'Idol' Cook Dating, Having 'Time of My Life'

A few weeks ago on "American Idol," David Cook announced that he was single. Well, it looks like his status is changing.

Monday, on ABC's "Live with Regis & Kelly," Cook admitted he took "Idol" Season Two finalist Kimberly Caldwell out on a date to Ruth's Chris steakhouse. Apparently, the date went well. Later, the 2008 winner told ABC News Radio, "She's great, and I look forward to seeing her again."

Caldwell and Cook bonded over their joint "Idol" journey. "We got a chance to talk a little bit about the whole experience, and it's nice to get a fresh perspective," Cook said. "For me, all this is new."


The newly crowned champ remains humble. "I'm just a nerd who got lucky," he said of his win.

In fact, Cook was never the sure winner. Back during Hollywood week, judge Simon Cowell voted not to let him through, but fellow judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson overruled him. Cowell also declared that Cook's finalist competitor, David Archuletta, had beaten him in the final sing-off -- but fans disagreed, making Cook the winner by 12 million votes.

So, is it time to stop listening to Cowell? Cook said no. "Simon, 99 percent of the time, is pretty dead on," he said. "I can only hope I won him over."

Cook believes the key to his success on the show was the fact that he was allowed to play guitar.

"Without instruments, this season, I [would've] probably been one of the contestants that didn't make it through," Cook said. "It definitely added to my performance ability. I've talked to some past Idols, and a lot of them are very talented instrumentally. It's just the show never really catered to that. So to have that come in this season, I thought, was a blessing for me."

Cook's Favorite Songs

"Nightline" sat down with Cook this week at Southern Hospitality in New York, the sports bar co-owned by Justin Timberlake, to talk about his musical influences and favorite artists.

"I think some of the best songs are the ones that you don't really know why they grab you, they just do," he said.

Growing up, Cook says he had "a little bit of an eclectic musical upbringing," listening to everything from pop to rock to country.

"Garth Brooks' 'Thunder Rolls,' I thought was a great song," he said.

"My parents always sort of allowed me to find my own way," he added. "Growing up I think the first band I got into — just following the trends like everyone else — I got into Boyz II Men and Kriss Kross and stuff like that."

"It's really funny because on the show I got to meet Mariah Carey, and one of my favorite songs Boyz II Men ever did was 'One Sweet Day' [with Carey]. I remember I bought that Mariah Carey album, actually. So it was a trip to meet her."

Cook also said he had an "awkward moment" with the superstar when the two met on "American Idol." He told Carey that one of the first records he bought was one of hers.

"I couldn't really remember what [the album was] called, so I said the one that's gold," he recalled. "She said, 'Honey, all my records are gold.' And I was like, no, the one that's actually gold."

As a teenager, Cook told "Nightline" that his musical tastes continued to evolve, and he was particularly influenced by two songs with "edge" and "a little bit of angst."

"Around the age of 13, I was visiting my family in Kokomo, Indiana, for the summer and was staying with a cousin, and we were listening to radio late at night and two songs came on — 'Closer' by Nine Inch Nails and 'More Human than Human' by White Zombie. … And you know, coming into my teenage years, like a lot of kids, you're always looking for something that sounds the way you feel."

"I think the first rock album I ever got into was Pearl Jam's 'Ten,' specifically the song Jeremy," Cook said, adding that recently he's into the music of bands like Our Lady Peace (he performed their song "Innocent" on "American Idol") and Big Wreck.

"I've always tried to find a happy medium between being a pop rock song writer and having that kind of Big Wreck vibe, having each song stand on its own and also work in a collective. So that sort of brings us to where I am now."

'Exciting Uncertainty'

Cook says that before going on stage during "American Idol," he would listen to the Imogen Heap song "Hide and Seek" to relax. He added that the last song he performed on "Idol" — Collective Soul's 'The World I Know' — summed up the "exciting uncertainty" of the experience.

"The lyrics of that song — 'as I step to the edge and see my world below' — really I felt spoke to my experience on that show, especially towards the end because nobody, especially us contestants, know how this is going to pan out after the cameras are turned off, so it felt like after the show ended I was standing at the edge of this precipice looking down at this black void. … You know, moving forward I'm anxious, and part of that song has a lot of hopefulness to it. So in a lot of ways it felt like that was the perfect song to end the season with."

Cook certainly had his share of distractions during the competition, namely the fact that his older brother Adam is battling brain cancer. But instead of sidetracking Cook, his brother's battle kept him grounded.

"The negative things going on in my family's life were things that kind of allowed me to keep perspective on what the show is and is not," he told ABC News Radio. "I kind of went into the show with no expectations and walked out with the same. So, if nothing ever happens from here on out, I'm still pretty content."

Cook told "Nightline" that since the show ended, he's been "trying to take a break from music in order to relax."

That's pretty unlikely. Just a week after winning the top-rated TV talent show, Cook sent a record-breaking 11 new tracks onto Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart.

His debut single, "The Time of My Life," had the best showing, at No. 1 on iTunes and No. 3 on Billboard, with 236,000 downloads. It's the first release from his upcoming album, for which he is currently writing songs. He'll record the album during the "American Idols" Live tour, which starts July 1. And somewhere along the line, he hopes to fit in that trip to Disney World he said he was taking right after winning the competition.

Reuters contributed to this report