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'American Idol' finalist Durbin is at Surf Friday

CLEAR LAKE — “American Idol” finalist James Durbin opens for Buckcherry Friday at the Surf.

Durbin kicked off his first national tour last month in support of his Wind-Up Records debut album, “Memories Of A Beautiful Disaster.”

“ ‘Idol’ changed my life completely,” Durbin said in a recent interview.

But it almost didn’t happen.

He was delivering pizza in his hometown of Santa Cruz, Calif., and had requested time off to audition.

“No one knew it was my passion. They told me I wouldn’t be able to have the day off.”

Days went by, Durbin said. Then, the staff was called into the kitchen, and told the restaurant was closing. Though jobless, he was now free to audition.

His girlfriend Heidi (now his wife), accompanied him.

“We waited in line 30 hours just to sing for two minutes. Just for a chance.”

“Durbin is one of the best voices to come out of Idol,” according to a review in People magazine. “His debut (album) packs metallic muscle.”

Although a rocker on “American Idol”, Durbin said he doesn’t like to classify himself.

“I like all kinds of music. I won a country singing contest in San Jose” with the song “Black Velvet.”

“There’s a video up on YouTube. My dear momma put it up.”

After his return performance on “American Idol” April 12, his CD and new single shot up the iTunes (Top 10) and Billboard charts. He said he wrote his new single, “Higher Than Heaven” (with Marty Fredrickson), for his wife.

“She saved me. She brought me out of a spot I was in denial about being in. I was going downhill, She lifted me up. I wanted to succeed because of her.”

He was 19, a high school dropout with no license or job. Their moms were friends at church. She was attending a party where he was singing karaoke, and she remembered him.

He got his GED. Heidi and their son attended his high school graduation. They married last New Year’s Eve.

“I get a lot of inspiration from my wife and son,” Durbin said.

He said Heidi introduced him to country music, and he introduced her to metal, taking her to see Buckcherry.

His musical inspiration comes from many groups: Queen, Led Zeppelin, Edgar Winter, 30 Seconds to Mars, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, to name just a few.

“A lot from the Beatles,” Durbin added. “The most definitive voices ever. They just played something they thought sounded good. They inspired countless people all over the globe.

“Therein lies hope for music. Hope for creativity. Hope for rock and roll.”

Durbin, 23, who has been playing in bars since he was 15, said he loves to give people hope.

“Me inspiring people to aspire to their dreams is the coolest part of this job. For some reason, I inspire them to get back on the saddle and ride again. How does that happen?”