Taking a risk when a sure thing is at hand takes tremendous guts. In this episode, Rich Redmond and Jim McCarthy are joined by American Idol Season 7 winner, David Cook, as they dive into David’s journey through the music industry and the risks he took on his path to success. Get an inside look to a rockstar’s life as David talks about living out of a suitcase and the life on the road that he’s itching to get back to. They discuss the burdens of a sure thing as David digs deeper into the choice he made between a secure job and American Idol. Tune in as Rich, Jim, and David explore songwriting and learn how to find a connection in a song.
Listen to the podcast here:
David Cook :: Taking A Risk When A Sure Thing Is At Hand – The Rich Redmond Show Ep 38
Family, friends, fans, I know you’re out there and we appreciate you. Jim McCarthy and I, my sidekick, my co-host, my co-producer.
I’ll crack the whip.
Do you know what that makes me think about? Lululemons.
I’ve never heard the way you describe them being described that way.
Nothing can hug a butt like a pair of Lululemons.
The va-va-voom is see-through with little patches.
All the girls, you got to get on board because every girl wears LuluLemons.
You sound like Christopher Walken, “Every girl wears Lululemons.”
People are always wondering how we’re cranking out many episodes. When I’m in town and not riding on a tour bus or playing drums for someone, we are here in the studio doing three, four episodes a day. What are we talking about, Jim?
We’re talking about everything from music, entertainment, motivation, inspiration, and all that stuff.
Comedians and authors.
We’re talking to a lot of drummers.
A lot of drummers because we’re thick as thieves and we hang out together and we love each other. I’m excited about our next guest because we wrote a song together and we’re thinking, “It was like yesterday.” I was like, “It was years ago.”
He’s a mutual friend of a friend of ours.
We have a lot of mutual friends as we do in Nashville. He is the winner of American Idol Season Seven and award-winning recording artist, David Cook. How are you?
I’m good. How are you?
Thanks for being here.
I love the sound effects. It’s good.
It’s not as big of a crowd as American Idol.
It sounded great.
It’s the best we can do.
I’m sitting here on the side when you guys started. I heard that whip crack and I died. I was not ready for that.
For some reason, yoga pants have been a theme in a lot of episodes. My girlfriend, Kara, is a fashion designer and she’s like, “Girls are not spending money on jeans or even dresses anymore. They all have yoga pants.”
My wife wears nothing. We haven’t bought a pair of jeans for her in years.
A good pair of female denim could be up to $250. A pair Lulu’s, you’re looking into $160, $180. You’re saving money.
I’m not complaining.
I don’t like it when they get crazy with the bright green, lime pink, hot black, and plus it’s flattering.
I have learned a happy wife, a happy life. If she wants to wear lime green, go nuts with that.
I learned that two times.
You have the light reflection of the colors though, outlines of certain things.
You married your longtime girlfriend in 2015, right?
Yeah, we got married in 2015 after dating for many years. It was one of the things that I should ask four years before I did.
It sounds like she pressured you because sometimes the rule is you date for two years and then it’s crap or gets off the pot.
We did a long-distance for a while because I was in LA when we met and then she was going to school up in Cincinnati. It worked because at the time I had the resources to help make it work. It was a lot of flights. We figured it out and made time for each other and then we got to like, “Either we need to be in the same spot or whatever.” I got online and found an apartment in Nashville and within two weeks we were there. It’s stressful but fun. She’s awesome. I got nothing to complain about.
I’m in a long-distance relationship. I don’t even like to think of it that way. My girlfriend lives in West Hollywood and it’s never a bummer going out there because I know I’m going to be flying into the sun. When I stay at her place, there’s a palm tree poking through the window. He’s my friend. He’s like, “Get up. Enjoy the sun. Chase your dreams.” Here, sometimes it’s the rain and the cold and I get seasonal depression.
I grew up in Kansas City. Nashville reminds me of a lot of Kansas City, minus the music apparatus and all that. There are pockets in both cities and everything is spread out but you can get anywhere you need to go within a half hour. It feels like home. Being in LA for me negatively affected my work because I felt like I couldn’t make genuine human connections with anybody and maybe that was my own hang up on LA.
No, it could take twenty years there to get a solid group of real friends that you could probably count on.
All of my friends, when I was there, were transplants with me. Two of the guys in my band after Idol were guys that I was in a band with before Idol and came out to LA for me which was awesome.
One of the guys in your band lives in this house. That’s crazy.
As life expands and people grow, those guys took on other gigs. It became this thing of like, “Now it’s a business.” It became a shut-in, it was weird. It’s not my bag. Moving to Nashville, in hindsight, is such a strong move for me. I remember at the time hopping on the plane like, “Crap.”
You’re writing a lot.
2019 was weird. I started it in occupational therapy. I broke my hand.
I wish I had a good story. My wife and I went out with some friends. I had some drinks and went home.
You punched a wall.
No, not even that cool. I went to let the dogs out and got caught up in a leash and caught myself closed fist in our patio.
Did you have to get a rehab?
Yeah. It was like, “Pump the brakes.” I can’t do anything. I can’t play the guitar. I can’t play the piano or anything. I can’t go sit in a studio and noodle. I got a little space at home. 2019 started off weird and that was after in 2018 I was home for four months out of the year. I don’t know who I’m talking to.
I’ve been living out of a suitcase for over twenty years, it’s crazy. It’s always in the corner. Even if you’re home, she’s in the corner and she’s like, “Let’s go.”
If I’m home for a month, I get itchy. I’m like, “I am ready to go somewhere else,” which I’m sure my wife hates, or maybe she doesn’t.
Maybe she thinks like, “When are you going back on the road? Will you stop squeezing the toothpaste?”
“We got bills to pay. Go play some songs.” I get restless at home. Do you get the same vibe?
Restless leg syndrome. We used to do over 200 shows a year so you’re gone. As the popularity of the act grew it would be 180, 160, 140, and 120. Six years of doing 85 shows and we’re down to doing 55 to 60 shows a year. It’s manageable. If I’m here, I’m only here for 72 hours. As you know, we’re going to write a song or we’re going to record something and then I do my little speeches so that gets me on an airplane. The girl gets me on an airplane. I’ve been studying acting for 4.5 years, so that gets me out there.
