Despite the emotional high of winning American Idol in 2008, David Cook hit a low in the years following his victory when he began to struggle with intense anxiety. Now, the singer-songwriter is addressing his apprehension head-on with the release of his latest single, "Reds Turn Blue."
"A couple years after Idol, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and have spent the last almost decade really going through the process of navigating that and picking up new tools and processes along the way to deal with it," Cook, 37, tells PEOPLE of the backstory to the song.
"I wanted to write a song touching on it for a while, and had never really just found the right voice for it," Cook says, explaining that "Reds Turn Blue" first started coming together last year.
The song is "kind of a letter from my anxiety to me," Cook says, explaining that his anxiety "makes me feel like the adverse is coming around the corner" and gives him an "always looking over my shoulder vibe about things."
"This song became a therapeutic process for me, as a way to personify my anxiety and make it something other than me — which in an odd way has helped me navigate my relationship with it," Cook tells PEOPLE.
The musician says that the song's title gives a visual representation to the emotions represented in the lyrics.
"I feel like the color red ... has always represented love to me. And [blue], well, obviously, the idea of having the blues," he says. "I’ve always kind of felt like my anxiety does that for me, it turns these positive things into negative a little bit."
Cook tells PEOPLE that he hopes listeners "find their own meaning" in the song.
"That's just what I've always [strived] for as a songwriter — to put music out there that people find something for themselves in," he says.
Cook chose to delay the release of "Reds Turn Blue" in light of the nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality in the United States.
"We were at a moment where other voices need to be heard," Cook tells PEOPLE of the decision to delay the song's premiere, which came after George Floyd was killed in police custody in Minneapolis last month.
"It’s been heartening I think to see the amount of noise being made in support of this cause, and I hope it continues," Cook says. "I’m a firm believer in the idea of everybody loving everybody. The opportunity came up to ... stand aside and let more important issues, more important voices be heard."
After several months spent at home in "deep clean mode," Cook tells PEOPLE that he's "very much looking forward" to getting back on the road and the community that comes with performing live.
"One of the things that always had me gravitate towards live shows is that community that exists for that hour and a half, two hours that you're playing a show," he says.
In the meantime, fans can stream "Reds Turn Blue" now.
"I'm proud of every song I put out, but I am exceptionally proud of how this song turned out," Cook tells PEOPLE, adding, "hopefully everybody who hears it can find something for themselves in it."