Before “The Voice” and “The X Factor” had even established their firm grip on America’s televisions, there was the one singing competition in town.
“American Idol” set a huge precedent for a change in programming and allowed the country to rally behind another figure other than a sports team, one firmly rooted in the arts and music culture. With each season’s winners (and runner-ups) we saw some incredible talents that have gone on to influence both pop and rock.
One of those winners was David Cook, who took home the seventh season championship over David Archuleta. Before he takes the stage on March 11 in the Town Ballroom, Cook talked about his decision to make his music independently and how much things have changed in his life since the day he first auditioned for “American Idol.”
Buffalo.com: From the time you won “American Idol” to now, how have you seen music, especially popular music, change and has that impacted the way you write and make music?
Cook: It seems to me that lyrics have become a little less important. I had the opportunity to move to Nashville a few years ago and I found that some of the greatest storytellers are here. I miss the storytelling across genres. It’s a bit more prevalent in country than in a lot of popular music. New technology that’s come into play in music is really interesting, too.
Q: What’s been the biggest highlight of recording your new album “Digital Vein” independently? Were there any cons to having a bigger sense of freedom?
A: I don’t know if there were any cons. It was an experiment for sure. It wasn’t a sure thing that I was going to finish this record this way. But if you surround yourself with confident people who you trust with your creative process, I think you have to go where the recording sessions take you. I wanted it to be quick and have energy. This record has the right energy, in spades.
Q: You’re one of many artists of late that I’ve talked to about using PledgeMusic. How important were the fans in making your new record?
A: For us, we used Pledge just a hair differently than what most use it for. We used it as a preorder vehicle. We’d done similar things in the past in a different manner. But what I loved about it was that if you get an opportunity as an artist to cut out the middle man and connect with your fans on both a mass and intimate level, it’s imperative that you take those avenues. It lets your fan base really take the ride with you. I don’t have a bad thing to say about Pledge.
Q: What is it about a lot of the post-grunge groups from the late ’90s that gives you inspiration? Was it the songwriting, the emotion or the sound?
A: I think a little bit of everything. It tapped into whatever teenage angst I was holding onto. Up until I was 12, I listened to a lot of classic rock and country, which is what my folks listened to. Then Nine Inch Nails and White Zombie played on the radio and I said, “Hey, I think I like that.” It definitely hit a nerve at the time.
Q: Has it been strange transitioning from being someone seen by tens of millions on TV to playing smaller venues, or do you like the intimacy of it all?
A: I like playing live in general. It’s nice to have a big crowd, but anytime you can walk into a room and have people listen to you play music, it’s a good day. Any great artist can find the intimacy with a crowd of any size.
Q. Having gone through a swirling amount of fame in such a short period of time, how did you deal with it all?
A: I actually liked being famous between stage left and stage right. On stage I enjoyed it. With everything else, it’s flattering and overwhelming but it doesn’t resonate and I have problems internalizing that. I like being famous for the music. It’s a balance. I’m fortunate that people pay attention to what I do.
Q. Do think there was a certain degree of fate that pushed you to where you are today, or was it more the choices you made along the way?
A: I don’t know about fate, but I can say I made a series of seemingly dumb decisions that just happened to work out. I turned down at least two good paying jobs between going from college to “Idol.” It felt stupid at the time, but then “Idol” just snowballed.
Who: David Cook
When: 7 p.m. March 11
Where: Town Ballroom, 681 Main St.
Tickets: $24 general; $75 meet-and-greet (box office, Ticketfly)