Wednesday, February 25, 2009

David Cook: "Don't try to be, just be..."

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since we first met David Cook. But if you think it’s hard for us to believe, think what it’s like for David himself.

Several times during our conversation, when I asked him about his experiences, he used the word, “amazing” and I could almost see him shaking his head in disbelief through the phone—especially when I told him that the tickets to the Shawnee State University concert Friday night sold out in less than five hours.

“We’re really looking forward to you coming here,” I told him.

“Well, I am looking forward to coming there,” he told me. “That’s amazing.”

However, David did ask me to do something about the weather since it’s been a little cold on the tour so far and I told him I’d see what I could do. But if you’ve seen Friday’s forecast, you know I probably can’t do much.

I’m sorry, David. I’ll try harder…

Other than the cold weather, the tour has been going well for David and his band. “So far, so good. We’ve managed to not injure ourselves,” he joked. “The crowds have been great. A lot of cool things have been happening.”

So why a college tour as opposed to bigger venues? “There’s a vibe at the college show I’ve never found elsewhere. It’s one of the most critical audiences. There is no other place where you’ll find more opinions about music than a college campus.”

Cook was also looking for venues that would match what he wanted to do with his shows. “It’s organic. It’s real. It’s accessible.”

So what will we see at Friday night’s show? “People that caught me on ‘Idol,’ they’ll see a little more. We try to have fun. We’re not ones to take ourselves too seriously.” David told me the setlist will have some pre-Idol songs, some fun covers, and some solo songs that were never released as singles. Two of David’s band members were in the group MWK with him, so they’ll also do some MWK songs.

There’s no doubt that it’s been quite a year for David. “It’s been everything I’ve dreamed of and then some. To share the stage with Neil Diamond, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Dolly Parton, and Mariah Carey. To pick their brains was priceless.”

David has also been able to perform at Carnegie Hall and for the troops as part of a USO tour. “These are amazing things people never get to do, let alone dream of doing. Those experiences, which I’ll take with me for the rest of my life, are invaluable.”

In fact, David talks about these experiences with such zeal it was hard to keep up (I think I need a speedwriting class.). When at one point I was forced to tell David I was catching up, he actually apologized to me. “I talk fast and long, I apologize.” At one point, David even said, “No worries. Take your time.”

If I ever had a doubt about all of those text messages I sent for him last year, I definitely don’t now…

And since he was being so nice, I almost hated to bring up “Idol” since you know he’s tired of all of those questions. But I had to ask him the question I ask all the Idols I’ve interviewed: What’s the most popular question you get about “Idol”? And wouldn’t you know, he gave the same answer. “Is Simon as mean as he is on TV and the answer is yes. But he was my favorite judge because he motivated me every week.”

So since I’d opened the “Idol” door I asked him if he’s had any time to watch the show this season. “I’ve seen very little of the show, but I try to keep educated through the Internet. I’ve seen a little bit. I think the talent is as strong as ever.”

Speaking of strong “Idol” talent, the Internet is still buzzing about David’s duet with Carrie Underwood at the opening of the Idol Experience at Walt Disney World. “Carrie’s been great on a personal level, just helping me since she’s been through this,” David told me when I asked about the duet. “And we share an Oklahoma connection.” So what was he thinking when he took the stage with her? “I was just thinking, don’t trip her up,” he said, only half joking. David said he’d love to sing with her again if the opportunity could get worked out.

The other thing I was nervous to ask about was David’s personal life. But I had to ask him if he’s been surprised about how scrutinized his life is. “It’s probably the most unnerving thing. Sometimes it seems like if I cough it’s going to be on CNN. But I appreciate that people care enough to talk about it.” David then shared with me something that someone told him once, “Loved or hated, never ignored. I’m okay as long as I’m not ignored.”

Since I still had a minute or two, I couldn’t resist asking him about his opening act, Ryan Star. “Ryan is a great guy. We did a radio show together in Atlanta. When I saw his set, I was just mesmerized. He’s got a passionate intensity about him on stage that I hopefully match. He’s really set the bar high.”

For my final question, I asked David what he would say to a group of struggling musicians who were in his place a year ago. “It’s really easy to try to chase what is at the moment, but there’s no longevity in that. I guess if I had to give advice, I’d say, ‘Don’t try to be, just be.’ When I started focusing on who I was, everything fell into place.”

And I don’t think things will be falling out of place for David any time soon…

David—and Ryan—will be in concert at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts on the campus of Shawnee State University this Friday night beginning at 8. So yes, I will have LOTS more for the next few days. And you can read more from me in this weekend’s “The Herald-Dispatch”…

Photo Credit: Ron Cadiz/RCA