winning song that you sang. How did you deal with all that new material for just one weekís worth of shows?
D. Cook: Well, they made it very, very easy for us with everything going on. I think itís just a matter of trying to focus in on each song at a time and not really worrying about Iíve got five songs left, Iíve got six songs left. Itís just taking a step back and going one moment at a time.
Sometimes people kind of exaggerate and they make it sound like a bartender came out of nowhere and suddenly won a contest. Can you kind of straighten this out a little bit about your musical background? How often did you get a chance to go out and play? Did you have a full band of your own? How did you end up in Tulsa of all places?
D. Cook: Well, I started in bands when I was 15 years old in Kansas City and was fortunate enough to get to play in and around Kansas City quite a bit and got to travel around the Midwest on occasion. The move to Tulsa, Iíd graduated college and the opportunity to continue music presented itself in Tulsa, so I went. I played acoustic gigs a couple of times a month. I played full band gigs a couple of times a month and I just kind of hoofed it around the Midwest for about 10 years.
As far as the previous question about getting all the songs mastered and so forth, because you were doing so many of them, were some of them on teleprompter for you guys for the last night, and in particular the winning song?
D. Cook: Yes, some of them were on teleprompter for us. At the end of the day Ė and I keep saying it Ė you can get the words, but itís still about the performance.
And just tell me on that last song, did you think you had a real good chance of winning? Had you worked hard on the last song, or was it way in the back of your mind because you had been convinced that you werenít going to win?
D. Cook: You know, Iíd worked as hard as time would allow on the last song. The thing is you have to hope for the best and prepare for the best, but expect the worst and thatís pretty much how I operated. I made sure that I was prepared to win, but I actually did a great job. I said it the whole time: I definitely thought if youíre basing it off of two, that he deserved to win. He came out and did three amazing songs.
Can you update me on how you guys celebrated?
D. Cook: I met up with my family and we went to the 19 party and just kind of hung out for a couple of hours and talk to people. I went home and called it a night. I just wasnít able to shut my brain off apparently.
And what about you and your brother? Are you going to maybe collaborate on anything? Obviously Andrewís musical too.
D. Cook: You know, Iíve left the option open. Iím kind of leaving it up to him. Itís however he wants to operate in this whole deal. I know he wants to try to make his own way, so Iíll support him whatever he decides to do. I wouldnít mind writing with him.
You guys seem really close. Maybe heís going to come on tour with you guys?
D. Cook: Well, weíve talked about it. Heís actually still in school and so the scheduling might be a conflict. Iím hoping to maybe get him out at least for a short stint, maybe like a week or so.
So your brother I know was a really big influence and a huge part of getting you on the show. He pushed you and talked you into doing this. Is there anything that youíve ever pushed your brother to do, maybe even as kids that he turned out to be really good at?
D. Cook: Well I feel like inadvertently Iím responsible for getting him into video games, but past that our familyís kind of operated on weíll support you in whatever you do. Just try to find your own way about it. Heís done a really good job. Heís studying to be a teacher and seems to be really into it. So whatever he decides to do, itís kind of like you have to find where your own heart is.
Was there anything really surprising that you learned about American Idol once you became a contestant that you really werenít expecting?
D. Cook: Yes. When the cameras are on, thatís when itís easy. You know, thereís so much stuff that goes on in the hours that show is not airing. Thereís a lot of behind-the-scenes work both on the contestants part and on the production staffís part that completely gets overlooked, the lighting, all of it. Itís just an amazing production.
So I want to ask about the Internet phenomenon that is Cook Mania. So far Iím checking and seeing your Guitar Hero commercial has over 200,000 views on YouTube and your songs are like the top four downloaded songs on iTunes. How does it feel?
D. Cook: Well you know, it doesnít feel bad. I canít believe the level of support that has come out of my doing this crazy TV show. All I can do is try to embrace it and make all the effort people are putting in to supporting me worthwhile and thatís going to start with a record and hopefully moving down the road a tour and a lot of success, so the skyís the limit right now.
I know a lot of people really enjoyed your cover songs and just have been sharing them legally and illegally and everything. Does that put pressure on you to come out with your original work and have it be just as loved?
