NASHVILLE/SINGAPORE - When David Cook went onstage during an episode of American Idol in May, the song he sang could have been written for his record label at the time, RCA.
The Last Song I'll Write For You, a break-up ballad, was followed by the shocking announcement later in the night that he had been dropped by his label.
He had released two post-Idol albums with the label.
It's a familiar story by now - the first five male winners of American Idol were all dropped by their record labels after weak album sales.
Cook told LOUD over the phone from his home in Nashville, Tennessee, that the "creative relationship (with his record label) had run its course".
Cook will be here to perform at ION Orchard's third anniversary celebrations on Oct 25.
Said Cook, 29: "I found out in March. In talking with RCA and figuring out where to move forward, it became apparent that we wanted different things out of the deal.
"I owe them a huge debt of gratitude for allowing me to do what I do. They were great."
Cook is determined not to let this bump in his career end it completely.
"I have faith in myself as a performer and songwriter and artiste. It's something that's always been a part of my life, whether a major label is involved or not," he said.
Before his Idol run in 2008, he self-released an album, Analog Heart, in 2006. And before that, he released three albums as part of the band Axium, which he had formed in high school with a friend.
So being dropped from his label shouldn't be a big deal for Cook and he gives off the vibe that it's just a little bump.
"I'm not too bothered by it," he said.
"It gives me the opportunity to double down and invest in the creative process."
He has been recording demos with his band members, some of whom have been writing songs with him as well. The new material, said Cook, will sound different from his major label albums.
"Coming from a rock background, historically I've operated on the mantra 'the louder the better'.
"But with the new stuff, I've made a concerted effort on toning down the guitars a bit, concentrating on the melody and trying out new textures.
"I've been trying to get out of my comfort zone and try some new things musically."
His second album with RCA, last year's This Loud Morning, upped the ante on his post-Idol self-titled album. It had big rock songs co-written by popular names like OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder and Goo Goo Dolls' Johnny Rzeznik.
"There was a lot of programming underneath the songs. With the new stuff, I'm going to let it breathe a little bit," he said.
Now that he is an unsigned artiste with no label to answer to, Cook said he has been enjoying the creative process, "more than I have in a really long time".
The new material will be released as soon as it's perfect, as Cook is concerned about "getting this right".
"I don't want to put out any weak links. All the songs have to be better than any song I've ever put out," he said.
For his show here, he'll be bringing along his guitarist and keyboard player Andy Skib for a stripped-down set. It will see him reworking fan favourites like The Time of My Life and Light On. Moving to country music capital Nashville this year has also been a boon for him creatively.
Although he said he has been inspired by the creativity in the city, he's not about to go into country music himself any time soon.
"I would love to write for other artistes, country artistes, but (to do country music myself) I think it might come off as disingenuous," he said.
"But I've learnt enough from things to never say never.
"I do wear cowboy boots, though."
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