David Cook has never been afraid of changing things up. Nearly a decade after his "American Idol" win, the singer/songwriter continues to find new ways to combine his infectiously unique style and influences with elements of the here and now.
For his dramatic new single, “Gimme Heartbreak” Cook made a conscious decision to incorporate more cinematic pop elements into his music. His inspiration comes from such artists such as Halsey and Aurora while sticking to his rock foundation that includes influences like Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack. The result is less of a reinvention and more of the next chapter in the career of one of rock’s most dynamic artists.
AXS recently spoke with Cook about the new single, his upcoming EP and touring.
AXS: “Gimme Heartbreak” represents a departure from some of your previous work. How did the song come about?
David Cook: I wrote “Gimme Heartbreak” with a guy named Steve Rusch. At the time, the demo was just lo-fi acoustic guitar and a programmed beat and not much else. As I was going though collecting songs for this new EP I had the idea where I really wanted to update the sound a little bit. I felt my last full-length record, Digital Vein was a nice, bookend to my career up to that point. For this one, I wanted it to have its own personality, so I leaned on old standbys. I've always been a big fan of rock music and bands like Our Lady Peace, Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack. I had that bedrock to build on but I also wanted to tune it by adding some cinematic pop elements. I’m a big fan of Halsey’s first record, Badlands and a girl named Aurora, who has this great, really dark, pop record. I tried to lean on that a little bit while still maintaining the integrity of what my wheel house is.
AXS: “Gimme Heartbreak” is a preview of your upcoming EP. What can you tell me about it?
DC: We've got three songs tracked and I'll be heading back in soon to record a few more. It’s very exciting. I've got a good rapport with my engineer, Andy Skib, who I worked with on the last record and has played guitar with me for a long time. We really know how to communicate with each other. It makes things fun and allows me to feel more comfortable in my own skin to try new things.
AXS: You’ve been previewing some of the new songs live on your most recent tour. What made you decide to test the waters?
DC: I had a chance to litmus test a few songs with the last record before it was released. It allowed us the opportunity to tweak the songs and make them closer to perfect. I enjoyed the process the last time so it felt like an obvious thing to do, and the response has been great. There’s an immediate excitement about these songs, which puts even more gas in the tank to finish up the EP and get it out.
AXS: What can you tell me about your upcoming tour dates?
DC: We start back up in Denver on Aug. 16 and are out until the end of September. Then there's talk about adding more dates for the end of the year. I love the creative process in the studio but getting out on the road and playing songs for people is where you get the immediate reaction. I love the pass/fail aspect of playing live. To get out and play the songs I'm excited about and getting people excited about them too is the cornerstone of what I do.
AXS: It’s been nearly 10 years since your "American Idol" win. When you look back on that experience now with so much perspective what thoughts come to mind?
DC: I think the further away we get the more appreciative I become. I still remember sitting in a meeting with management shortly after the finale and them asking me what I wanted to get out of it. I remember saying that if I could just get ten good years out of it everything else would be cake. Just having a career in music that's my sole job is something I'm very proud of.
AXS: What was the biggest change you’ve noticed in the music industry since winning "American Idol?"
DC: The way people access, ingest and digest music. Back then, it was MySpace and iTunes was still relatively new. Now, we have Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal. That's been the biggest change. It's awesome because there are less rules on how to get your music heard, and it's scarier because there are less rules into how to get your music heard [laughs]. It's a bit of the wild west but on the plus side it gives more opportunity for the cream to rise to the top. The best song is going to win, which is how it should be.
AXS: Was there a moment in your life when you realized that music was going to be your calling?
DC: My first band we started when I was in my teens and that band stuck it out all through college. During that time, I still hadn’t really found myself musically. But then I remember getting asked to move to Tulsa to join another band. It was a pretty big shot in the arm and gave me the opportunity to take a chance and start investing in myself a little bit. It all worked out.
AXS: What are you most looking forward to about the new music and this next phase of your career?
DC: Whatever's next. I think in order to do this the right way and to really appreciate things it involves being open to wherever this train is going. I’ve always been a big proponent of the idea that if you put out music that you believe in and gets you excited then you're going to find a group of people who agree and want to be a part of it. I've been fortunate to have people who want to go on this ride with me. As long as I have that I'm in good shape.