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David Cook's A Reluctant (American) Idol)

Of the Oakland Press

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David Cook has become a bit disoriented — but happily so — since he was crowed the 2008 American Idol in May.

“They tell me my name’s David. I don’t know what my last name is — I assume it’s Archuleta,” the 25-year-old singer says with a laugh, referring to “American Idol’s” seventh-season runner-up.

“I’ve been busy but, y’know, I welcome it,” says Cook, who received 56 percent of the public vote in the finals. He subsequently placed a record 10 of his “Idol” performances plus his first single, “The Time of My Life,” on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with 944,000 first-week downloads. And he’s dating Season Two “Idol” contestant Kimberly Caldwell. “I really don’t have or ever had any disdainful feelings towards (‘Idol’). I’ve seen it as an opportunity and nothing more. I just never really saw ‘Idol’ as my path. I was content doing what I was doing before, but I can certainly appreciate how much this has accelerated everything for me.”

Cook was, in fact, working on an album in Tulsa, Okla., before he became an “Idol” finalist, a musical path that was rooted in the Kansas City suburb of Blue Springs, Mo.

Music was a family affair in the Cook household. His father played guitar, and both parents were “avid music listeners.” Cook, the middle of three brothers, went through R&B and country “phases” but latched onto rock “and never looked back” when his older brother gave him a stack of records for Christmas that included titles by Pearl Jam, R.E.M. and Billy Joel.

“I think for me it was just a matter of finding my own way,

for the most part,” explains Cook, who began playing guitar at 13 and redirected his attention from his other great passion at the time, baseball. “The first two songs I listened to were ‘Closer’ by nine inch nails and ‘More Human Than Human’ by White Zombie.

“After I started playing there were three records in heavy rotation — (Green Day’s) ‘Dookie,’ ‘Clumsy’ by Our Lady Peace and ‘The Color and the Shape’ by the Foo Fighters. Those are the three I kinda cut my teeth on.”

Cook — who had roles in high school musicals such as “West Side Story” and “The Music Man” — says his parents were “always supportive of me doing what I loved and kind of allowed me to operate in my own realm a little bit.” But they also insisted that he attend college, and he wound up at the University of Central Missouri on a theater scholarship, though after two semesters he switched majors and ultimately got his degree in printing and graphic design while also playing in the band Axium, which released three independent albums.

After graduating in 2006, Cook moved to Tulsa, Okla., to join a regional band called the Midwest Kings. He recorded an EP with that group, released a solo album, “Analog Heart,” and was already working on another solo project when he accompanied his younger brother Andrew to “American Idol” auditions in Omaha, Neb. — where Cook’s own plans were derailed.

“I was just there for moral support,” he recalls. “We were standing in line at 5:30 in the morning, the sun wasn’t up yet, it was raining, and one of the producers comes up with a camera and interviews my brother, ‘Why are you the next American Idol?’

“Then he turns the camera to me. I gave some smart-aleck answer and said ‘I’m not auditioning,’ and he goes, ‘You are now!’ I picked my song (Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’) and it all kinda snowballed.”

With no hard feelings from his brother, Cook rolled on to Hollywood and into the finals. His choices covered a wide range from Free to Roberta Flack, Dolly Parton to Duran Duran, with stops at Mariah Carey, U2 and Aerosmith and a nod to Cook’s theater roots with a rendition of “The Music of the Night” from the musical “The Phantom of the Opera.”

He particularly impressed viewers and the show’s judges by performing rocker Chris Cornell’s languid version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

Cook says there was a method to the way he approached things, too.

“I wanted to set up the season like a set list,” he explains, “and so I guess in that respect I forced myself to kind of assume I’d make it to the end. I wanted to have the first couple weeks be upbeat to draw people in, and then have those peaks and valleys throughout the season.

“The goal was if I look back now and look at the song list in the order of what I did, there’d be some continuity.”

And with his major label debut album looming for fall release, Cook hopes to keep that string alive in his material.

“It’ll be a rock record,” he promises, “an interesting rock record, something people would be glad to say they bought. To try to do anything else would not be in keeping with who I am.

“I look at guys like Bo Bice and Chris Daughtry ... that operated within the rock realm on (‘Idol’) and made it work. Those guys ... made it possible for somebody like me to come on here and win the show.”

Cook says his album is “heading in the right direction” and will be recorded during days off from the summer’s American Idols Live! tour and after it finishes. Because he’s done it before, he feels comfortable in the studio, but acknowledges that “doing it on this kind of scale is something I always dreamed of doing,” and represents a significant learning curve.

“I definitely feel I’m still a little green,” Cook says. “I’ve got a little bit to lean on, but I also realize I’m 25 years old and have got the world to learn.

“This is a unique opportunity and can get fairly daunting at times. But for the most part, I feel like I’ve got a leg up on some people that would try to do this in that I’ve been on the other side, so I appreciate it a little more. I have to give it the best shot I can.”


David Cook’s “American Idol” predecessors have had mixed fortunes since their selections. Here’s how six years of “Idol” champs stack up:

Kelly Clarkson (Season One):

The Texas-born singer has sold more than 19 million albums worldwide, scored eight Top 10 hits and ranked No. 8 on VH1’s poll of the sexiest women of the new millennium. But a battle with her record company tanked last year’s “My December,” though she made a quick mea culpa and is hoping to resume her success with her fourth album, which is due this fall.

Ruben Studdard (Season Two):

Quickly eclipsed by runner-up Clay Aiken, none of the Velvet Teddy Bear’s albums really caught fire and he was dropped by his label in December. Studdard’s having more success in touring productions of “Heaven I Need a Hug” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

Fantasia Barrino (Season Three):

Her 2004 debut, “Free Yourself,” went platinum and received four Grammy nominations. Two years later “Fantasia” “slipped” to gold and three Grammy nods, but she retrenched with a well-received role in “The Color Purple” on Broadway and a role in the film version of the musical, which starts production next year.

Carrie Underwood (Season Four):

Though her statistics aren’t as good as Clarkson, Underwood is still on the ascent. She sold 7 million copies of her 2005 debut, “Some Hearts,” while last year’s “Carnival Ride” is triple-platinum. She recently released her fourth single from the latter, “Just a Dream.”

Taylor Hicks (Season Five):

The Soul Patrol has failed its leader. Although his self-titled 2006 album went platinum, he’s no Chris Daughtry. Hicks, who’s starring in “Grease” on Broadway, has switched labels for his next album.

Jordin Sparks (Season Six):

It’s taken some time, but Sparks’ self-titled, platinum-certified debut feels like it’s taking off thanks to two Top 10 singles — “Tattoo” and “No Air” — and a third, “One Step at a Time,” that’s currently climbing the charts.

American Idols Live! featuring David Cook, David Archuleta, Brooke White, Carly Smithson, Chikezie, Jason Castro, Kristy Lee Cook, Michael Johns, Ramiele Malubay and Syesha Mercado, takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday (July 24) at Joe Louis Arena, Tickets are $68.50, $54.50 and $39.50. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment

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