The winner of the seventh season of Fox's American Idol competition, David Cook is a rock-oriented vocalist with a bent toward a commercial post-grunge sound. Although born in Houston, Texas in 1982, Cook grew up in Blue Springs, Missouri, where he first began singing in various elementary-school concerts. The budding musician then participated in his high-school drama program and appeared in many musical productions. During his junior year of high school, Cook formed the band Axium along with a classmate and performed with the group throughout his college years, even releasing two independently produced albums that garnered some national recognition. Although he attended the University of Central Missouri on a theater scholarship, Cook switched degree programs after two years and studied graphic design instead. After graduating in 2006, he parted ways with Axium and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to pursue his musical interests. While there, he worked as a bartender and performed with the band the Midwest Kings.
Cook released an independently produced solo album, 2006's Analog Heart, before auditioning for the 2008 season of the Fox vocal competition American Idol. (Not surprisingly, Analog Heart became a best-seller online during Cook's time on American Idol.) Initially, Cook came to the Idol auditions to support his younger brother Andrew, who did not make the cut. However, after gaining encouragement from his brother, Cook sang Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" for the show's judging panel and was accepted into the competition's Hollywood round. A guitar player since age 12, Cook took advantage of the show's new rule allowing vocalists to play instruments on-stage, and for many of his subsequent performances accompanied himself on guitar.
Although he did not receive much attention during American Idol's early stages, his third week's performance of Lionel Ritchie's "Hello" drew rave reviews from the judges, who praised him for transforming an R&B song into a post-grunge power ballad. It was a formula that Cook would repeat with much success a few weeks later, when he performed a rock arrangement of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" borrowed directly from a recording by former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell. Also bringing some extra attention to Cook was the revelation that his older brother was battling cancer. Sensationally, Cook was taken to the hospital during the competition for treatment for high blood pressure and heart palpitations, purportedly caused by stress over his brother's situation. However, he quickly returned to the show and dismissed the event as a minor precaution.
Often referred to as "the Battle of the Davids," the 2008 finale of American Idol pitted Cook against 17-year-old wunderkind David Archuleta, who many critics and fans predicted would beat the elder Cook. However, on May 21, 2008, Cook ultimately received 56 percent of the final vote and was crowned the winner. Two weeks later, 11 songs by Cook entered the Billboard Hot 100, an unprecedented feat that nearly doubled the chart's previous record.
David Cook, his eponymously titled full-length major-label debut, was released six months later, featuring collaborations with artists like Chris Cornell, Collective Soul's Ed Roland, and Our Lady Peace's Raine Maida. The album was certified platinum in early 2009, just as the new season of American Idol was starting up. Cook toured for much of the year and began working on material for his second album, This Loud Morning, after the show wrapped up in December. As before, he called upon a number of co-writers for help, working with everyone from Ryan Tedder (who helped write the lead single, "The Last Goodbye") to Johnny Rzeznik. Recording sessions began in June 2010, with the album hitting stores one year later.
This Loud Morning debuted at seven on the Billboard Top 200 but it was the last he made for RCA. Cook parted ways with the label in 2012, resurfacing in 2013 with "Laying Me Low," a single released on Simon Fuller's new XIX Recordings; it peaked at 36 on the Billboard Pop Digital Songs charts. By the time he began working on a full album in 2014, Cook returned to independent status and he wound up releasing Digital Vein on his own Analog Heart Music imprint in September 2015. In early 2016, he returned to where it all started, mentoring a pair of semifinalists (C.J. Johnson and Olivia Rox) on the 15th and final season of American Idol. Cook's second EP, Chromance, was released in 2018, landing in the Billboard 200 and peaking in the Top Five of the U.S. indie chart. ~ Matt Collar