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

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.

“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.”

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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