Style:MEN | text: Terence Lim | photography: Alwin Oh | styling: Damian Huang
David Cook was at the top of his game. Exhibiting top-notch rocker showmanship, he worked his magic on the spectators gathered outside ION Orchard for its third anniversary party. Hearing him belt out hit after hit with his band supporting his raspy voice was a real treat. But who is David Cook?
I'd be the first to admit I didn't know who he was prior to this interview. This 30-year-old Texas native was the winner of season seven's American Idol, edging out David Archuleta in the final. (Oddly, Archuleta rings a bell in my head but not Cook; Idol became a drag after a couple of years.) His 2008 self-titled debut album went platinum and his second album, This Loud Morning, was released in 2011. He subsequently went on a successful tour.
All seemed rosy for Cook's singing career until last May when he launched a new single, The Last Song I'll Write For You, on season 11 of American Idol. He revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that the single was not recorded under RCA Records and that he was without a contract. Which led to a lot of speculation as to whether the song was directed at his former record company.
"The lyrics talk about saying goodbye to a chapter of your life," he told Style:MEN. "Just like a girl breaking up and closing a chapter in life. If you ask me whether the song is written for RCA, the answer is no. But I sure can't speak for my subconscious..."
Not one to wallow in rumours and setbacks, Cook is currently working on his next album, and trying to reinvent, well, everything. "It's easy to lose yourself being a musician, with all the fanfare and travelling. So, for now, it's going back to the basics."
He admits, however, that life post-Idol is never going to be the same, again. Even grocery-shopping these days is a different experience.
"You're on TV for four to five weeks; people come and talk to you like they've known you for life. It's a by-product of fame, of Idol," says Cook. "It can take a while to get used to it. You're forced to change the wiring in your head."
But there are no regrets in joining the reality singing competition. The pros are obvious, he stresses. He recalls being in a band for 10 years -- but their album somehow never panned out. "With Idol, I paid off my debts, and play music, so that's good."
Does he miss the days of being in a band or does he prefer being a WGWG (acronym for "white guy with guitar")? He explains: "I like the band dynamics, but there are pros of being a solo artiste. In a band, there is some sort of give and take involved."
"The term 'WGWG' doesn't bother me. It's a fact: I'm a white guy playing a guitar. But what bothers me is that it's a dismissive term. It's not a complimentary term." He feels that the acronym simply lumps the Anglo-Saxon Idol participants into one big genre as long -- as they play the guitar. "Kris Allen is a great musician, he plays the guitar. But we don't make the same music. We are more than just 'WGWG'. People who use the term are cutting off the paths that we artistes can embark on."
So, who exactly is David Cook? From the short session he has granted Style:MEN, I see a musician who plays with great passion in his heart. As he interacts with our styling crew for his photo shoot, it's clear that he knows what he wants, what he can do, and what he likes. Music fuels him, and this is definitely not his swan song.