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Exclusive: American Idol alum David Cook discusses new music and exploring new styles

I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to maintain some sense of perspective on all of this. I attribute that to the people I’ve surrounded myself with.” David Cook began, remembering his early days in pursuit of a career in music. Continuing, he revealed, “I certainly recall that it wasn’t that long ago that I was just another struggling musician, trying to get people to pay attention to my originals while they enjoyed Happy Hour.”

That was then. Now American Idol alum and season seven winner, has a record breaking reputation to boast, breaking several Billboard chart records in 2008 when 14 of his songs debuted on the Hot Digital Songs chart and 11 of his songs debuted on the Hot 100. He’s sold millions of albums and seen his self-titled album certified platinum.

Currently David is back in the studio, exploring new styles and finishing up an EP. To advance it this summer, he whet appetites by debuting single “Gimme Heartbreak”, available now on iTunes and Spotify. The style is a departure from his early music and fuses pop/synth and drama, housed within smoldering dark edges.

We sat down with Cook this week to find out more on the evolution of his music, his songwriting process and his fans! Read his gracious and engaging words below and be sure to follow him on PledgeMusic for updates and releases!

Marian: Since breaking into the industry via American Idol, and notably in record breaking fashion, can you articulate how you have grown/evolved as an artist?

David Cook: I think, more than anything, time has allowed me to be more open to styles and production that I didn’t see as in my “wheelhouse”.  The idea of synthesizers and more software-based production was something I probably bristled at before.  Now, to be able to explore those textures and landscapes that I had, in truth denied myself, it’s expanded my songwriting repertoire tenfold, at least.  I think that and the inevitability of my musical tastes changing as I get older certainly contribute to whatever growth I’ve made as an artist.

M: Let’s talk about your new single, “Gimme Heartbreak” which advances your new EP. What made you choose to release this particular track first? Is the rest of the EP similar in influence to this track?

DC: “Gimme Heartbreak” just had an energy that we were able to tap into with the production.  I wanted that energy to be present in spades with the new EP, and “Gimme Heartbreak” was the first real foray into that vibe.  The rest of the EP should share that vibe.  That’s the goal, anyway

M: What continues to inspire your songwriting? Has the process changed or evolved over time?

DC: I had this sort of epiphany when I was writing for the last record, Digital Vein. I think I had started to close off from a lot of inspiration that had been living on the peripherals, if that makes sense.  So DV was as much an exercise in opening up to those ideas as anything. With the material for the new EP, it feels so far, as maybe trying to hone those re-found skills a little bit.

M: What else can you disclose about your forthcoming EP? Is there a release date set yet? Title? Story behind it you want to share with fans?

DC: We’re heading in to hopefully finish up recording next week. Once all that is sorted out, I think the other elements (the title, the story behind it, etc.) will start to take on more shape. It’s hard to describe when you’re standing in the middle of it, I suppose.

M: What are some of the most rewarding and/or defining moments for you personally to date in your career?

DC:  I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to maintain some sense of perspective on all of this.  I attribute that to the people I’ve surrounded myself with.  I certainly recall that it wasn’t that long ago that I was just another struggling musician, trying to get people to pay attention to my originals while they enjoyed Happy Hour.  To be able to travel and play music and have people show up and sing that music back to you.  All of those experiences are defining moments.

M: Likewise, what are some of the challenges you feel you have grown through, or are currently facing?

DC:  I still struggle with the idea of learning to be OK with taking a breath every now and then and taking care of me. For whatever reason, I’ve always had an issue with the idea of letting people down, and so I’ve always tried to avoid it. That comes to a head with things like doing shows when I’m too sick to be singing, or when my brother, Adam passed away in ’09. I missed one show for his funeral. I didn’t take the time I needed to process and be there for and with family.

M: You are on the road quite a bit, and have been throughout your career. How does this affect you? Do you still enjoy it? How do you keep it all balanced?

DC: I love being on the road, but the parameters have certainly changed.  I think the days of being on a tour for a year and never being home in that time are long gone.  I’ve been able to build a life for myself off the road. Part of trying to keep everything balanced is making sure that I’m home more and able to be a good and present member of that home.

M: The American Idol title seems to follow artists who have succeeded as winners after appearing on the show. What are some of the pros and cons of this? How have you adapted to it as an artist?

DC:  It’s used both ways. I think it’s been a great platform for me. Allowed me to do something I love for a living. But there are those who will dismiss whenever they see that connection. Some of those who do are artists that I admire. I made peace with it a long time ago. It’s part of my story. A story I’m damn fortunate to have.

M: What would you say to each of your fans if given the chance? How does their support inspire and influence you as an individual and artist?

DC: Part of what I love about the road is that you get to interact with fans. I’ve been humbled by that interaction. Whether it’s supporting my music, or participating in charities I work with, they always surpass any expectations I might have. Just awesome folks. I’ve said thank you so many times, and it always feels trite and underwhelming.  But it’s all I have. So, “thank you”?

Watch the official lyric video for “Gimme Heartbreak”.