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Soundcheck: David Cook 

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A former bartender, David Cook is the last well-known American Idol winner. Cook, 26, won the popular televised contest in May 2008 and had more impact than the 2009 winners. Influenced by hard-rock bands like Our Lady Peace and Alice in Chains, the Houston native is touring behind last year's eponymous debut, which has gone platinum. He spoke about how he's dealt with overnight success and overcome recent health issues .

How would you describe your life, post-American Idol?

If I had to use one word, it would be "nonstop." I'm always on the move. We've been playing a lot of shows. But it's all good. This is what I wanted to do.

Your life has been like a movie. Not long ago you were tending bar, and now you're playing to hundreds or thousands every night.

It's been surreal. I don't think I could be a bartender anymore since I think I forgot about how to make drinks. That could be a problem. But the truth is that I'm so focused on being a musician. I'm just fortunate that I can focus on that. Before all of this happened, I had to focus on money, having enough to get by. Making sure my car was running. It's a luxury to just focus on the music and performance. I couldn't ask for anything more. I get play in front of so many people. It's a dream come true.

Any interesting fan or groupie stories?

We had a bra thrown onstage. We've had panties tossed up onstage. I guess we made it if that kind of stuff is happening. We've arrived. We feel like rock stars. It's a blast. I just love having interaction with fans.

Much has been made of your success, but you certainly paid your dues over the years. How discouraging did it get when you were slugging it out as an unknown in the clubs?

I'll admit it, I got discouraged. That happens to anybody who does this. You take your lumps and move to what you need to do next. After being in bands going nowhere for years, I wondered if I was going to make it or if it was going to be one of the many sad stories you hear about. It's not easy to make it in this business. Only a small percentage do make it. You read all about those who make it, but then there are so many others that have it very difficult. It hasn't been easy, but I'm happy where I'm at today.

How much control did you have with American Idol? Do you have any input in the arrangements of songs?

The arrangements and song selection is all up to the contestant. It was all on us, which was a good thing. We sent our notes of the arrangements to the band and they did what they could do with it. I have nothing but great things to say about American Idol. I'm proud that I was part of such a great show. I wouldn't be where I'm at without American Idol.

Didn't you have a health issue while on American Idol?

Yes, but I was no danger. I just have genetically high blood pressure. It just spiked up a bit. It was no big deal, but it was just something that was blown way out of proportion. I wasn't dying or anything. My health is good.

Unlike many of your American Idol peers, you tend to mix it up live.

I like to play a different set list every night. That keeps everything interesting. It's all about the entertainment factor. I'm not just up there playing the same songs every night; I'm there to entertain. I like connecting with the crowd. I'll talk to the audience and just have fun. I don't understand how recording artists go through the motions every night. It makes it harder on the band, but the fans really like that the songs are different every night and that there's some banter.

Are you working on new material?

We mess around with stuff on the road. We noodle around at soundcheck. But I would like to get back in the studio next year and make the next album.

music@clevescene.com

More by Ed Condran

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