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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A year ago David Cook was a struggling musician with just $30 in the bank, competing for a spot on top-rated television talent show "American Idol."
On November 18, "Idol" winner Cook debuts his self-titled album that he said was made by his own rules and "comes out of the gates with all guns blazing."
"The record is different from what people saw on 'American Idol.' I was able to make a rock record that to me is eclectic. But I don't think I have completely alienated the people who supported me," said Cook.
On the program, Cooked rocked audiences with alternative versions of other singers' hits, such as Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and Lionel Ritchie's "Hello."
"I wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 12 songs on the album. I was involved with everything -- the music, lyrics and I helped design the art on the CD. I wanted it to be a very accurate definition of who I am," the 25 year-old told Reuters.
Cook joins alumni from America's most watched television show -- "Idol" averaged nearly 30 million viewers weekly last season -- whose fortunes as stand-alone music stars have varied from stellar (Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson) to sluggish (Taylor Hicks, Ruben Studdard).
"Light On," Cook's first single off his album, fell in the middle, debuting at No.17 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart in September but slipping to No. 80 four weeks later.
But Cook, who formed his first band at age 15 and auditioned for "American Idol" on a whim, has a different way of measuring success than just selling records.
"I went into 'Idol' with no expectations. But the one thing I wanted to do was to accurately portray myself. So I will gauge my success on whether or not I can remain happy and still remain true to who I know that I am.
"Whether I sell one record or one billion records, I will be happy," he said. "I would rather sell one billion though."
One song, "Heroes," is an homage to Cook's family. Two are to his brother Adam who has brain cancer, and "Life on the Moon" is about the crazy journey from Missouri bartender and part-time musician to "American Idol" star.
The past few months have brought more money, but some sacrifices of privacy.
"As far as my personal life goes, the major difference is that I don't have one any more. I am a private person so having to navigate this celebrity thing is something I haven't got used to," he said.
Cook and his band will play for U.S. troops in Iraq in January, then head out on a U.S. tour and later overseas.
But as big a career as Cook may have, he wants to remain the same guy he was back in Missouri.
"I have awesome friends and family who will totally never let this whole rock star ego thing get to my head," he said.
Edited by Bob Tourtellotte and Vicki Allen