David Cook was pretty busy when DSD spoke with him recently from his adopted home of Nashville, Tenn. The winner of the seventh season of "American Idol" was programming the light show, as well as working out the song list, for his upcoming North American tour.
The nearly 40-date run coincides with the release of Cook's fourth LP, "Digital Vein," and will keep him on the road through November. The album is Cook's first since 2011's "This Loud Morning," and like his 2006 debut, one that he self-produced.
"It's strange," said the 32-year-old singer-songwriter. "I started this record's process not knowing if I was going to finish it. The last eight years have been pretty crazy. I lost my brother while touring on the cycle for the self-titled album and just kind of kept going. I was working and trying to process that at the same time. I finally had to take a big step back. I had to ask myself if I really wanted to keep doing this."
Luckily for fans, the answer was yes. But it came slowly. Cook released a couple of singles in 2013, and co-wrote David Nail's Top 20 country hit "Kiss You Tonight" in 2014.
And while he admits to losing some of the joy for making music before working on "Digital Vein," it has long since been restored.
"It's always a challenge," he said. "This is an industry where it's easy to get music heard, but difficult to get people to pay attention. And that makes it exciting and very scary at the same time. But I still believe in great songs. I really do. And I don't know if that's an archaic belief or not, but I think great songs should always win."
For someone whose musical trajectory went from grinding it out in a bar band to multi-platinum artist seemingly overnight, the singer has tried his best to keep things in perspective. But that doesn't mean he's mastered the chaos that comes with releasing a new album.
"It's a constantly shifting dynamic," Cook said. "You just have to put everything you can into an album and say, 'OK, here it is. Love it or hate it.' Every time it's like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. You're just hoping you hit water at the right angle instead of the ground. I don't think I'll ever be comfortable with it. But I've accepted and embraced the fear the best I can."
It's likely some of that calm comes from the experience of being judged on national television. Shows like "American Idol" have given millions of struggling singers and musicians the chance (no matter how small) to put their careers on overdrive. Cook made the most of his and isn't looking back.
"There are people who will always see me through the lens of 'American Idol,'" he said. "And that's fine, because at least they're seeing at me. I'm very proud of coming from that show. They gave me a huge opportunity. I'd been trying for 10 years to get to the next rung of the ladder before that. As long as you're listening to the music, I'm just fine with any reason you got there."
David Cook performs at Music Box San Diego on Oct. 2.
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.