Never Want to be Defined
It's a rainy morning in mid-November, and a day off for David Cook on his acoustic tour where he performed at NYC’s Sony Hall the night before. He’s a bit under the weather, and his left hand/wrist is still injured. 2 weeks before the tour, he says, he had a few drinks back home in Nashville, and let his dogs out and fell – after he rocked six-inch heel boots 6 days a week for 12 weeks in NYC. Regardless, he has diversified his portfolio as a performer, including his Broadway debut on the Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots, playing the lead role of Charlie Price. “I was excited to take on that challenge but I was scared out of my mind,” says Cook, who practiced 3 weeks before starting the actual show and studied how to speak with that East Midlands accent for over 6 weeks with a dialect coach. At the end of his debut show, he was met with a standing ovation and a huge bouquet of flowers.
Growing up watching his father play the guitar Cook picked up instrumentation in the 5th grade. He started a band with his childhood friends in high school and would perform at local gigs.
“My music career is littered with pieces of circumstance, and meeting people at the right time,” says the 36-year-old singer-songwriter. That good luck was matched with even more drive. While attending college in Missouri, he joined a band in Tulsa, Oklahoma – and would make the four-hour drive after class so he could play a gig, then drive back to school overnight.
After graduating from the University of Central Missouri, he had the opportunity to get a graphic-design job in his hometown of Kansas City, or make the permanent move to Tulsa to get his music career off the ground - he chose the latter. “I just felt like I had my whole life to make money,” Cook says, adding that the decision was not without resistance from his family. “I think they were concerned but they were supportive. They were adamant about putting a time frame on it, you don’t want to spend the next 30 years trying to make this work.” It was during this time that he made his first breakthrough as a recording artist. His music gained him recognition within the city as Cook self-released his debut album Analog Heart in 2006, and was the winner on the seventh season of American Idol, only six months before the end of his self-imposed deadline. “Man, I fell a**-backwards into Idol. My little brother [Andrew] wanted to audition for a long time, auditions popped up in Omaha, Nebraska, and he asked me if I would come with him for moral support,” Cook recalls. “I said, ‘Sure’ – because for me, it was a vacation – and I got talked into auditioning while standing on line.”
With last year’s Chromance and "Death of Me," moreover, the self-described “rock guy” took a stylistic turn, focusing more on melodic love songs with his desire to “put a fresh coat of paint on things” and trying to “actively expand the definition” of rock & roll.
Apart from music, Cook spends a lot of his time organizing charity events and raising money for brain cancer research. He’s partnered with a non-profit ABC2 (Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure) that works to bring a venture approach to brain cancer research and treatment. The cause holds a special place in Cook’s heart as he lost his older brother Adam to brain cancer in 2009. “It (the partnership) started under the worst of circumstances. My first event with them was the morning after my brother died,” Cook opens up. “It selfishly became a cathartic thing for me and my family every year to attend the event. There’s still millions of families fighting it, and if I can use this platform that’s been afforded to me to raise money and awareness, then I’ll gladly wear that.”
Writer: Alain Clerine
Photographer: Joshua Cutillo
Photographer Assistant: Ashley Spicer
Fashion Editor: Lassalle (@stylebylassalle & @stevenlassalle_ - www.stevenlassalle.com)
Fashion Editor Assistants: Huberta Marie (@huberta.marie) & Star Campbell (@starcampbellstylist)
Men’s Grooming: Anthony Isambert
Videographer: Ray Antonison
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to Comprehensive Hospitality Solutions