I’m going to check out the place you’ve been studying at. Is it in Nashville Acting Studio?
Yeah, with Alan Dysert.
I don’t know. I’m auditing a class.
Alan Dysert has Actor’s School USA, which is in Franklin of ‘96. Nashville Acting Studio is Caroline and she has a long last name that starts with an L that I have never figured out how to pronounce even though I studied with her for a year and a half. There’s also a great gal named Regina Moore who lives in my neighborhood and she’s a huge casting director in town. She does workshops where you get together for eight hours and you work on scene study and all that. You’re getting back into it or getting into it for the first time?
I did it through high school. I went to college on a theater scholarship. I gave it up when my band started.
You did tons of musical theater. I wrote down all the ones you did.
Singin’ in the Rain, West Side Story, Music Man, and then cut to Kinky Boots.
Of course, you’re doing this. At some point, we’re playing Madison Square Garden for the second time, which is crazy. I see you backstage and you’re there. Kinky Boots, is it still running?
No, it closed which is a bummer.
You play Charlie Price.
It’s such an important message in that show and it still bums me out that it’s not being told on a nightly basis, neither here nor there.
That ran for a good six months at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.
My run was six months. The show itself ran six years which is an incredibly long run for Broadway.
It’s crazy because our common friend was the pit drummer, Sammy Merendino, who I’ve been friends with since 2005. When you say six years that’s crazy because that also makes me feel like it was yesterday but I was at the rehearsals with Sammy. Cindy helps score the music and write the music and I was there on the first day of rehearsal when it was all starting to come together.
What I found out after I’d done the show was, I was one of the people that they were circling to originate the role of Charlie.
They got someone that they were okay.
Stark did great. Stark was the perfect guy for that role.
Yes, Iron Man played it.
That’s for Jim because he’s a Marvel freak.
There were apparently rumors or rumblings then. They came back around 2015 and I had just put out a record and we couldn’t sort out the timing and then this weird window opened up in 2018. We reached out to them and we’re like, “If there’s an opening I would love to tackle this.” It worked out. I went in and did my audition in 2017. At the end of 2017, I was convinced I crapped the bed. I called my agent and I was like, “I need to focus on music. I’m not good at this. I went in front of the director and the music guy and I laid an egg.”
How wrong were you? You were in your head.
It’s weird. I’ve had a couple of those moments in my life which was like, “If this doesn’t work out, I’m doing something else.” I auditioned for Idol. I’m leading up to Hollywood week. I’m living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’ve been bartending and painting apartments and I was trying to get a job as a graphic designer for this arts entertainment magazine there.
That’s you with your college degree, right?
Yeah, Graphic Design. I got a job offer from that magazine. I go in, they offered me the job, I’m like, “I’ll take it. I have one thing I got to check out. I’ve got to be going a week next month.” I couldn’t tell them, that was the worst part. I was like, “It’s this thing. If it takes off, I may not be able to continue with the job but I do want the job.” They were like, “You’ve got to pick one,” which I get. I was like, “Okay, can I have 24 hours?” I go home and call my folks. My mom is like, “Take the job. What are you doing?” Once I talked to her about it, she and my dad agreed like, “You’ve got your whole life to make money, you should see this too. You’ll never know.”
How old are you at this point?
At that point, I might have just turned 25, but I’d give myself until 26. I moved to Tulsa at 23 and I was like, “I’m giving myself three years to make this work and if it doesn’t, I’ll go back to Kansas City and apply at Hallmark.”
Why Tulsa for the music business?
My band in Kansas City was reaching its natural conclusion. This band we had traded shows within Tulsa was looking to add another guitar player. I wanted to do something that wasn’t as the frontman because I need to become a better guitar player. The stuff I had written up to that point was all power accordion. The lead guitar player in this band was an exceptional guitar player. I went down there and joined their band. I moved into this dude’s dining room. It’s nice. The doors were slatted. The privacy is great. I loved it. I was in that band for a couple of years. Right as I left that band, the Idol thing started.
That’s cool though that you know how to operate in a band. Now that you’re the boss and you’re in charge of Cook Industries, you know how to treat musicians well because you’ve been one of them.
I pride myself on being a good bandleader. I pride myself on it. I don’t always get it right but when I do get it wrong, I try hard to be quick to correct it. I’ve always operated in a band dynamic. I tell people all the time when they do come in, I’m like, “This is not a dictatorship but it’s also not a democracy. I want your guys’ input. I want your contribution to this.” It’s like a constitutional monarchy. Let’s get into some government stuff, shall we?
Social studies, I’ve got to be in that class.
You must, to study.
I’m on a cliffhanger here. What happened with the magazine? Did you go back and got your job?
I don’t know if you know this. I know your wife knows this. You have one of the longest Wikis. Tell us about Livin’ On A Prayer. Is that the audition song for Hollywood? That’s a good one. That’s a good showcase.
It was a Bon Jovi greatest hits album, it’s called Prayer ‘94. They did this weird, reworked acoustic version of the song. I used to play that at acoustic gigs in Tulsa. I would take these gigs to pay rent. I stood in line. My brother auditioned at the same time I did and he wanted to do it. I was like, “Whatever, I’m not going to audition.”
Your brother wanted to audition.
My little brother, Andrew.
What’s he doing?
He’s a fifth-grade teacher in Kansas City. I would not have pegged him as a teacher, but that’s me. I went with him and my mom up to Omaha, Nebraska. I was looking at a free vacation, go to the zoo. I got talked into auditioning in line. I had no time to pick a song, “I know that one. I’ll sing that one.” I did Livin’ On A Prayer as my audition song purely out of necessity.
Where are the auditions there in Hollywood?
They change every year. The Hollywood week thing was at this theater in Pasadena. I remember that because I and a couple of other contestants spent almost every evening at the yard house. It’s funny looking back on Hollywood week, it’s psychological warfare at its core. They keep you up late. They wake you up early.
