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'American Idol's' David Cook Gets Help for New Album

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At one point on the road he's still on, leading from “American Idol" to the iPod promotions and summer shed tours of actual rock stardom, David Cook recently stopped for a bite to eat. In the car with him was Raine Maida, the Canadian singer and songwriter who fronts Our Lady Peace, a band Cook famously loves.

The 25-year-old newbie had seen the 38-year-old veteran perform numerous times back when Our Lady Peace was on the rise and Cook was still just a Midwestern kid making demos on the weekends. Now here they were, driving around on a break from writing songs for Cook's major-label debut.

“I had one moment with Raine when I asked him about the first time I saw him live," said Cook during an interview in the West Hollywood offices of the “Idol"-driven management company 19 Entertainment. “It was at this music festival in Kansas City called Rockfest. I was really engrossed in his performance -- he didn't look at the audience the whole time he was performing. Watching him that day, I would have been so apprehensive about meeting him."

Cook smiled his famous room-warming smile. “Raine goes, 'Oh, yeah . . . I had a 104-degree temperature. I was so dizzy, I couldn't look up,' “ he recalled.

And so the eyes of the most charmingly ambitious Idol since Kelly Clarkson were opened just a little bit wider. For Cook, whose eponymous album will be released today on RCA Records, the biggest prize so far has been the friendships he's forged with mentors like Maida, artists whose influence shaped his own warm, inspirational sound.

“Had I not been able to write with people whom I not only respected but admired and looked up to, it would have been a much harder process," said Cook. “To be able to walk into a room and know that I was going to probably love any idea these people came up with made it so much easier. And it certainly helped that the people I admired the most seemed to be the nicest people and treated me completely as an equal and allowed me a little bit of confidence in a very unconfident situation."

Much has been made of Cook's status as the “heaviest" rocker “American Idol" has produced. His album's first single, “Light On," was co-written by Seattle rock titan Chris Cornell and flyover rock mastermind Brian Howes. He's already nabbed the authenticating spot of musical guest on Saturday Night Live, becoming the first Idol to do so before his first album was released.

And an iPhone application has been issued that allows fans to play “Light On" and trigger a simulation of that ultimate rock concert semaphore, the upheld lighter.

Loyal, Independent

Yet Cook's specific loyalties within rock's vast landscape might be what's most interesting about him. Making his dream album, he's also refocusing attention on a little-considered corner of the genre: the literate but accessible strain that arose after the alternative rock explosion of the mid-1990s, fitting midway between the underground and the mainstream.

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