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Former 'American Idol' contestant to perform at Dos Amigos

Posted: Monday, April 23, 2012 5:31 pm

Nancy Adamson

James Durbin wants the disenfranchised youth in the Permian Basin to know they can endure and overcome the bullying and loneliness they may be feeling. He's living proof.

The 23-year-old singer will be performing Tuesday at Dos Amigos in Odessa, opening for Buckcherry. The Santa Cruz, Calif., native is best known for the booming rock voice he showcased on season 10 of "American Idol," in which country teen crooner Scotty McCreery was crowned the winner.

Of his season on "Idol," in which he finished in fourth place, Durbin said in a recent phone interview with the Reporter-Telegram that he is grateful for the exposure the show gave his career. He also is a little defensive of the criticisms some have levied on the series, which include the possibility the results are predetermined.

"I know for a fact it's not rigged. It's America," Durbin said. "People thought Pia (Toscano) was gonna win last year and she got eliminated. Someone will have a great performance and people will figure they're totally safe. They don't need their vote. And then they get eliminated. That's what happened with me."

Durbin also doesn't buy into the charge that the dominate "American Idol" voting bloc of tween girls and older women might have been turned off or threatened by his song choices. True rockers -- including Chris Daughtry and Constantine Maroulis -- tend to fare well on the show, but don't win. He pointed out that with the exception of a Sammy Hagar song and a performance with Judas Priest, his appearances represented many genres.

"I really did what I could to please everyone," Durbin said "I love metal but that's not all that I am. Muse is far from metal. Paul McCartney is far from metal. 'Idol' isn't about what song you sing. It's about what you do with that song that makes you unique."

Being unique and loyal to "American Idol" is paying off for Durbin. His April 12 performance on the show garnered the singer votes in a new way -- through sales of his new album, "Memories of a Beautiful Disaster." Durbin said his appearance gave the album quite a boost.

"It's doing great," Durbin said of the album. "It sold 100,000 units before the 'Higher Than Heaven' performance on 'Idol.' We looked at where the album was (before the appearance) on iTunes rock charts and it was No. 130 in the country and now it's No. 5. When we looked at it on Amazon, it was No. 503, and now it's at No. 28."

Durbin's California upbringing was far from idyllic. His father, also an aspiring musician, died when Durbin was 9. Shortly after his father's death of a drug overdose, Durbin was diagnosed with Tourette's and Asperger's syndromes. The symptoms of those maladies -- which manifest in tics, or uncontrollable physical movements -- led to bullying that caused Durbin to retreat to his room and a world of music. That world probably saved his life, or at least his sanity, Durbin said.

"As soon as I started showing interest (in music), my mom immediately worked it out so that I could have music scholarships," Durbin said. He abandoned traditional schooling to enroll in various performing arts programs, where he polished his stage presence and honed his musical skills.

Although his tics from can be seen and heard when he talks, there's no sign of them when he's performing. He's confident to the point of being brash and cocky onstage, traits admired and respected by his fans. But, it wasn't always so easy for him

"When I was younger, it was hard dealing with my tics and dealing with just being different, being bullied," Durbin said. "It's hard having to deal with that rejection. But, I learned to rise above it. I never fought back."

"That's really sad," Durbin said upon hearing of Midland's recent teen suicides and advised anyone going through that kind of pain to hang on and try to find some way of turning it into something positive.

"I was bullied every day through elementary school, middle school and high school," he said. "I'm still bullied. I got beat up. The hardest thing anyone can do is tell someone what's happening. But, I always did. It tore me up inside until I discovered music."

Durbin's experiences with bullies have led him to use his celebrity to passively combat the cruelty some human beings can inflict on others.

"It's fortunate that I get to work with the Creative Coalition and World Wrestling Entertainment to do our part to end bullying," he said. "Through an anti-bullying ad campaign I'm really happy to be a part of called Be a Star, we go to middle schools all over the country and talk to kids and tell them our stories and how we rose above it and still achieve our dreams and achieve success."

Also appearing at Tuesday's show will be Redlight King. Tickets for the concert are $23 and were still available at press time late Thursday.