How Halsey Helped ‘American Idol’ Alum David Cook Find Inspiration for New Song ‘Gimme Heartbreak’

David Cook
Bobby Quillard

With the release of his new single, “Gimme Heartbreak,” “American Idol” Season 7 winner David Cook feels like he is “cracking the spine on a new chapter” — his musical evolution.

In crafting the lyrics, where Cook sings of a former lover being the equivalent of “death in a black dress,” Cook tells Variety he made a “a conscious effort going into the production to incorporate more cinematic pop elements.” Taking inspiration from recent releases — “I was listening to Halsey’s  ‘Badlands’ record,” he reveals — Cook also leaned on “old standbys like Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack” to find “vibes” for a new direction.


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“The whole song represents unhealthy relationships that, for some reason, you don’t want to get out of,” says Cook. “I have certainly had my share of them. It felt like a good narrative to go with.”

Lyrically, he adds, “It was a patchwork song. I had all these little two-line imagery things I wanted to play with. You get the music all sorted out and suddenly it was like putting puzzle pieces down to try and make a match. I think the end result is something that is moody, dark, with a ton of imagery and those are the kinds of songs I really resonate with.”

The song is already resonating with his audience, who called for “Gimme Heartbreak: repeatedly at the singer’s July 12 show at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, NJ. “We are going to play it later,” the singer joked, as he powered through a set of songs leaning heavily on his previous effort, “Digital Vein.”


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Cook honored that time of his life — the years following his “Idol” win in 2009, by playing the single “Come Back to Me,” and paying tribute to memory of the late Chris Cornell, who co-authored Cook’s 2009 single, “Light On.”

“I feel honored and blessed to play it,” he told the audience. “I hope he’s listening.”

The Missouri-born singer’s show went off without a hitch, despite Cook’s announcement that he had to take a few days off vocal rest from his touring schedule on doctor’s orders “to badge up the boo-boos.” A cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” soared, and Cook showed no evidence of vocal strain at all on versions of “Laying Me Low” and the emotional rocker “Broken Windows” from “Digital Vein.”

Ever the professional, Cook offered up a healthy serving of stage banter, recalling the last time he performed with different musicians in the Garden State, tackling a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Secret Garden” at iPlay America in Freehold. He even played a brief snippet of “Fade Into Me” from “This Loud Morning” when a fan called out that it was their wedding song.

Once he gets his voice back in working order, dates in Richmond, Va., Raleigh, NC, Charleston, SC, and Asheville, NC, will all be rescheduled for the fall. The Asheville show date will take place on Sept. 26, with the rest of the dates due to be announced shortly. The tour is scheduled to resume tomorrow (July 18) in Atlanta, Georgia.

For now, Cook is focusing on finishing his soon-to-be released EP. Three songs, including  originals Ghost Magnetic (co-authored with Ryan Starr) and a cover of “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins, already an audience favorite in the live show.

“We play all of them live,” he says. “Musically, they all sit in the same space. The trick now for us is to go in the studio and get a few more songs recorded.”

Watch the lyric video for “Gimme Heartbreak” below:

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    1. dcfanhki says:

      David Cook won American Idol in 2008 (not 2009) and his album which included also the single Light On was released also 2008 (not 2009). He was born in Houston, Texas but was about 1,5 years old (if I remember correctly) when the family moved to Blue Springs, Missouri, near Kansas City.

    2. AnnMarie says:

      Just want to say that David Cook’s single “Gimme Heartbreak is an amazing song. David is a real professional. Hearing this song live and watching David perform is truly breathtaking. I can’t say enough about this song and David Cook.

    3. NYCarole says:

      Thank you for an informative positive review of David Cook .. his New Single Gimme Heart Break and his natural ability to command his audience at his Live Shows!! As a fan of 9 years, I’ve watched him progress into the polished pro musician/ artist/songwriter he is. David Cook is driven by the fierce fire that Fuels his soul and ultimately his music. David has said that for any song to be great .. he has to know and feel the story behind each and every one and that he does! Particularly Gimme Heart Break at the moment.. David is right there feeling every lyric .. consumed by the music projecting images as he becomes the FIRE “bringing”that song to a life he knows and feels . It’s a masterwork w an undeniable hook from the first listen! I love Gimme Heart Break Studio version .. but to experience it LIVE .. w Davids vocals .. his facial expressions .his moves . his Angsty passion … THAT BOY is on Firahhh and THIS Gimme Heart Break a sure shot w radio play!!

    4. Maria says:

      Nice article! David Cook’s concerts are a great mix of rock songs, ballads, and funny banter. His new single, Gimme Heartbreak, is bluesy and sexy and my current favorite. I really like this new direction in his music. Another new favorite is Ghost Magnetic. It’s dark, hypnotic, and addictive. I highly recommend going to his live shows. I’ve been to several, but no two are the same. I’ll be attending two this Sept, and I’m really looking forward to hearing his new songs, and some familiar favorites, live.

    5. NEMO (@nemocookfan) says:

      Nice piece! David Cook always does an awesome live show – every one a bit different, which is why so many of us are repeat customers! I’m loving the new vibe of this single and some of the other new songs promised to be on the upcoming EP. Thanks for spreading the word – this guy is the real deal.

    6. I’ve loved all the previous incarnations of David Cook, but I’m especially enjoying this new vibe. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the songs on the EP. The article didn’t mention it, but he’s partnering again with Pledge Music for this EP, allowing fans to be part of the process.

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