‘American Idol’ Champ David Cook On His Big Win: ‘Tonight Was Just About Exhaling’

'An apology from Simon is a pretty rare gem,' Cook says of judge's unexpected mea culpa.

LOS ANGELES — That certain rocker dude from season five (we’re looking at you, Daughtry) might not have been able to nab the “American Idol” title, but on Wednesday night (May 21), America made up for its past mistakes.

David Cook’s win shows just how far “Idol” has come since its humble beginnings, when Nikki McKibbin was as close to rock as the show got. The 25-year-old from Blue Springs, Missouri, made a lasting impression on voters with his unique song interpretations and unstoppable work ethic, which took him all the way to the big win.

(Read Jim Cantiello’s live blog of the show in the MTV Newsroom.)

We caught up with the new champ (hand over the crown, Jordin!) backstage at the Nokia Theatre to discuss Simon’s apology , his thoughts after the win and what’s next.

Q: What did Simon’s apology tonight mean to you?

A: I didn’t really know that the apology was warranted. I thought it was an opinion and nothing more. But at no point did I feel disrespected. I’m appreciative of the fact that he decided to apologize. An apology from Simon is a pretty rare gem.

Q: You were pretty emotional when you found out you won. What was going through your head at that moment?

A: That my music teacher, Mrs. Gentry, made me sing at a Christmas pageant in second grade and now I’m here. And so the ride’s been pretty nuts. You couldn’t write this. Maybe you can, but I can’t.

Q: Did you think you were going to win?

A: I didn’t. The respect that I have for David Archuleta is very much past a competitor. He has more talent at his age than I know what to do with at 25. So being able to share a stage with him is an honor for me. I kind of went into Tuesday just to have fun, so the fact that I walk out of here the next American Idol is not a testament to me so much as it’s a testament to the other 23 contestants we had this season and to everybody behind the scenes.

Q: What was your favorite performance this season?

A: Of mine or somebody else’s?

Q: Yours.

A: The last one! [Laughs.] I’ve been holding my breath for four months. Tonight was just about exhaling and enjoying what this show is and what it isn’t.

Q: What kind of record do you want to make?

A: A good one — that’s the kind of record I want to make!

Q: What do you hope to achieve after winning “American Idol”?

A: I actually walked into this with no expectations and I’m walking out of it with no expectations, and I think this show is a springboard, but it’s still a crapshoot. I could easily walk out of this arena and just be a regular Joe tomorrow. I hope that’s not the case. That’s kind of up to everybody else.

Q: What was it like having your brothers in the audience?

A: For me, it just meant the whole experience [came] full-circle. In August, I stood in line in Omaha, Nebraska, at 5:30 in the morning when it was raining with no intention of auditioning. And now I’m here, and I got to share that moment with the same two people I stood in line with seven or eight months ago. So, yeah, it was a nice bookend.

What did you think of the finale? Head to YouRHere.MTV.com to upload your video reactions to Cook’s big win, and check out what other “Idol” fanatics are saying!

Plus, you can get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page , where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions. And relive six seasons of “Idol” hot messes and high notes in six minutes with our video timeline .