"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."
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