A lot of the people crying are exhausted. I remember, “I’m tired but I will not cry on camera.”
That’s interesting. They want that drama.
It’s a TV show first and foremost.
You’re like, “We’re hungry,” cheese and crackers.
If they ask.
Six of them.
You pull the cellophane off and you get the crackers and the cheese with the red stick.
Peanut butter is nice.
They’re going like, “You’re hungry, are you?”
Peanut butter is a luxury.
May 21, 2008, 56% of the votes, that’s 12 million votes over David Archuleta. Are you and David Archuleta cool?
Yeah, he lives out here.
I was looking at this picture so much because our mutual friend, Mike Krompass, produced a lot of his records. He moved to the UK. I don’t know how he’s going to run an American band.
That’s the most random thing. I’m happy for him.
He loves the culture. I took a trip over there and we went to London. We went to 600-year-old pubs and drank our faces off.
I’m going there for a show. I can’t wait.
I wish we toured over there a little bit more.
This is my first time touring there.
You’ll love it.
It’s ridiculous that it’s taken this long. My first RCA record went gold in Germany out of the gate and we never went. I don’t know why.
It is expensive to get over there.
I was making some money that year.
If you were to write a memoir or some famous actor is going to play your life, this was surely a momentous moment in your life. Your dreams had come true. You hit the big time.
I’ve always loved the term overnight success. I was an overnight success, ten years in the making at that point.
You had already been struggling in bands and doing day jobs and all that. At 25 you could have a quarter-life crisis but you’re still young enough that if you are footloose and fancy-free and you can keep your bills somewhat low, you could still take massive risks and go after things.
The idea of taking that risk now makes me ill.
You’re much younger than me, but I’m still taking massive risks.
Let’s talk about it. What kind of risks are you taking?
I’ve taken many risks with my health over the years.
What would be a risk for you, doing the thing that you did in your twenties? I’m 44, I feel like I’m taking risks.
Risks are relative. Now it’s like, “I made X amount of dollars last year. Do I put all of that into the next record?” I take more financial risk now than I would have been able at 25. I remember coming out of college, turning down jobs. The money at the time was like, “I’m turning that down? Why? I have insurance?”
If you get a college business degree and you start off with the right company, you’re coming in with insurance, paid vacation, and $80,000.
I said no to a job that I had been trying for two years to get on a 1 in 103,000 shot. Do you know what I mean? Thank God it worked out. I didn’t feel like I was going there.
It would have been a nice little Pretty Woman moment thing.
You messed up huge.
Remember when you told me not to come back? Huge mistake.
I remember when they told me I was on the show. I’m on TV saying, “I don’t have to get a job.” That’s what I said on camera.
“Magazine, I’m not coming in on Monday.”
Looking back, you’ve already rocked America’s living rooms, that’s massive and probably the greatest venues on the planet. You’re all over the radio. You did Broadway. I don’t even think you’re 40-years-old. This is great.
I turned 37.
This is fantastic. I’m having my 50th. You’re invited. There are going to be midgets, strippers and fire trucks. I’m probably going to the Red Door.
I went into the city for the first time in a long time.
Where are you living?
I live ten minutes from here. I didn’t recognize it. It’s weird because our apartment was twelfth in Charlotte. It was Twelve South. I’m like, “I don’t recognize this at all.”
It’s bougie. I live next to the Red Door, next to Omni Studio. When I have a session at Omni, it’s 200 feet away. It’s awesome.
Does it smell the same?
Downtown smells like tourist vomit because people party their faces off.
It wasn’t like that when I moved here.
It’s the new Las Vegas.
My buddy still plays down there. He does a couple of sessions a week. I went and got to see him. I was like, “I am far and away the soberest person here.”
Speaking about tourism downtown and barfing.
That is a horrible segue but that’s okay, Paul Blart. The reason why I think of Paul Blart is because of Segway. He rode the Segway the entire movie. On a different note and a positive note, David, you’re probably a believer in music education and paying it forward. You play bass, drums, and guitar. You sing. You’ve been to a lot of bands. Here in Nashville, we’ve got the School of Rock. The School of Rock is a sponsor of our show and we love it so much. My friends, Angie and Kelly McCreight, they’ve been married for years. They’ve had the School of Rock for nearly a decade here in Nashville, Tennessee. They are training a future generation of musicians.
If you want to learn how to sing, play the bass, play the guitar, play drums, we’re training kids from 3 to 18 years old, how to play musical instruments. If they don’t become professional players, they’re still going to learn about professionalism, time management, working in a group, taking direction from people. The folks at School of Rock, all the kids had a big concert rocking the Ryman. It was great. There were celebrity musicians that I brought in. I emceed the event. We raised all sorts of money for this great charity. They’re doing great things over there at School of Rock. We want to thank the School of Rock. If you’re interested in getting your kids in the program, Jim, what is it?
They play shows to learn music. It’s learning by doing things instead of saying, “You’ve got to know your scales, and then maybe you can play this Foghat song.” They say, “Learn the Foghat song because we’re going to play a job.” Learn by doing is the old trade school thing. Jim, you have some mutual friends, all of us. Our friend, Reggie, has tied into the first song that you released.
Reggie and I met in 2008 when I was working for Jack FM. He came in on behalf of the Nashville Songwriters Association. We were doing a PSA for them. He came and recorded it. He and I got friendly with each other. He’s a drummer as well. I read his story before he came in. I was already set up for it.
At the time, I was launching VidSig. I said, “Let’s do a video on the story,” and you, to this day, can still find that video on YouTube. He talking about the experience with American Idol and everything leading up to it. It’s called Full Circle where the song debuted on Idol but also it was used in the production of the 2008 Olympics that year in Beijing, China. They had adopted their daughter five years earlier, I want to say, right as Reggie’s career was about to start taking off. Everything crumbled and fell apart, and they brought home Isabella, who has a rare condition called Angelman syndrome. They wanted to bring her back for the Olympics five years later to say, “This is where you’re from,” but because of the difficulty they had gone through, he went through hell in those five years. It’s a long time.
