Published: Monday, July 02, 2012, 11:30 AM Updated: Monday, July
02, 2012, 10:14 PM
By Sue White | For MLive.com
CHESANING, MI – Watching James Durbin climb to a fourth-place
finish on “American Idol” in 2011, some 30 million viewers
caught one victory after another.
The young rocker from Santa Cruz, Calif., stunned the audience with
songs like “I’ll Be There for You” and “Maybe
I’m Amazed,” and showed the world what was possible even
as he struggled with Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder,
and Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. And who can ever
forget Durbin’s face when pro wrestler Hulk Hogan stopped by
to say hello?
But looking on those accomplishments as stepping stones rather than
top-of-the-world achievements is what put Durbin in a van with his
band in late June, heading through Oregon on his way to Tacoma, Wash.,
for another leg of the concert tour called Rockfest.
On July 14, the day-long music fest kicks off at noon at the Chesaning
Showboat with hard rockers Sevendust, Fuel, Drowning Pool and 15 others
waiting in the wings.
“I never wanted to be one of those people who got a lot of attention
on ‘American Idol’ and then disappeared from view,”
Durbin said. “The show is an opportunity, a stepping stone with
the kind of exposure you’re not going to get anywhere else.
“You’re being looked at, you’re being chosen to
go on, and when it’s over, you’d better be ready to work
your butt off.”
When the run’s over, so is the five-star catering and the cushy
tour buses, he admits.
“But I’m where I want to be right now,” he said.
“I really want to earn my success, whether it is superstardom
or touring Europe or traveling around the country with my band in
“’American Idol’ was a platform and the rest is
up to me.”
Durbin’s music has a harder edge than people will remember,
which puts him in good stead with his present company. And the veterans
are really supportive of the young bands, he added.
“They’re working as hard as we are and they know this
is our time to shine,” he said. “There’s nothing
They’re all having a good time, and that means good things for
the audience as well as promoters and venues before he heads back
in the studio for a follow-up to last year’s “Memories
of a Beautiful Disaster.”
“I’ve always loved music,” Durbin said. “My
dad was a musician, and when my sisters got started in theater and
choir at school, I was interested, too.
“They were in ‘Damn Yankees’ and I watched every
show. I became their mascot, I was 10 or 11 at the time, and by the
end, I knew all the songs. At the end, they brought me onstage, like
a little Easter egg hidden in the back, but then they pushed me up
front and I got to see the audience.”
He was hooked, continuing in musical theater as he grew comfortable
“But the difference was pretending to be someone else; I wanted
to do what I wanted to do.”
Durbin pulled his own band together and started singing his own songs,
a scary experience at first, he admitted, but a lot cooler in the
“I grew into myself, onstage and off,” he said. “I
felt free and alive.”
The syndromes were a limitation, he said, “but I feel where
I am now shows you can’t put a limit on what you can achieve.
It might take a little more work and a little more time, but there’s
no limit to what you want to be.”
Durbin said he and his band love playing to people who haven’t
heard them and have no idea of who they are. They’re giving
Durbin a chance, he said, and telling their buddies when they like
what they hear.
“We’re showing people who we are and what we do,”
he said. “We’re not bubble-gum and we don’t play
that formula corporate crap. We start out with some Ronnie James Dio
and leave the crowd screaming for more.”
“American Idol” was his alma mater, he said, “a
point in my career, a springboard that allowed me to do something
different. It’s all been an exploration, and I’m right
where I want to be.”
The Chesaning Showboat Rockfest, also featuring nonpoint, SOIL, Taproot,
Janus, Edisun, Eye Empire, Beyond Threshold, Shallow Side, Dory Drive,
Charm City Devils, Prospect Hill, Art of Dying, 12 Stones and Anew
Revolution, begins at noon July 14 at the Chesaning Showboat Park,
807 S. Front. Tickets cost $59, $39 and $29, plus a $5 ticket service
fee on advance at the box office at 218 N. Front, from 10 a.m. to
4 p.m. Monday and Thursday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday; by calling
989-845-3056 and online at Chesaningshowboat.org.