David Cook Discusses a Fresh New Sound and Reinventing His Wheel
The singer-songwriter of American Idol fame talks about the creative process, feeling fortunate, and surrounding himself with the right people.
Since breaking into stardom as a result of his appearance on the seventh season of American Idol, David Cook has sold over 1.5 million albums (including his certified platinum eponymous album) and 5 million tracks worldwide (including two platinum singles). Finding Nashville to be a highly-creative base environment in which to produce music, David has backed his 2015 studio album Digital Vein (which debuted in the top 5 on the Billboard Pop Chart) with a fresh new EP teased by its first single Gimme Heartbreak which is currently available in digital formats.
While on tour in support of his multiple hits, the easy-going singer-songwriter spoke to The Flash List about the creative process, feeling fortunate, and surrounding himself with the right people.
TFL: When did you first begin to notice a shift from just hearing music from the outside in to expressing it from the inside out?
DC: I started my first band at like 13 or 14, maybe 15 if my math's off, and music always seemed like a good cheap alternative to therapy I guess. You know, when you're an angsty teen and all that, it's nice to be able to put pen to paper and get that energy out. So early teens, I'd say, is when I really started working on the craft of writing songs; and obviously that's something I've continued to work at now for twenty years since.
TFL: Would you say your music is more about embracing humanity or about changing it in some way?
DC: I think for me it's the former. I would say, in the context of writing songs, that I've never really felt like I had the answers for that kind of stuff. It's always been about the experience of being in the middle of those things that I think everybody goes through like love and loss and everything in between.
TFL: What characteristics will mark the next chapter of your music career, and what has been the catalyst for the change?
DC: I think specifically with this new stuff – the new EP and Gimme Heartbreak – it was more of a conscious effort. I felt like Digital Vein, our last full-length, was a great bookend. So when I went into writing for this new stuff, I wanted to reinvent my wheel. It started from the outset, going into writing sessions and trying to incorporate more cinematic pop elements and really change the way I wrote. Historically, I've always been really tied to the idea of narrative with a song; and I wanted each song to have a story to tell. And while I feel like all the songs on this new EP have that, it was more of a byproduct than the initial goal. I wanted there to be more imagery. So it came down to just writing little snippets and keeping them on my phone and then going through that database as I was writing and finding the lyrics that held up – almost like putting a puzzle together. Even into the production, I was really just trying to bring those cinematic pop elements out of what I guess I'm known for. And I think the end result is a different sound. It feels fresh. Honestly, the hardest challenge for us is being out on the road and trying to figure out the best way to bring these songs into an existing set list because they are so different.
TFL: How do you wind down both on tour and when you're at home?
DC: [Laughs.] Winding down – that's almost a foreign concept anymore. I've been really fortunate to surround myself with people that are pretty chill and pretty low-drama. You spend time with friends and family; and if I'm going into an off-day and I've got nothing to do, I might have a beer or two. But for me, more than anything, rather than finding those small little pockets where you get decompressed, it's just about surrounding yourself with the right people and having that balance throughout.
TFL: What makes you feel fortunate?
DC: Everything! I'm in Berkeley, California, today. The weather's great; and I'm on a tour bus with people that, for the most part, I like [said facetiously]. A couple of them are sitting next to me, so that's why I say that. You know, I think just to be able to do something that I love to do, and make a good living at it – that, in and of itself, is pretty fortunate.
TFL: What's the most important lesson you've learned in life so far?
DC: That it's not linear. I think life is all about riding the wave. If you can swing through the valleys and stay on the board, it makes the peaks that much sweeter.
For more information and additional tour dates including David Cook's upcoming concert appearances at the Granada Theatre in Dallas and the One World Theatre in Austin, see details below or visit:
UPCOMING TOUR DATES
Aug 25 | Berkeley, CA | Cornerstone
Aug 26 | Petaluma, CA | Mystic Theatre
Aug 29 | Los Angeles, CA | Troubadour
Aug 31 | San Diego, CA | Belly Up
Sep 1 | Las Vegas, NV | Chrome at Santa Fe Station
Sep 2 | Phoenix, AZ | MIM Music Theatre
Sep 3 | Tucson, AZ | 191 Toole
Sep 6 | Oklahoma City, OK | Tower Theatre
Sep 7 | Tulsa, OK | The Shrine
Sep 8 | Dallas, TX | Granada Theatre
Sep 9 | Austin, TX | One World Theatre
Sep 12 | Birmingham, AL | Saturn
Sep 13 | Chattanooga, TN | Revelry Room
Sep 14 | Athens, GA | The Foundry
Sep 17 | Tampa, FL | The Attic
Sep 19 | Gainesville, FL | High Dive
Sep 21 | Orlando, FL | Epcot
Sep 23 | Ft Lauderdale, FL | Broward Center
Sep 26 | Asheville, NC | Grey Eagle Tavern
Sep 27 | Richmond, VA | Broadberry
Sep 29 | Raleigh, NC | Stag's Head Music Hall