It’s a super compelling story. If you ever want to search it on the net, lookup Reggie Hamm Pick Rich’s Brain. He was my guest on my former podcast, Pick Rich’s Brain. He’s a great guy and super talented.
For the finale, Archie and I had to pick a song from the top ten songs in that contest that Reggie won. There are nine songs left and we had to each pick one and sing that is 1 of our 3 songs at the finale. Two weeks prior, we were top three at that point. Me, David Archuleta and Syesha Mercado all had to record a version of Reggie’s song so there are two other versions floating out there. I’ve heard Archie’s and I’d never heard Syesha’s, but Archie’s was killer. He’s good.
Yours is a killer.
He’s got commentary about that magic rainbow line. Did you ever hear his take on it?
No, I haven’t.
He’s like, “It’s part of the song with a lot of people complaining about.” It went number one, so too bad.
It’s hard to argue. I will admit when we were recording, I asked, “Can I rewrite that line?” “No, not a chance.”
Who are some of your vocal influences? Because you have a white soul.
Thank you. I grew up on alternative and rock music.
Like Spacehog and that kind of stuff?
I did like Spacehog. In fact, we covered Spacehog for a little bit, that one song.
We’re talking about Closing Time. I love it.
I got into Ian Thornley from Big Wreck and Lajon Witherspoon from Sevendust. I always loved his voice.
Is it a big record Canadian band?
They are. There was another guy in Tulsa in a local band and I’d always loved his voice. I always try to attack one of those in three ways. I saw Big Wreck at Mercy Lounge and it’s good.
They’re a big hit in the late ‘90s.
You know what’s great about being David Cook is when you go to a show like a Big Wreck show or something, it’s easier to get backstage.
You would think so and yet, I did not go backstage.
I don’t know how I missed them.
You’ve never heard that song?
There is not a weak song in their catalog. It’s frustrating as a songwriter to listen to something that good.
Where did they play in town?
They played at Mercy Lounge. I don’t know when they’re coming [00:34:05].
That’s crazy that a band that huge was there at Mercy Lounge.
They certainly do better in Canada. The Oaf gave them a little bit of juice here in the US.
Another band that reminds me of them is Seven Mary Three. Remember them?
I was thinking about how you’re going to enjoy the Nashville Acting Studio. You’re going to dig that. It’s heavy. I took a break because I couldn’t, for the life of me, cry on cue and Caroline was giving me hell about not crying on cue. I was like, “I need to take a break from this and study with another teacher.”
Have you ever figured it out?
Tweezers on the pocket. I’m kidding. Don’t do that. Have you ever heard that joke? If you ever can’t cry, tweezers on the pocket.
Pull out a short and curly.
Don’t do that.
Did you have to do that with Kinky Boots?
No, I was able to draw on various things throughout my run. Something would work for a while and they would start to dissipate and I could figure out something else.
I love to be in a class with you. That’d be super cool because you’re experienced.
I don’t know about the experience.
My thing is I have less time to do it but when I do it, I have so much fun and I’m committed to it.
I have a small amount of natural talent and natural ability in it but there’s still so much I don’t know. That’s what I’m going to these classes for. I want to pick up some new tricks.
Get to the Actor’s Toolbox.
What I love about acting is the same thing I love about music. You are never on top of the mountain. You’ll learn something but that does not mean you know it all. It’s a constant learning process.
Everything we do in the creative arts, there is no dollar value or guarantee attached to anything we do.
Except that it could all fall apart at any moment.
We do it. We walk that tightrope with a giant smile on our face.
You’ve committed yourself to a life of effectively being a house of cards.
That’s a good quote.
What a joy, that’s what makes it exciting.
You love baseball. The guys in my band are all massive Red Sox fans. There would be times when we were playing clubs and we had wedges, they’d have the game in their ears.
I will readily admit to having done that multiple times.
Also now that we’re on the ears, what’s the score?
I can’t see Jason being a Red Sox fan.
He became a Red Sox fan through Kurt and Tully. He’s also a Braves fan but he also learned to enjoy sushi and he also learned to enjoy whiskey. He was a beer man many years ago.
Whiskey is the one thing that I can do with mixers, but I have not been able to get into straight Bourbon.
You’re cool with Crown Royal, Diet Coke, Cranwell or Sprite?
I’m not super in the Crown. I do like mixtures in Coke. The one I’ve been into is Jack Daniels, honey and Coke. It tastes like butterscotch. It’s good.
I graduated to the point where I can take some Woodford Reserve and put it on the rocks and call it good.
I can’t get into it but what’s weird is I do like Scotch. It’s like drinking smoke and grass.
I remember I came off the show and three days later, I’m in a management meeting. I sat down and they said, “What are your goals?” I was like, “Ten good years.” If I get 10 good years and let’s say at 35, somebody goes, “You’re done.”
This was a management meeting that was associated with American Idol’s people or another management?
Because I came off the show and had my contract set. I was managed by 19 and then they were co-label partners with RCA.
This is the same situation as Carrie and Kelly as far as 19?
I would assume Carrie because that was three seasons. I can’t imagine. It was crazy different. I know she was on 19 at the time but I can’t remember if Kelly was there or not. Managing Kelly’s setup was entirely different, her being the first. I went to this meeting and they’re like, “We think we have your first single. We’d love you to listen to it.” I remember being bummed when they said that because I was like, “I thought I was going to write it.” I was like, “Tell me about it.” They’re like, “It was written by two guys, Brian Howes and Chris Cornell. All of a sudden, my interest is piqued and I’m like, “I’m in.” They played it for me and I got scared. If anybody has heard Chris Cornell saying, which should be everybody, “The demo is nuts.” I was like, “How am I going to sing that every night for the rest of my life? How do you do that?”
You did it.
It is a beast.
It’s like when Aldean gets those Neil Thrasher demos because Neil Thrasher sings all of his own demos. He sings like a bird and he steps up to the plate and owns it.
