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'American Idol' Winner David Cook Returns to Mentor Top 8: 'I Did My Homework'

"I wanted their arrangements to be theirs [and] there are a couple I'm really excited about," the season-seven victor tells THR.

David Cook 2011 - P 2014
AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Once he was mentored, now season-seven American Idol is the mentor, as he spent Monday working with the season 13 top eight on the songs they were preparing to perform. “I was honored to be asked,” David Cook told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday afternoon from a recording studio in Nashville, where he is cutting 18 songs, of which 11 or 12 will be on his next album.

“I pushed the contestants and hopefully they got something out of it. I did my homework and watched their prior performances. There’s a lot of talent this season. I wanted to help them hone that talent.”

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Cook says that all eight finalists have their own niche. “I want them to connect more. A lot of them come from a live space. They are great with the crowd in the room, but I feel like something is missing when it’s time to connect with people at home.”

The contestants had already chosen their songs when they worked with Cook on Monday. He focused on their arrangements. “There weren’t any songs I thought didn’t fit the contestants. I wanted their arrangements to be theirs. There are a couple I’m really excited about, including C.J.'s”

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This was also an opportunity for the top eight to seek counseling from someone who has won American Idol. “Caleb [Johnson] is a real student of the show, so we talked about some of my past song selections and what my experience was like.”

Cook also gave advice where he felt it was needed. “I told Sam [Woolf] after the save last week, there is a reason he’s here and he’s got to let loose and go for it. Now is the time for all of them to get into the next gear. They have to step up and separate themselves from the pack.”

Twitter: @Idol_Worship