It was 10 years ago next summer when a virtually unknown singer-songwriter living in Tulsa, Okla., auditioned on a lark for a certain reality music television show. Little did he know that try-out for “American Idol” would lead David Cook to later be crowned champion, an achievement that has continued to reverberate throughout the rest of his life.
“I don’t feel like it’s been 10 years, but sometimes it looks it,” says Cook with a laugh, thinking back on the experience that shot him to nationwide fame. “My outlook on Idol has been pretty consistent. It was an opportunity and platform and I’m internally thankful that I was in a position to take advantage of that. In that context it’s been nothing but a blessing.”
However, Cook also points out: “There’s always going to be, as a byproduct of what it is, people who write you off because of it and that’s a bummer. But the people who do that are denying themselves to find something that might mean something to them.”
The career that Cook kicked off on what was then the single highest-rated television show in the United States (Cook reigned supreme over runner-up David Archuleta) garnered him a nationwide audience and subsequent fanbase. It’s that cross-country string of fans that Cook is tapping into for his latest tour, slated to roll into Solana Beach’s Belly Up Tavern on Aug. 31; a gig Cook says he’s looking forward to, considering the last time he was in San Diego was under different circumstances.
“A couple years ago I repelled down a building in San Diego in an event called Over the Edge,” says the singer. “It was for a charity I’m involved with called ABC2 to accelerate finding a cure for brain cancer.” For Cook, the charity hits close to home. In the years following his win on “American Idol,” the singer was just as focused on his career in music as he was on his ailing brother Adam, who passed away from the disease in 2009. The loss left a lasting impact on Cook, perhaps giving him added perspective and additional perseverance to stay afloat himself in a fickle industry.
That navigation of his career has all led up to the release of his latest single dubbed “Gimme Heartbreak,” which was released in June and marks a departure.
“Starting actually with ‘Gimme Heartbreak,’ I tried to write a little differently where I wanted it to go more in a software, synthesizer direction,” said Cook, who’s known for front guitar-driven rock tracks. “My inspiration was bands like Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack, but to try to bring a more cinematic pop element and combine that with other influences from artists like Halsey and Aurora. I wanted to take all of those inspirations and wrap them around what I normally do. It was different for me because I didn’t want to focus so much on narrative and wanted to find as much imagery as possible.”
When it comes to Cook’s stage show, fans should expect a wide range of tracks, from newer songs such as “Gimme Heartbreak,” to “Idol”-era favorites like “Light On,” his 2008 debut single from his self-titled debut album co-written by the late Chris Cornell. It later reached number 4 on Billboard’s Top 40.
What’s Cook’s secret to remaining a viable artist 10 years after winning the show that would change his life? He says it simply: “I believe in keeping your head down and doing your work for as well as you can, as hard as you can, for as long as you can.”
David Cook rolls into Solana Beach’s Belly Up on Thursday Aug. 31. Doors open at 7 p.m., the show starts at 8 p.m. Visit bellyup.com.