You can’t open the show with the light on so I’ve got to put that in the anchor and put it at the end of the set. I go, “If my voice can hold up and if I can get through light on, then I’m home free. If I can just make it to that song.” It is one of the most acrobatic vocal songs I’ve ever sung. I still get juice for that song for the audience. It’s crazy to me that that song still has that many legs.
Was that a case of mimicking what you heard Chris do or putting your own flavor to it and spin?
Yes to both. I hold Chris in such high regard, not just as a singer, frontman, and musician. I’m not going to do anything crazy different from what he did on the demo. It’s trying to pay homage to that and find where I could, “This is David singing. Pepper that in there, in places.”
It’s always going to sound like you because we’re all snowflakes.
I learned this lesson on the show. I did Lionel Richie’s Hello on my third week on the show. The vocal coach I’ve had that week, Deborah Byrd, I’ve worked with her every week up to that point. I hadn’t found any success with the first two songs I’d sung on the show. We’re going through Hello and she says, “You need to go back to your hotel room, grab a bottle of wine and get into the lyrics of the song. Read the lyrics and don’t sing it. Don’t worry. You’re singing it fine but you’re not connecting.” She’s like, “Do that and then when you perform it on the TV show, look through the lens of the camera. Stop looking at the lens. Look through it. You’re trying to find the back of the camera.”
I took those two ideas. I found the story of the song and I wrapped around that. That was my anchor for that performance and doing that and then looking through the camera, all of a sudden, the ball’s rolling. I took that advice and ran with it but that’s the one I talked about. It’s easy as a singer to mimic, but in order to make a song your own, you’re telling a story, so tell the story. It’s the difference between singing in Madison Square Garden and singing at a local karaoke pub. You’ve got to believe what you’re singing and believe what you’re selling because if you don’t, then nobody else is. That was the angle I took into the light on. I was like, “How do I acknowledge where this song came from as a fan of his and still not become this derivative byproduct of it?” That was the challenge of that.
That’s some nice advice. Me, personally, I feel like a lot of great art starts with mimicry anyways.
There’s no such thing as an original idea at this point.
We patterned ourselves off of people that touch us in some way. All the drummers that are living in this house all have their favorite drummers that they grew up listening to. It all becomes part of their DNA and it comes out in a different way. I’m sure it’s the same with people that express themselves through art, the written word and all that stuff. Did you ever hear from Chris? Did he ever tweet, “Great job, kid?”
I met him in the most random way possible years after that. I went to the ear, nose and throat doctor in LA and I was sick. He goes, “Have you ever met Chris Cornell?” I’m like, “No.” He goes, “Do you want to?” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” He’s in the next room and also sick. He came in and we shot the thing for ten minutes. He’s super nice and super complimentary but it is absurd. This only happens in a place like Los Angeles where I get to meet one of my musical heroes and I can’t breathe out of my nose. I walked away super grateful for the moment and then realizing, “These people that I idolize and these people that I hold in such high regard, they get sick, too. They pay taxes.” Honest to God, that’s kept me from being starstruck many times. I’m like, “They probably farted today.” That’s the advice. Everybody poops.
You had a couple of other interesting ideas on some of the tracks that you’ve done over the years. Is one of your offerings, Death Of Me?
Yes. I put that out right before I went on an acoustic tour at the end of 2018 and then two weeks before that tour when I broke my hand. It was one of my more enjoyable tours purely. Walking on stage every time, I’m not 100% sure how this is going to come off. It was fun.
It sounds like it could be a theme song of a John Wick film or it could be the theme of a major video game like Metal Gear.
If you know anybody at any of those productions, it is available for purchase.
Were those real drums?
No, they were not.
Who are some of the producers? Was it the same producer all these years or several?
Everything I’ve done since I’ve been on my own, I’ve done with Andy Skib here in town. He played guitar for me for a long time and he was the lead singer in that band I joined in Tulsa. He lives out here and he writes for Concord. It’s like writer-producer stuff. He produced Adam Doleac stuff and it’s coming out on Warner. I’ve worked with him exclusively since I’ve been on my own. The first RCA record was Rob Cavallo. It’s such an awesome experience. My second record was Matt Serletic and it’s another great experience, but completely 180 different from Cavallo. Rob was like, “Get it in three takes. Get that energy right.”
Otherwise, we start to lose it.
Matt was a mad scientist. We did from the first writing session to finish the product with Rob in 4.5 months, which at that time was crazy because we started with nothing. Matt was seventeen months for writing and recording.
It’s like a feature film.
They’re different processes. I appreciate them both. I do tend to find on my own to work quicker like, “Get the energy right.”
It’s a byproduct of being part of the national community because we do everything fast. There’s a level of talent here and there’s a focus. There’s this system and a methodology of having number charts, session players, cartridge and catering. It’s all here and it helps the process. I don’t know if I would enjoy working on the same thing for 1.5 years. That’s amazing.
It’s fun if you want to go down that rabbit hole. I enjoy experimenting with sounds. I don’t necessarily enjoy doing that in a studio setting. I like doing that at home, so a lot of my pre-production is when I’m sitting in my basement by myself. I’m like, “Let’s try this. Let’s try that.” When you get into the recording aspect of things, you already have your blueprint mapped out and then anything that happens within that is a happy accident. There’s excitement going into a recording studio so I want to capture that excitement and energy.
Get it before the bill starts rising.
Back in the day, can you imagine when a band like Fleetwood Mac would be in a studio for a year and they had it booked every day for a year? It was the peak of the music business and the cocaine velvet rope days. It’s $2,000 a day times a year. Look at that bill, but they were confident that the record would explode.
Because they knew a certain amount of people were going to buy the record. That’s a given. My first RCA record is 1.3 or 1.4. The second record, nowhere near it.
Your management company, do you have a manager now?
No, I’m shopping for new management.
I was going to ask, with you doing the Kinky Boots, being an actor, where you are in your career and the number of records you have in reinventing yourself and wanting to move forward. Your manager’s got to be a big picture thinker. What do I do with this person that acts, sings, wants to tour globally and goes after things? Do you take meetings with the folks?
