David Cook is a busy, busy bee, but one who’s not going to be rushed. The American Idol season 7 champ has been working since January on writing and recording songs for his sophomore album, and while he’s well aware that an Idol results-night performance slot would be the perfect launching pad for a new single, he’s nevertheless more concerned with quality than cross-promotional synergy. We caught up by phone with Cook as he did interviews to promote his work on Idol Gives Back (set to air April 21 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox), and while we’ll cover details of his recent trip to Ethiopia in an upcoming issue of Entertainment Weekly and in a subsequent blog post, we didn’t want to wait to share scoop on what he’s been up to in the studio, and who he’s been doing it with. Read on!
Is there a possibility you’ll be debuting a single on Idol before the season is over?
Well, we’re working on it, and it’s definitely something I’m cognizant of. I would love to be able to debut a single on Idol this year. But at the same time we certainly don’t want to rush anything. Rest assured, we’re trying very, very hard. I can give a definite maybe at this point.
Is it better than a 50-50 chance?
It really is a coin flip right now. I would say no, it’s not better than 50-50, but it’s not worse than that either.
Any new collaborators you’ve worked with since our last chat in February?
Any flights of fancy you’ve gone on for the new album? Last time we spoke you had mentioned wanting to do a song that’s all vocals, no instruments.
I’ve been so busy traveling lately that we haven’t gotten to really delve into that too much. In reference to the all-vocals idea, I’ve got one or two songs in the till right now that could work in that direction, but the demos, as such, are instrumental. As for new collaborators, I got a chance to work with Matt Squire (Good Charlotte, 3OH!3) a little bit. Wrote a song with him and Claude Kelly called “Four-Letter Word” that I’m really excited about.
Is that a romantic song or an angry song? That title could go either way.
It’s actually a little bit of both. So it’s an angry love song. [Laughs.]
And who else have you hit the studio with of late?
I actually worked on a few songs now with a couple guys from the UK: Jim Irvin and Julian Emery. We did a song called “Paper Heart” and one called “We Believe.” And we just finished a song yesterday called “Alibi.”
How would you describe the music you’re making with them?
The choruses on all those songs are massive. They’re just massive choruses. And I will say they have pushed me vocally on these demos more than probably anybody else has. I’m definitely hitting high register on the choruses. The choruses are very open, very U2-esque, and the vocals are just up there, which pushes the intensity of them a little bit.
Was this a deliberate goal of yours?
My goal at the beginning of this was that I wanted to make a record that really, really pushed the concept of dynamic. Really pushed the interplay between loud and soft, the slow and the fast. And to make a record that catered more to the live show, and that had a versatility. To make a record that could be played at a coffee shop with an acoustic guitar, or that could be played with a mile-long catwalk in the middle of Madison Square Garden. I wanted to try to work on the interplay of opposites, I suppose.
And by “played in a coffee shop,” you mean “perform on Idolatry,” yes?
Exactly! [Laughs.] Don’t let anybody fool you, American public. Idolatry does have a 200-foot catwalk.
Totally. Any planned collaborators you’re hoping to work with before it’s all said and done?
I’m actually leaving for Nashville next week. I’m gonna write with Zac Maloy, the guy who I wrote “Lie” and “Life on the Moon” with for the last record, and he also wrote “Come Back to Me.” And then I think we’re talking about Ryan Tedder the end of this month or early next month.
I think you should write with Dolly Parton when you’re in Nashville. I still love your cover of “Little Sparrow” from the week she mentored on Idol. How genius would that be?
You know, I’m not opposed. [Laughs.] We’ll throw you a five-percent songwriter’s credit or something if it works out.
Below, check out our Idolatry interview with Mr. Cook from February 2010: