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David Cook

Forum Q&A with "American Idol" David Cook

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A lot of folks thought the fresh-faced, 17-year-old David Archuleta would win the "Battle of the Davids" in the 2008 "American Idol" finale.

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A lot of folks were wrong as the grungier, rockier David Cook took 56 percent of the vote and the Season 7 crown.

And while he made his name singing other people's songs on the "American Idol" stage week after week, Cook now lays claim to 10 writing credits on his own self-titled CD and is crisscrossing the nation on tour.

Cook plays at 8 p.m. Sunday at The Venue at The Hub. He took a few minutes earlier this week to speak with The Forum from his bus in Spokane, Wash. Here's what the singer said about music snobs and making the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

The Forum: Talk to me about influences that have really shaped the way your music sounds.

Cook: Wow, I mean, there's a lot of groups, bands like 8stops7 and Our Lady Peace and Big Wreck. You know, growing up, I watched my dad play guitar, so that was probably a huge influence. And then really just, kind of, the '90s grunge movement: you know, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, stuff like that.

So when you're just kicking back listening for your own pleasure, what do you listen to?

Actually - and this is not a shameless plug - the band that's opening for us right now is a band called The Crash Kings. (They've got a) great record out, self-titled. Came out in April, and I've been listening to that. I've been listening to a lot of Ben Folds. I actually just bought the last two Underoath records. Listening to Erin McCarley and then a band out of Chicago called Oh My God.

I believe you have writing credits on about 10 of the 13 tracks on your album. How important is it to you to have a hand in writing the music that you record?

Oh, to me it's paramount. For me, it's a lot easier to go on stage and emote when I have, like, personal investment in the song.

When you were on "American Idol," you had a strong fan base of teenage girls that helped you get that victory. Do you find that they continue to be a big part of your fan base?

Yeah. ... I also feel like we've kind of expanded and brought in some new ears, which is great, you know? And that was kind of the goal of going out on this tour and getting this record out. And this record's something I really believe in, and so the fact that we've been able to go out on the road and play over a hundred shows and continue to have people come through the door, I feel like it's a testament to the fact that we're probably doing something right. I don't know what it is, but we're doing something.

When you were making that record, did you think in terms of demographic or how did you think about that?

We tried to put songs on the record that made the hair on the back of our neck stand up. And that was really the litmus test. If a song made me jump around and yell and generally just get excited about it, then that was probably the right song to do.

Is it true that as a pitcher in the American Legion baseball league you once gave up a homerun to current Major League baseball star Albert Pujols?

Yeah it is. And I'm not sure that it's landed just yet.

You know, if you're going to give up a homerun, that's a pretty cool one to give up.

Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I wish I hadn't given it up. I wish I could say that I struck him out.

To be sure, "American Idol" provides a lot of exposure for an artist. But is there also a sense in which it does some damage to your street cred, you know, so to speak?

I think the term "street cred," when it comes to being a musician, to me, it's something that's really only adhered to by music snobs in general. So I don't really bother with it. I've played music since I was 12 years old. I know the work that I've put into it, so if anybody wants to question it, then I guess they can kind of waste their own time.

One of my colleagues heard some flavor of the band Journey in your music. Is that an influence for you?

Yeah, I mean, I love Journey. I never really thought of it as an overt influence. Oddly enough, I was actually out on the road, but my guitar player, Neil, was in L.A. tracking on the record. And we were at (producer) Rob Cavallo's house. That's where his studio is. (Former Journey frontman) Steve Perry walked in one day. I don't know. Maybe he rubbed off on the recording process. I have no idea.

Having won "American Idol," has being a product of that program helped you go where you want or has it hindered you from going exactly where you would have liked musically?

I mean, it's really helped. I've said all along, I feel like this is the record I would have made with or without "Idol," and so I mean, I get to travel the country and, in some cases, the world and play music. It's not a bad gig.

How far in the future do you think a new album is for you?

You know, we've already started kind of casually writing.

If you were going to characterize your sound, how would you do that? What category would you put it in?

Um, music.

It's not food.

It's definitely not food. It's not animal, plant or mineral. It's just music.

If you go

* What: David Cook and The Crash Kings

* When: 8 p.m. Sunday

* Where: The Venue at The Hub, 2525 9th Ave. S. in Fargo.

* Info: Tickets available at 300 Broadway in Fargo; The Hub host desk from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday; The Hub ticket kiosk from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday (credit/debit card sales only); at Tickets.com; by phone at (800) 511-1552.

On TV

* What: David Cook is the musical guest on "Saturday Night Live"

* When: 10:30 p.m. Saturday

* Channel: NBC

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