For me, it’s about trying to find the fit. I don’t need somebody to get into the weeds with me, I don’t think. I don’t need an A&R person to be my manager. I feel like I’ve got a grasp on what my creative process is. I see somebody to hover above all that and won’t be like, “This is coming so we’re going to go this way. This is coming. We’re going to go this way.”
Global touring, you’re open to that. You’re embracing that.
One of my good friends’ tours extensively overseas and his outlook on it is, it’s going to sound like I’ve got something bad to say about the United States, but the audience overseas and internationally tends to be a little more loyal. Is that the word I’m looking for?
They appreciate music more.
A point in case. I saw Meat Loaf at Ryman right after I moved here in 2012. Ryman was probably three quarters away full.
For Meat Loaf?
Right. He goes to Europe and he’s playing at O2 three nights in a row.
There you go.
How is that happening?
I don’t get it. Is it because we are sensory overload and we’re glued to the interwebs and being able to get everything where we are?
The American appetite for music has become so now that we’re immediately on to the next. You see that in how charts shape out. You’ll have a song hit number one in the next week. Rarely anymore do we have a song stay there. We had Old Town Road stay there for a little bit but then seems to be more of an anomaly.
Who was the guy that did that with Billy Ray?
Little Nas X.
He’s on the cover of Time Magazine. Crazy but that is interesting about the United States.
Did you say that song was a sample?
There were definitely samples involved for sure. What is that about the United States? You have an artist who’s a legacy artist like a Meat Loaf. He’s not a new artist. Bat Out of Hell was probably 35 years old, if not more. There are kids that are listening to music that is eighteen-years-old. I don’t think they’re going to go to a Meat Loaf show.
I would argue that it might be of benefit to them too though.
Exactly but who’s who are those people in Europe that are going to a Meat Loaf show?
They’ve got to be a younger generation.
Now would be a great time to let them know that I will be in Europe.
What are your tour dates? Is it DavidCookOfficial.com?
It’s DavidCookOfficial.com for all the tour dates.
With my friend, Thomas Branch, on drums.
I do know we’re doing a short little run. Utah, Denver, Kansas City in March 2020. In April 2020, we’re doing some Navy entertainment stuff overseas that we’re excited about. We’ll go from there to Europe and we start in Germany. We’ll do three shows in Germany, Cologne, Hamburg and Munich, and head up to the UK. We’ll play in London, Manchester, Dublin, Glasgow and Copenhagen, Skive, Denmark, Stockholm, Sweden and Finland.
You’ve got it memorized.
I don’t know if that’s the order, but I know that’s all.
That’s how you memorize your lines in a script. You’ve worked on it.
What’s funny is I use a teleprompter for my live shows. I can’t remember the song lyrics.
Did you really? Is it on the floor?
Do you find yourself looking down a lot or you catch it quickly?
If we’re starting a run, I’ll look at it more but once I get into the routine, it’s more of I don’t know why, if it’s there, I don’t need it but if it’s not there, I panic.
You want it there.
I had a show in Des Moines in 2009. We did a sixteen-song setlist. I got the lyrics on two songs and they were both covers. I screwed up every other song. It gave me this weird complex so my tour manager built this little thing in a pelican case. You open it up, the screen pops out. Beautiful and you can fly with it.
Who’s running it? The monitor guy off on the side?
My guitar player, Jeffrey Scott has an iPad that he clips onto his mic stand and we take pictures. I’ll do something on Word and email it to him as a PDF. He screenshots it on the iPad. It’s a picture, so you’re swiping. It’s all static, beautiful.
Everybody has their systems. Al Dean tried a teleprompter for maybe four months, but he found himself reading it and he’s like, “I can’t do this. I will take the risk.” Hopefully, you’re at the point where they’ll still sing it back to you.
That’s the goal.
If they’re not it’s like, “Ah.” Is that the thing when the singer goes to give the mic to one of the crowds?
That’s a nice technique where they forget the words.
Springsteen has a cool setup. He does this section of the show where his diehard fans, they know to do this, they’ll bring little poster boards with songs they want to hear and it could be anybody. He’ll walk out at one point in the show and he’ll grab 10 to 12 of them. He’ll lay them out on stage in the order that he wants to play them. The band will woodshed them live on stage. While he’s doing that somebody underneath the stage is pulling up these lyrics on the teleprompter. There’s one section of the show where it’s all requests and it’s part of a 3.5-hour show.
When do they woodshed it?
Onstage, in front of everybody.
That’s crazy. We had Harry McCarthy on here. He was the drum tech for Max Weinberg for a decade. He was telling us some wild stories, but I didn’t know about that because the Springsteen show could be four hours.
Every bit of it.
I would have to pee four times.
At least. Do you have a pee sound effect? What are we doing?
I probably do.
DavidCookOfficial.com for the tour. The single Death of Me, that’s fantastic.
There’s new music coming in 2020.
If people wanted to relive your experience with Kinky Boots, are they out of luck? Was there a cast recording or something fun like that?
There’s no cast recording with me on it.
YouTube footage maybe?
Probably YouTube footage which they frowned upon in the Broadway community but I do know it exists. Some of my fans are stealthy.
Did you think that you could be a Broadway performer for life doing that same exact thing? How many was it?
Eight shows a week.
I think of myself as a performer when I want to do Cats or Rent eight times a week, but then the benefits are incredible with a musician with retirement and everything.
What I enjoyed about it, all the things that I have gravitated towards in my life have revolved around community and the communal aspect of art, whether it be in a band or doing acting where you’re part of a larger ensemble. I enjoyed being a cog in the wheel there. I enjoyed the idea of doing something that was effectively the same every night, but there are always going to be nuances and the excitement of knowing that at any point, this could mess up and I’ll get another shot.
My first run was Wayne Brady, the other male lead. That guy is so talented. He won One Masked Singer. One night, we have this big scene at the end where there’s this catwalk and he comes out, and we sing the big finale number and he has the first verse. He starts to sing and I remember that those aren’t the words. He blanked on the words and was adlibbing lyrics on the fly.
He’s a trained improviser.
It was insane. If the audience is here and I’m looking up at him like this with my mouth open. I was like, “I can’t believe what’s happening now.”
He’s winking at you.
He’s nailing it. It was impressive.
The Wayne Brady, the comedian improviser, entertainer won The Masked Singer?
He won it.
I’m not up with the show, I know one of the girls on the show. Celebrities can be The Masked Singer?
It’s only celebrities.
That’s the twist.
Tommy Chong was on.
T-Pain won the first season. Oddly enough, this one came down between Chris Daughtry and Wayne Brady.
We had Josh Paul, the bass player for Daughtry on.
He probably couldn’t talk about it then. His costume looked like McGruff the Crime Dog. I texted Chris and I was like, “You’re the dog, right?” He was like, “No. I’m not doing it, this lock and key.”
This is the side effect of getting rid of network television and cable. I’m a Hulu and Netflix guy so I don’t know what is going on in the world. People are like, “There are fires in Australia.”
Me too. I see that on Facebook though.
Are you down with Disney+? Did you start that?
No, I didn’t. I could do it for The Manchurian Candidate. What is it?
Close. You’re in the ballpark.
I want to see baby Yoda.
Most parks, name one. Yellowstone.
The Manchurian Candidate. How old am I?
Why do you ask about Disney+?
Because I finished The Mandalorian. It’s good.
How many episodes?
Eight. Are they 30 to 45 minutes?
It’s not a huge commitment.
Is it mostly too cartoony and too green screen? Are there actors like real people?
It’s legit. We were talking about this. The vibe reminded me of if Star Wars met the guy who directed the House of Cards. I don’t know why. It’s grittier. I don’t know. I’m probably way off base with that assessment.
I auditioned one time to be one of the White House advisors on the House of Cards. I have a lot of close calls. I was almost the voice of Jack in the Box.
All-day. I got cast on Two Broke Girls before they got canceled.
Great show. I know it doesn’t necessarily compare to this super heyday of the super sitcom, but the fact that they can push the limit of what is acceptable on television that far. Everything is a boob but in a genital joke.
That’s my memoir right there.
Anything you want to tell the world?
Every year, I am involved with an event in DC on the first weekend in May. It’s called Race for Hope. It’s a 5K walk-run around the Capitol. If you’re into that, it’s awesome to show up and do that. Also, you can donate to the cause. The cause is through the National Brain Tumor Society. I lost my brother, Adam, in 2009 to a brain tumor. It happened serendipitously to be involved with this organization at that point. My first event was the day after he passed away. It’s close to my heart. If you guys are inclined, check it out. You can go to NationalBrainTumorSociety.org or go to Race for Hope DC.
When does that happen?
That will be the first Sunday in May 2020. Typically, we do a show the Friday before and make a big weekend out of it. A few years ago, my team hit $1 million. We’re trying to get to $2 million now.
He was a representative for Skechers.
I looked on your long Wiki. I teased Jim because he loves to slip on Skechers. He goes, “I’m a dad. We have to have slip-on shoes.”
They came around after Idol and asked.
You and Ringo. Ringo was a brand ambassador.
I wasn’t mad at it. I can say now that I was a jerk about it because I was like, “I want to be legit and I want to be myself.” I was like, “Cool, I’ll do this endorsement, but I don’t wear Skechers.” Who says that? What a jerk.
Did you say that?
I did. I’m such a jerk.
They came to you anyways.
Do you wear them now, at least?
They’re comfortable shoes.
I’m sorry. Honest to God. I’ve traveled somewhere to play golf with some friends and I didn’t have shoes. I forgot my shoes. The only shoes I could find in my size were Skechers Golf Cleats. It’s super comfortable I can’t talk smack on them.
Do you think you might be able to make a phone call and get him to sponsor the show?
I don’t think they’ll return my calls now if I’m being honest. Did you not hear the story I told you?
I’m a big fan. You can always ask.
It’s crazy. Jim, what did you learn?
I learned I’m going back to the whole I don’t know why but getting the job before American Idol. Did you ever connect with them again? I don’t know why I’m fascinated by this.
I did. I was able to maintain those relationships for a little while.
Do you still do graphic design at all?
I do. In fact, all my merch. I did have help on my Digital Vein, my last full length. Chromance and Death of Me digital cover I did on my own.
Could you do some thumbnails for us?
Sure. I’ll do some thumbnails
We’re going to have a major recording artist do some thumbnails.
Also some layers and some color somewhere.
What I learned is you’re an amazing employer of some of my drummer friends, Adam Reidelbach, Nick Adams and Thomas Branch. They’re all coming through your band. What’s the story about drummers that you have?
I always hire what I believe to be good drummers and I’m found to be when they leave and take another gig.
The phone call starts like,
“I know we’ve got these shows coming up. I’ve got this other opportunity.”
When you had mentioned connecting with the song, I learned something that going home and sitting down with a glass of wine and reading through the lyrics. I pulled up the lyrics for Hello. That’s an amazing technique. It did help you and use something you’ve pulled forward and even looking to the back of the camera was interesting. Do you remember anything in that song lyric-wise that resonated with you and still hits you?
The line that always seems to grab me when I would get mildly drunk and read through it was, “I’ve been alone with you inside my mind and in my dreams, I’ve kissed your lips a thousand times.” There’s longing there. To me, that’s the arch. The overarching theme of that song is longing. How do I convey that in a way that feels not over the top, but sincere and how do you sell on a TV screen?
We’ve all been there.
On a TV screen?
With a girl.
I spooned the crap out of my pillows. They’re all slobbery.
I managed to hit the right one.
That was a perfect reference.
In California, I am spooning the hell out of my pillows.
I don’t even know where to go from there.
It’s the last one of the day, David.
Honestly, it’s helped me a lot with the acting stuff when I do self-tape auditions and stuff. Reading through the sides that they give me, what’s the overarching theme here? How is the character getting from A to B and what do I need to convey to get us there? Whether it be acting or performing music or whatever it’s about assessing the source material and figuring what’s in my toolbox to get from A to B. That was a lesson that I learned time and time again on Idol every week.
As soon as you started looking towards the back of the camera, marrying yourself and figuring out the connection to the lyrics. That’s when you notice the shift.
A cataclysmic shift because I’d grown up like anybody else who plays music. You play for the audience that’s in front of you. At that point, we were on the small stage. The audience was the production staff. Anybody who was in the crowd was sitting behind us while we’re standing on this circle. Even once we got into the big room and he probably had 200 to 300 people in the room and still acknowledging there are a few million other people on the other side of the camera. I can’t forget about them.
Play to that.
It’s not something you would think about in a normal setting but that’s not a normal setting by any stretch of the imagination. You had to rewire on the fly. It’s like, “I’ve been doing this one way for years and now I have to scrap all that and start over.
Make it intimate for those 200 to 300 people that are there but also play to that camera that’s capturing it.
Make it intimate for the people at home.
Because you’re singing to one person.
I noticed as a drummer, I am a ham. I love playing to the camera and the same thing with studying TV hosting our friend Katie Cook. You stare down the barrel of the lens.
A great last name.
When you’re doing straight film acting, you never acknowledge the camera.
I tell people all the time who don’t act or whatever, “It is night and day. Theatre to TV and film. It’s one of those things. You could be the greatest theatre actor ever and not have any idea how to do this other stuff.
Everything is smaller and you ignore the camera. It’s a voyeur. Whereas if I’m doing a music video playing drums, I’m going to play to that thing.
Point a stick at the camera.
I don’t know what I’m hitting up here.
You’re exploring the studio space.
Do you know who ends up having so much fun on that stuff? It’s the camera people that love it more. When you’re playing to it the editors in the booth are like, “Let’s get some more shots of that wacky guy there. It’s energetic.”
You and Kurt.
It’s crazy. This is a great episode. It is. It’s interesting because what you’re addressing is basically the benefit of the fundamentals of radio. Even though you’re talking to 50,000 or 60,000 people, you’re talking to one. That’s amazing.
I’ve always been fascinated by the radio format. It’s one of the things that’s like, “I would love to do that but I don’t know if I could do that.” I have a lot of ums and pauses. I found that people who are great at it don’t have that or are able to avoid that.
They train it out.
It’s training them when you run a talk show format or something like that. When you have the impulse to do an um it’s the dramatic pregnant pause. Pausing is a staple of some of the greats. Listen to Rush Limbaugh or Tom Leykis set up a topic. It’s listening to art.
That’s true. When I do speaking, I’ve trained myself to not do the ums and stop.
Which is difficult.
Do you get uncomfortable?
Nobody likes dead air.
You can have some of your conversations, speeches, or anything transcribed, and you’ll see how many times you say um.
I don’t want to do that.
You probably went through a little bit of media training because I don’t notice that about you.
I was fortunate when I was in high school. I got into forensics and debate. My wife, until 2019 thought when I said I did forensics in high school, she thought I did crime scene investigation. I’m like, “Who in the right mind would set up a program for kids to do a crime scene investigation? What is wrong with you?” I did competitive acting, public speaking, and stuff like that so I’m comfortable talking to people in a public setting but I do find myself filling space.
I get it.
Do you plan during your show when you talk to the audience?
I talk every chance I can get. It’s a problem.
In our band, we draw a line between those two songs.
I see what you’re saying. I will break up a set and be like, “We’re doing three songs open show. Don’t talk. Boom, boom, boom.” One after the other, I tell Thomas to start the click for the second song as quickly as possible and it’s like, “How are you doing wherever we’re at?” After that, it’s free for all. I’ll talk between every song and I don’t know why. I enjoy making every night unique. I tell people all the time, “I appreciate that you came out here. You paid money and bought a ticket. I want to make sure that the show that you have tonight is for you.” Boston’s not going to get the same show that New York got. I always say that in the context, “Maybe this one song, put your phone away. Let’s have a moment that’s ours.”
Do people listen?
They’re all sitting there.
“I turned my phone off.”
That is crazy that most people are watching a show through their phones.
I get it because now it’s the advent of Instagram, Twitter and all that stuff. We live in this culture now that’s a big game of one-upmanship, “You were at that show. I was at this.”
“Let me live stream it.”
It’s pissing in the wind at some point to be like, “Don’t do that.” It is nice to be like, “A reminder we’re all existing in this moment and in space together and this is never going to happen again.”
Do you know what drives me nuts about that? Fireworks. People are sitting there with phones. You’re never going to watch that video ever again.
I’ve been guilty of doing the fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl on the Fourth of July because it’s epic.
I can justify that. You are at the Hollywood Bowl on the Fourth of July. Did you play there?
I used to go to watch.
Never mind, I can’t help you.
Do you record them every year?
I have played there but the place that I rent is 200 feet from the Hollywood Bowl so I walk over on the Fourth of July and there’s the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in this classic place that the Beatles, Hendrix, and everybody rocked and it’s gorgeous. I want to take a little video.
There’s more depth to it than what you’re talking about. I’m sorry if I’m wrong. I didn’t go to the county fairgrounds and film the fireworks fourth year in a row.
It’s not only downtown Smyrna firework shows.
Which is a great firework show.
Smyrna, you do a great job. As do you, Antioch.
DavidCookOfficial.com for tour dates. Look up that footage of Kinky Boots on YouTube. Support the record and new music coming out in 2020. You’re a great man. Thank you for stopping by.
I’ll see you, guys.
This is where the good stuff happens. Keep coming back. Be sure to rate, review, subscribe, and share. We appreciate it. Thank you to The School of Rock. Thank you, Jim McCarthy, for your time and talent.
See you soon.
- David Cook
- School of Rock
- Kinky Boots
- Thomas Branch
- Jeffrey Scott
- Harry McCarthy – Previous Episode
- Josh Paul – Next Episode
- Race for Hope
- National Brain Tumor Society
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