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Interview with James Durbin

American Idol hopeful James Durbin almost didn’t make his audition. He had been working delivering pizzas, not knowing if he would get the day off to even go. “I didn’t even know if I was going to get the day off for the auditions,” James told me. “No one there even knew about my passion for singing, or that I actually could sing. Two days before the audition, the manager brought all the employees in the back room and said, “We’re bankrupt and we’re shutting the business down”. So I was out of a job and that was kind of my opportunity. I went for my dream, starting living my dream, and am holding on to that dream.” Everything really does happen for a reason.

Many people, including myself, were quite aware of James Durbin sounding like a previous Idol hopeful, also with a signature scream, Adam Lambert. But, at least for me, throughout the competition James stretched farther and farther outside that box delivering a metal yell that even held its own with icon Rob Halford during the finale. No, he didn’t come in first and honestly, I think that’s a good thing, not having limitations put on him and expectations that honestly, not many recent Idol winners have reached. We recently talked with James about his debut album, his new band, and knocking some things off his bucket list.

RockMonthly: What made you decide to look elsewhere for a record label; I’m sure Interscope must have offered a deal to you…

James Durbin: I had some offers and they just weren’t what I liked. Finally we talked to Wind Up Records, nothing was finalized and two days after the meeting they called me up just to see how I was doing; asked me how my family was, how the Idols Live tour was going. That really meant a lot to me. They didn’t just care about how much money was going into their pocket. At that point it was really a no-brainer, and I was very interested in working with them. They’re all about growing as an artist. I feel as though the opportunities that I’ve had and that they are bringing to me, I really wouldn’t have had with any other label.

RM: You’ve talked in other interviews on the issue of bullying and the song “Screaming” I know comes from your own personal bout with bullying. You see it on the news so much today; Why do you think we see so much of it?

JD: Definitely because of social media and every kid now has a cell phone. Every kid has a device that they can use to take pictures with or record something, and show proof of something happening. A lot of people are putting it in the same category as being a hate-crime and sexual harassment, which I think they should. You know, I was beat up, spit on all throughout elementary school and high school, so I’m no stranger to that. I think something really needs to be done about ASAP.

RM: Doing research and reading other interviews I ran across an interview in Psychology Today and you seem to be a main, or only, voice of Tourette’s and Asperger’s among the music community; does that give you any sort of pressure as far as being a role model or is it more exciting that you get to be that role model?

JD: I think it’s more the excitement of being the role model. I’m just happy to be able to be myself. I’m a family guy; I’m getting married soon, I have a 2 ½ year old son, and I have values and know what not to do. Kids are so impressionable and they really need the right direction. I’ve seen kids singing songs by certain artists that are not good role models, so I try to be as good as a role model in my songs, as well as stage performance; it’s not like I’m dropping the F-bomb all over the place. If I’m playing a 21-and-up show, yeah, sure, there might be some F-bombs (laughs). Like I said, kids are just so impressionable, you really got to steer them in the right direction.

RM: How did the recruiting of Blake Bunzel & Jeff Fabb from In This Moment come about for your band?

JD: We were holding open auditions for the band and the manager for In This Moment, who brought in a few people, actually told Blake and Jeff about the auditions. Jeff was pretty much a no-brainer and played almost throughout the guitar auditions with us. He had been the best drummer all day. During the guitar auditions, I just really wasn’t feeling anybody and then Blake came in, and he just had a great look to him, a great attitude, and he was experienced. Both those guys are very thankful and humble and appreciate everything they have. It’s what I love about this band, we’re just all so stoked to play music, to do something we all love and be able to make money doing it. No matter where it is, or how much it is, we’re all just thankful.

RM: Have you been watching any other reality shows, like The Voice or The X-Factor?

JD: I’ve watched a little bit, kind of keeping up on The X-Factor. It’s interesting once you’ve been on that type of a show; it’s interesting to watch it, sometimes not really easy to watch it because you know what they are going through. They really put you through the ringer; it’s tough, really tough, you know? It’s definitely not for everyone. You learn so much about yourself and so much about the business, and you really need to be in the right mind set if you are really going to pursue it. There is a lot of input, there are a lot of opinions coming at you from all sides, and you’ve just got to know which ones are right for your heart and what you think the right decision is.

RM: Have you solidified plans for the new year as far as touring?

JD: We’re still working on the dates, we have a couple of one-offs; we’re actually playing the Atlanta Falcon’s half-time show then Monday playing half-time for the San Francisco 49ers, which is definitely on all our bucket-lists. My lead guitarist Dylan said that he only two things on his bucket-list; to play at a 49ers game and to play at WrestleMania (laughs). We get to cross one of the list and it would be a huge dream for both Dylan and I to play WrestleMania. If you ever watch ESPN and you see these announcers talking about their plays or people in football, I just don’t understand, but when someone starts talking with me about wrestling, I can talk to you for hours about the people past and present, what the future of it will hold; It’s like our own language. Dylan and I will start talking about this stuff in front of people, like at a party or something, and they’ll just kind of look at us like “what the hell are they talking about??” (laughs).

RM: You’ve said you can’t wait to get back to do another album; do you have any songs that didn’t make it on the album?

JD: There were actually a couple of songs that didn’t make it on the album. Another song I co-wrote with James Michael and Marti Frederiksen, who I co-wrote “Higher Than Heaven” with, that was along the same topic, actually about my fiancé called “In The Name Of Love”. It’s a really cool song and I can’t wait to record that one. There was another one written by Doug Brown, who wrote “May”, and one of my favorite band’s Hardcore Superstar, from Sweden, who co-wrote “Outcast” on the album, sent me a song idea that I’m still working on, and that’s called “I’ll Never Be The Same Again”. And I think now that we are a band, everyone will have input when writing and I’m really looking forward to start and come together and write our own songs. I think it will be great.