James Durbin Attempts to Turn 'Idol' Success Into Stadium Status
by Jason Lipshutz | December 03, 2011 9:00 EST
Last spring, James Durbin, a 22-year-old metal enthusiast with a booming voice, finished fourth during the 10th season of "American Idol." He was visibly upset when he was eliminated, but declared in a press conference the next day, "I haven't failed at all. This is just the beginning."
James Durbin on 'Idol' Elimination: 'I Haven't Failed At All'
Scotty McCreery and Lauren
Alaina, the 10th season's respective winner and runner-up, have already
notched top five debuts on the Billboard 200 with their first albums.
While McCreery and Alaina are country acts, Durbin's oeuvre is bombastic
rock: He performed on "Idol" with Judas Priest and Zakk
Wylde, and new single "Stand Up," which has sold 6,000 copies
since its Sept. 25 release, according to Nielsen SoundScan, features
an incinerating guitar riff and the chorus, "It's time to see
you stand up/Let me see your hands up."
Durbin believes that "Memories of a Beautiful Disaster," which arrived Nov. 21 on Wind-up Records, will echo the singer that fans heard on "Idol": a sensitive, passionate rock geek who has struggled with Tourette's syndrome. The album bows at No. 36 on the Billboard 200 and at No. 8 on Rock Albums with 28,000 sold.
"The underlying theme of the album is bullying and being an outsider, because growing up, I wasn't the popular kid at school," Durbin says. "I've heard from fans about how inspiring I am to their kids through singing covers on 'Idol,' and now I get to put out my record and give these people real emotion, stuff that I've gone through and someone to look up to."
"It's a fairly sedate
show, very family-oriented," Richards says of Idols Live! "And
when [Durbin] comes on he just goes, 'Everyone get up!,' and it turns
into a huge rock show for his few songs, and you're like, 'Oh, OK,
he's the real deal.'"
Durbin says that, after rejecting other label suitors as "too corporate," he was thrilled to join a roster that includes Evanescence, Seether and Creed. Durbin signed with Wind-up on Sept. 7 and began recording "Memories" in Los Angeles with veteran producer Howard Benson ( My Chemical Romance, Daughtry) as the "Idol" tour was wrapping up. He had an entire album ready to be mastered in less than three weeks.
Because of the album's quick turnaround, the marketing rollout will be slowly paced, with late-night TV appearances coming after street week and a return performance on season 11 of "American Idol" planned for the spring. "Stand Up" has been serviced to rock radio, and the more melodic "Love Me Bad" has been sent to mainstream and adult top 40. Durbin recently shot videos for both tracks, and the "Love Me Bad" clip was unveiled Nov. 16.
Richards expects the artist to kick off a mix of headlining shows and supporting gigs early next year. Durbin's music is already being heard in stadiums: Through a partnership with the NFL, "Stand Up" is featured on Official Gameday Music, Vol. 2, an EP released by Banshee Music that features similar hard rock tracks heard at football games. Durbin also recorded 32 custom clips of "Stand Up" for each team, which are screening in NFL stadiums.
But can Durbin overcome
the "Idol" pop/country brand and be embraced by hard rock
fans? "I'll be the first to admit it's not easy, but . . . it's
understanding who the rock audience is and who the audience for James
Durbin's brand is," manager Josh Klemme says. "We ultimately
decided to work with Wind-up Records because they're a big home for
rock. We solicited an NFL partnership for him because the NFL audience
is a rock audience. It's about finding the right partners and the
right believers that are going to push with you throughout the process."