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'Idol' champ eyes long-term success

  • Story Highlights
  • David Cook became the seventh "American Idol" in the spring
  • Cook wrote or co-wrote most songs on debut, even helped design art
  • Cook and "Idol" runner-up David Archuleta get along fine
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By Shanon Cook
CNN
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Barely six months after being crowned the winner of "American Idol," David Cook has released his self-titled debut album.

David Cook recently released his debut album, which includes songs about his family.

David Cook recently released his debut album, which includes songs about his family.

The Missouri native (no relation to the author of this article) described the recording process as "squeezing a year's worth of work on a record into 2½ months." But he's very happy with the result.

"It's a very accurate definition of where I'm at, where I was and where I want to be," he said.

Cook sticks to his rock roots on the release, eliciting help from ex-Soundgarden member Chris Cornell to write the lead single, "Light On."

He also keeps loved ones close: The track "Heroes" is a tribute to his family. "Permanent" (which Cook describes as having a "delicate and lullaby feel") and "A Daily AntheM" ("sing-alongy and grandiose") acknowledge his older brother, who is battling brain cancer. The latter song was written three years before Cook's "Idol" run, when he was cutting his teeth as a grass-roots rocker. Video Watch David Cook show his chops »

Cook, 25, dropped by CNN's New York offices (with his mother, Beth Foraker, in tow) to talk about keeping creative control, losing his privacy and his responsibility as Idol No. 7. The following is an edited version of that interview.

CNN: You were very involved in the making of your debut album, weren't you?

David Cook: Yeah. Out of 12 songs on the record, I wrote or co-wrote 10, and the label was even kind enough to let me get involved with the art direction on the record. So it was a busy summer.

CNN: You actually have a degree in graphic design, don't you?

Cook: I spent five long years at the University of Central Missouri. It should've been four, but I enjoyed college a little bit more than I should have.

CNN: There's skepticism that American Idols have very little control over the music they ultimately make. That wasn't the case for you?

Cook: Well, I can't speak for anybody else except myself, and I guess in that sense, I lucked out. I mean, 19 [Entertainment] and RCA really [gave] me a little bit of carte blanche to allow me to make a record that is me. And to that end, I think we managed to pull something really cool off.

CNN: What was your approach with the music?

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Cook: I tried to put music down on this record that [translated] live. I want these songs to make people feel things and invoke certain responses in an audience. And so it's a lot of very epic choruses and open bridges and stuff like that. Something that will give a show some room to meander and feel like a unique experience for everybody.

CNN: [Lead single "Light On"] debuted on the Billboard charts at No. 17, and then several weeks later -- about four -- it dropped to No. 80. Was that discouraging?

Cook: No, not really. I think, for us, it's all about the long-term results. And I feel like the song seems to be getting speed now, especially with the record coming out. It just feels like everything's headed in the right direction, so I'm definitely not one to hang my head on immediate results. I'd rather the song hit No. 1 four months from now if it's gonna do it. I'm just excited to get this record out. I'm excited to have people hear it.

CNN: When you were catapulted to fame, did you ever experience any self-doubt or feelings of insecurity?

Cook: I'll be the first to admit there are [musicians] out there who are way better than me. I feel almost a responsibility to do everything that I can with this on their behalf as well as my own. But I've always been a confident person. I feel like I know why I'm here, I know what put me here. It's just a matter of trusting it and going with it.

CNN: All this talk about you and ["American Idol" runner-up] David Archuleta being mortal enemies is absolute garbage, isn't it?

Cook: It is. David is one of the most unassuming, down-to-earth people I think I've ever met. It seems like he has no idea he was even on the show, let alone did well. And I find that really endearing. He'll be the first to congratulate you. He seems to just appreciate every moment

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CNN: You seem to be a very private person. Has all this attention been a little intrusive?

Cook: In a sense, yeah. It's a little strange to go from toiling in obscurity to having to worry about walking out of a restaurant and [seeing] who's going to shove a camera in your face and all that. But it comes with the territory, and if dealing with that on occasion allows me to make music that I want to make ... then, I'll take it.

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