D. Cook: No, I donít think so. I donít really feel like thereís any added pressure other than whatís already there. I want to come out with a record that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and I keep saying it. I just want to put out a record thatís going to be able to stand up on its own long after Iím gone and if I can do that, then Iím set. The covers were great, but Iím ready to get back into the creative process of writing songs and basically kind of baring my soul on these records, so I look forward to it.
I was just wondering, when you went in we all wrote rocker, David Cook and you were categorized right away. Then as the season wore on, I was so surprised at your amazing versatility and you could take almost any song and sometimes youíd put your own spin on it, which was a little bit more edgy and all that. You just let your soul come through. Did this change your feeling about other music and would you come out with a song that was more Andrew Lloyd Webber-ish or something like that on your album?
D. Cook: Well I donít see myself putting out a record of standards or anything like that. You know, for me Iíll probably end up putting out a rock record just because I feel like thatís the kind of music that I enjoy playing. You know, that was the exciting thing to me about the show. I loved knowing that there were things that I could do that people would never expect that I could do. You know, Andrew Lloyd Webber night was fun for me. I loved the fact that everybody was like, ďWhat?Ē Iím going to try to recreate that energy within this record. I want this record to have some twists and turns. I want people to feel like they got taken on a trip from beginning to end. I got my work cut out for me. It should be a lot of fun.
I just wanted to ask when are you going to be able to actually go home to Missouri? I know that youíre on Larry King tonight and then youíre going to be doing other things Iím sure.
D. Cook: As of right now, Iíll be on Kansas City August 29th and 30th playing at the Sprint Center. Past that, I donít know. Iím kind of just on for the ride a little bit and whatever free time Iím allotted Iím going to try to get home as soon as I can and spend some time with my family. I have a new nephew that I have to see for my home visit and I canít wait to see him again.
You always seemed to either pick songs or turn songs into Ė particularly with like the Mariah Carey song and the Dolly Parton song Ė sort of these unexpected songs and turn them into these sort of really emotional moments. It seems like you were really connecting on those levels with those songs. What is it that you sort of look toward to turn them more than just sort of like a good vocal performance or something like that. It seemed like a lot of times you were really taking it to the next level.
D. Cook: Actually there was a short article that Debbie, our stage manager, hung up in the red room kind of related to this season. It talked about Frank Sinatra and how he would go about the song process about recording a song. Before he listened to the music, he would read the lyrics and basically try to tune into what the lyrics were saying and what the song was about and then he would go into the music aspect of it and figure out the melodies and all that. So for me that was a really eye-opening article. It made me think I just need to step back. Before I even try to learn this song I just need to read the lyrics and that really helped as far as trying to find the vibe. You know, with the Mariah Carey song I loved that the lyrics had a little bit of longing in them, but that it was still packaged in kind of this upbeat pop song. So for me that was a very natural transition, just to kind of slow it down a little bit and really kind of get the music to tune in just a bit more to the vibe of the lyrics. That was probably the biggest lesson I learned throughout the show.
Now, were you born in Houston? Is that right?
D. Cook: I was born in Houston, yes.
Now, do you have any connection here or recollection or any family here still or anything like that?
D. Cook: I donít actually believe so. I think my parents moved down there for work, but I was born in Bay Town or Bay View Memorial.
Yes, Bay Town.
D. Cook: Yes, Bay Town Memorial. I was born there and we lived in Houston for about a year and a half and then my dad got transferred not long after Hurricane Alicia I think.
I guess it was sort of cool because you did the thing on the finale with ZZ Top who are from here. What was that like?
D. Cook: Iíll tell you what. Those guys were so nice. You know, you hear horror stories all the time about established rock bands and musicians just kind of being about them and that couldnít have been further from the truth with those guys. They made it so fun and so easy, given the fact that there were 90 million other things going on. I couldnít ask for a better scenario and hopefully somewhere down the road we could do something like that again.
So did you know during the competition that you were really running away with the votes? As we heard you won by about 12 million, so did you have any idea during the competition that there was that much of a gap between you and David A.?
D. Cook: You know, I think that number is actually really misleading. Obviously within the bubble of Idol, itís hard to kind of get a vibe on whatís going on. I thought Archie was probably a little bit ahead of me if Iím being honest. I think as far as the finale goes, thereís a lot of conspiracy theories out there. I attribute the finale vote discrepancy just to my fans just being awesome. I donít really know how else to explain it. You know, my hats off to Archie for the whole scenario. I mean, he handled himself with a lot of grace. More importantly, heís just an amazing human being, so I was just honored to share the stage with him.
Do you think that Simonís criticism of you during the season sort of got your fans to rally around you and sort of give you that many more votes because they wanted to Ö what Simon says?
D. Cook: Wow. Thatís not a bad theory. I donít know. You know, all I can hope is that it was based on my own merit. Regardless, Iím happy where Iím at. Simonís blunt and heís honest and thatís why they pay him the money that they pay him. The goal of the season for me was just to try to find some constructive criticism on what he was saying, which sometimes was a little tough, but thatís part of the show.
First of all, why did you move to Tulsa? How did you choose to come here? Second of all, what kind of experience did working in the bars and clubs give you that might have given you an edge on American Idol?
D. Cook: Well, when I graduated from college I had a choice of moving to Tulsa and playing music or staying in Kansas City and getting a real job. So I moved to Tulsa to join a band called The Midwest Kings. They needed a guitar player and Iíd known them for years and I consider them great friends. So it just seemed like I wasnít ready to give up on music and I didnít think music was ready to give up on me. I just made a decision to chase the dream a little bit. I think working in the clubs and bars and stuff helped me as far as from a humility standpoint, you get pretty humble playing shows to five people. Having that experience made the Idol experience all the sweeter. To go from one extreme to the other, you kind of appreciate the huge crowds and all of that. I definitely think my time in Tulsa was needed in order to have any form of success on the show.
So have you heard from any of your friends in Tulsa since the win?
D. Cook: Absolutely. Iíve heard from a lot of them. Itís amazing the level of support Iím getting, not just from my friends. They tell me things that are going on in Tulsa with people that Iíve never met that are supporting me. Thatís the cool thing about this show is I think it allows such a platform not only for me to showcase who I am musically, but it allows people to get to know me and invest and thatís promotion and support that money that could never buy. So Iím extremely about Idol for that.
I wanted to ask you about Analog Heart. That sort of popped out during the completion and then people were finding in on Amazon and then it apparently got pulled. I wanted to know what the story was sort of behind making and trying to release that and if thereís a plan for a re-release at all.
D. Cook: Analog Heart actually got released independently in May of í06. I spent a good year just playing out and promoting that record as much as I could. So it got sold and a lot of people, thank God, bought the record. I think I ended up close to selling out like right before I came out. Then about midway through the season, I had to have the record pulled obviously for fairness issues in the show. I got it pulled offline and then somebody Ė I have no idea who Ė reposted it on Amazon. So while all that was going on, I was kind of at a loss. I had talked to Amazon about getting it pulled and thereís a bunch of mass confusion about it. Iím extremely appreciative of how well it did. I thought that was amazing that it went number one. Yes, I was certainly just kind of a pawn in that whole game.
Was there was sort of a theory that maybe you might do better off not winning, sort of like Daughtry has in terms of like keeping what some might call some rocker credibility and not having the sort of more mainstream pop American Idol winner label winner. Now that you are the American Idol, I guess I wanted to get your thoughts on maybe that theory going in and how you feel about that now.
D. Cook: Well, I mean obviously the theoryís there. Did it cross my mind at any point in the competition? I mean, sure, but only as an objective point. I think going into this was an idea that you donít want to win I think is a huge slap in the face to the 103,000 people that auditioned this season that really wanted to win, so I definitely went into this to try to win it. As far as having more success by not being a winner, I think thatís something thatíll get played out hopefully in the next couple of years. I think Daughtryís success is amazing. So for me like right now Iím not trying to be Daughtry. You know, Iím just trying to put out a solid record. Even if it doesnít do well commercially, as long as I can say that I put out a record that Iím proud of, thatís the goal right now and hopefully if I can do that, then success will follow.
