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'American Idol' Winner David Cook Unveils a 'New Chapter' (Exclusive Audio)

The season seven favorite talks to THR about returning to the "Idol" stage, his move to Nashville and a possible future writing for other artists.

David Cook Laying Me Low cover P

Every year, David Cook has a date with American Idol. Since winning the show on season seven at the age of 25, the Missouri native has been back to perform five times, most often to perform a new single, as he will be on May 2, but not always.

Indeed, there’s a reason why David Cook is Idol’s favorite son. Although he didn’t appear on the show’s highest rated season (that honor is bestowed on season five’s Taylor Hicks), in the years since, he’s personified the good guy victor, hanging on to his fan base by touring and endless meeting and greeting, and also selling some records along the way -- reaching the platinum mark on his debut album and the Billboard Hot 100’s top 20 in 2009 with the song “Light On.”

Today’s 30-year-old David Cook is in a different place, both figuratively and physically. Having left Los Angeles for Nashville, where he can be closer to his family but still live in a creative hub, and label-free for the first time since Idol (he and RCA Records parted ways in May 2012), the rocker is reveling in being -- and working -- on his own. That liberation has resulted in a new song, “Laying Me Low,” (out on iTunes and other digital reatilers on April 30), which he’ll premiere on the stage that launched his career.

Cook talks about his journey in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter’s Idol Worship.

The Hollywood Reporter: After selling your house in L.A. and moving to Nashville, this seems like the beginning of a new chapter. Is it?

David Cook: I think stepping away from the scene and just focusing on writing and not worrying about what I’m writing and the process of writing … I don't remember the last time I was so excited about music. To be able to be back on the Idol stage and perform this song is really different for me. I can't even explain how, it’s new territory and it’s really exciting to kind of unveil this new chapter. I haven't titled this chapter yet.

VIDEO: 'Idol Hangover': David Cook Talks New Music, Old Label and What the Future Holds

THR: “Laying Me Low” feels like a David Cook song that’s evolved. Having written so much for your first two albums, do you feel you’ve been able to hone the craft of songwriting?

Cook: It was 80-something songs on the last record? [laughs] I always want to progress. I don't want to be static as an artist so I’m refocusing on enjoying the creative process and not thinking, ‘I’ve got to write this sort of song.’ I’m at a spot in my life where whatever happens, happens. I think that allowed for a very natural progression … because you don't want to lose your identity. I think we managed to strike a balance between something where I could put a stamp on it but it feels inherently me.

THR: The music community in Nashville is known for being hyper-collaborative and supportive of each other; have you found that this to be true in the time you’ve been there?

Cook: Without question. It’s been like, “Hey, you're in town, let’s go write!” It's been unexpected but very amazing to be able to come out here, hit the ground running… plug your nose and jump in. It’s been a huge step for me to feel creative and like I have something to offer. It’s a good push in the right direction.

THR: Could you see yourself writing songs for other artists?

Cook: I hope so. I’ve got a couple songs in the pipe line.

VIDEO: David Cook Tour Diary: The 'American Idol' Winner Talks Life on the Road, TV Show Stigma

THR: What’s inspiring you these days?

Cook: Anything and everything. I have tried not to pick a topic and write about it, but write more freely and figure what it all means afterward. A song like “Laying Me Low,” I know at some point, someone is going to ask me what it’s about and the only thing I can say is it’s kind of up to the listener. I really have tried to get out of my own way…

THR: That’s like the Dave Grohl-Foo Fighters model…

Cook: It’s worked for him, right? Why not?

THR: What are the plans in terms of releasing music. Will you be going at it independently?

Cook: The plan right now is just to put the song out and give it as much traction as it deserves. I would love to be putting a record together sooner rather than later. We’re just trying to find a home for it -- whether it’s major or DIY or whatever, but I think we have a pocket of six or seven songs that are great material. I feel confident that someone is going to want to put it out.

THR: Have you given a lot of thought to how to proceed with your career?

Cook: Whatever puts me in a good place. If you were to ask me before Idol what I wanted to do, it was to tour and go out on the road. As you get older, priorities change a little bit -- like maybe having a house and having a yard now, which I didn't have in L.A. [Laughs] But I don't think the root of it has changed -- the shows and having those experiences is going to be exactly the same.

Twitter: @shirleyhalperin