Reworking one’s music and making it truly one’s own is how I would describe David Cook’s work on his acoustic tour and performance at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, Conn. on Nov. 7. Alongside opening act Matt Hires, Cook was able to give a truly captivating and entertaining show.
David Cook is a well known singer and songwriter who rose to fame after winning the seventh season of “American Idol” in 2008. Since then, Cook has put out new music such as his album, “Digital Vein,” his new EP, “Chromance” and has recently put together this acoustic tour traveling across the country.
Before attending the event at the Ridgefield Playhouse, I was able to interview Cook about his new music and overall experiences.
“Chromance,” released in February, was a big step for Cook as it drifted away from his usual style of music. “That EP [‘Chromance’] was really an exercise for me in building up my artistic process from scratch,” said Cook. “I felt like the record before that, felt like a good book end for that section of my career, so I wanted to change things up, change how I wrote, change how I recorded, change how I produced. So, ‘Chromance’ is really about me taking in a guitar and making it more of a pan instrument as opposed to the instrument and really changing more cinematic pop sounds.”
Besides diving into new sounds and much darker themes with his new EP, Cook’s acoustic tour has also been an experiment for his branching away to a different style. Cook and his band are used to shows filled with, what Cook describes as, electric guitars, bass guitars and drums.
“What we’re doing with this tour is we’re scaling everything down, switching to acoustic guitars, and really breaking these songs down to some of their bearer elements,” said Cook. “Getting into a little bit of storytelling, tearing down some of that fourth wall.”
In regards to putting an acoustic tour together, Cook described it as a challenge, “This tour is different for me, and for us. We’re kind of going full out acoustic for the first time that I can recall. We’re going to rework a lot of these songs, people that have been to our shows before and have heard some of the songs that we’ve been playing awhile, but we’re going to try reinvent them a little bit.” It was also a bit of a challenge as Cook had broken his arm prior to heading out on this tour, so the entire band had to rework everything in the span of about two weeks so they could proceed.
Besides this tour, Cook has become involved in a bunch of other different projects. Most notably, this past spring and summer the musician played Charlie Price in the Broadway musical “Kinky Boots.” When talking about the experience, Cook said, “I went for the first time in the spring completely green, I had no idea what I was walking into. I enjoyed it a ton, a great cast and a great crew. I thought the story behind the show is just so current. It felt like such an honor everyday to go out on stage and getting to tell that story. Getting to go back in July and finish up last month, it was great, getting to go back and seeing these friends I just made, solidifying those friendships, and getting to tell that story.”
As for rising to fame, this past May marked the 10th anniversary of when Cook won “American Idol.” Reflecting back on his rise to fame, Cook discussed his motivation to make it somehow. “I was bartending in Tulsa, Okla. trying to find a quote-un-quote real job all the while playing acoustic shows to pay rent. I think it might’ve just been youth and gravitas and all that, but I thought: ‘I’m gonna make it somehow!’ I just didn’t see Idol as my path and kind of fell backwards into the whole thing,” said Cook. “Now I get to do something I love to do everyday, and I think that alone is pretty huge.”
Finally, I asked Cook if he could pinpoint the most amazing thing he’s done in his career. Cook said that it was hard to pinpoint being that there are a ton of incredible opportunities he got to experience. “About a year after idol I got the opportunity to go to the Philippines with David Archuleta that I competed against in the finale that season. We played to over a hundred thousand people in Manila, I thought that was insane,” said Cook. “I got to meet Hank Aaron at the all star game in St. Louis, the baseball all star game. That was pretty rad. I also got to meet Hillary Clinton. The list is a mile long.”
Overall, Cook was happy to be returning to the Ridgefield Playhouse. “I love coming up to the northeast, to get to come back and getting to play for the people of Ridgefield is exciting,” said Cook. “I’m excited to come back.”
As for the show, it was a fun filled, intimate and light hearted. To begin, guitarist Matt Hires took the stage. I had not heard of Hires prior to this, but since this show I have downloaded a good chunk of his music. Hires performed original songs such as “When I Was Young,” “Begin Again” and “Honey, Let Me Sing You A Song.” Hires had a little anecdote to go along with each song. “Honey, Let Me Sing You A Song” included a funny little story about how Hires helped participate in a fan’s proposal and “Begin Again” was inspired by a lot of the upsetting things Hires saw on social media and his optimistic approach to that. Personally, my favorite song was his opening, “When I Was Young,” because it was relatable and focuses on youth and growing up, but the sound and vibe were also catchy and fun to listen to. Other songs Hires played included “Restless Heart” and “Glory Bound.”
Overall, Hires guitar playing and vocals were phenomenal and really had the audience at ease with the fantastic performance. This would then transition into Cook’s performance.
Cook’s entire show was one of the most audience-engaged shows I had ever been to. In between performances, audience members would interact with Cook, it didn’t matter where you were sitting. Cook was also very good with the audience and really funny. He poked fun at things such as how he broke his arm walking the dogs, to fighting with his younger brother about an artist. He had an overall really good vibe with the audience.
As for the music itself, Cook began the show with his new song “Lucky Ones.” Then played a lot of his original music such as “Carry You,” “Kiss & Tell” and two other new songs from the “Chromance” EP– “Gimme Heartbreak” and “Death of Me.” Each of these songs were definitely reworked and conveyed a lot about Cook’s different styles. Through them, one could definitely see how Cook has grown as an artist and musician. Not to mention that the variety of themes and overall melodies each song had were unique and interesting to listen to. I personally enjoyed “Gimme Heartbreak,” a song seemingly inspired by toxic love, but the vocals and instrumentals of that song were very powerful and a good listen.
However, the 10-year-old in me who did listen to Cook’s post “American Idol” album, “David Cook,” was so excited to hear and watch Cook perform “Come Back to Me” and “Light On” live. These are two of Cook’s classic songs I had grown up listening to on the radio and currently have downloaded on my Spotify app. Through his acoustic tour, he was able to rework them so they could fit with this new style.
Cook also did a great deal of covers, and it is always fun and exciting to see how an artist makes them their own. Cook covered David Bowie’s “Heroes,” Van Halen’s “Right Now” and Noah Gundersen’s “Day is Gone.” Cook was able to add his own personal touch to a lot of these songs, adding the band’s own sound, such as in “Heroes,” which had a much slower vibe than Bowie’s original version. Cook was able to make his own sound for this very classic song.
The entire event was an enjoyable experience filled with nothing but good vibes. Cook and Hires were able to create a relaxed and intimate atmosphere that had the audience jamming out to their music. The artists clearly cared for the audience’s experience as they seemed to be having fun along with the rest of us. So, overall, this performance proved to be a great night out filled with good music and good times.