I know just very quickly you talked about wanted to go back to writing your own songs. Were there any of the cover songs that you did this season that youíre thinking or planning or hoping to include on your album?
D. Cook: As of right now there are no plans as far as an album recording. You know, I look forward to after the tour and stuff and trying to get another show together, maybe incorporating a live show, just something fun. You know, things change on a dime around here so I have no idea.
Any songs in particular?
D. Cook: No, not really. I think at this point I havenít really wrapped my head around the idea.
I wanted to ask you to talk a little bit about your growing up years in terms of the activities you were involved in both in terms of music and then maybe whatever else you liked to do as a kid in elementary school and middle school.
D. Cook: Well, I was a sports nut and music was kind of a hobby, so a lot of baseball, football, basketball. I did choir and theater and stuff like that in high school too. I had a pretty well-rounded, I guess, experience with school and everything. I did sports. I think music just kind of presented itself.
At what point did you start to think music is what Iíd like to do for my career. Iíd like to be an entertainer. Do you remember what age you really started to think that might be a possibility?
D. Cook: I was probably 16/17. Iíd been in a band a couple of years and we played in the United Way assembly at my high school. I think we played ĎWild Thingí with our assistant athletic director, Dan McLaughlin. I just remember being so nervous, but it was a different kind of nervous. It was very anxious and the feeling was actually something that drove me for a long, long time.
You were just such an entertainer week after week, so it was great to have you on the show. I just want to ask you a little bit about your brother, Andrew. He was obviously so proud and it was really touching in the finale when he kind of mouthed the words ďThatís my brotherĒ on stage. I donít know if you know that. Can you talk a little bit about the morning that you decided to go the audition with him and whether he ever had any hard feelings for how it turned it?
D. Cook: Well, as far as hard feelings. I really lucked out in that arena. He has been my number one supporter from day one and has routinely told me how proud he is of me. I canít wait to see what happens after this. I canít wait to hopefully help him out and try to him enjoy some of the fruits of my labor, since this is Ė as I said on the show Ė all his fault. No, the audition process was strange. He really wanted me to audition with him and I was just hesitant, not for any negative stigma associated with the show, but I didnít really see this as my path for whatever reason. To stand in line at 5:30 in the morning in Omaha and the sun hasnít come up. The producer comes by with a camera and interviews my brother and then turns to me and Iím like, ďIím not auditioningĒ, and he goes, ďWell you are now.Ē Life has a weird way of working itself out sometimes.
So when you were standing there you werenít thinking, ďIím going to win this thing.Ē
D. Cook: Oh no. Not at all. You know, I just figured Iíd go in and sing a song and theyíd say I wasnít what they were looking for and Iíd go back to Tulsa and work on my record some more, but apparently somebody had another plan.
I was watching American Idol Extra the other night and you said that when you look at the initial songs that you had done like in the first few rounds, that you donít really recognize that guy. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
D. Cook: Well, this showís been great for my diet. Iíve lost probably 10 Ė 15 pounds through the season. There was definitely a progression for me on this show. Early on Ė Iím talking like the third or fourth week in Ė Debra Byrd, our vocal coach, really hit home with me on a particular lesson. I think going into this, I put up a wall, kind of a protective barrier between me and the audience just to kind of protect myself, a little bit of a defense mechanism. She kind of forced me to break that down and I think it helped in the performances. Everybody talks about how towards the end I started crying a lot. Well, you know there was just a lot of intensity into the last few weeks as far as just what was at stake and all the work that had been put into it. I said in a lot of interviews yesterday the crying after I won was like an exhale. This whole experience has been about eight months, including auditions. I felt like that whole time I was just holding my breath. So to be able to breathe and to enjoy the moment was amazing.
David, do you have any closing remarks?
D. Cook: No other than I definitely want to pass on as much thanks as possible to everybody that offered support and hopefully it continues. I canít wait to put this record out and show people what kind of artist I am.
Thank you to FOX for allowing us to participate in this media call.