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Durbin Rocks!
From Pizza Delivery to Delivering his Life in New Album "Celebrate"

By: Nikki Roy, Freshman, Bellport H.S., Bellport, NY
TeenNewsNet Entertainment & Lifestyles Columnist

I had the pleasure of interviewing James Durbin, who happens to be an inspiration and a role model to me. You will find out during the interview what it is that we have in common and how he is so inspiring to myself and to other teens. As we talk I find that James is a very interesting person and complete fun to talk with.

James DurbinNIKKI: So James, what inspired you to try out for American Idol?

JAMES: I wasn’t gonna audition. I was working at Dominos Pizza, I was a delivery driver, and I asked for the days off to be able to audition. They told me that I wasn’t gonna be able to have those days off. So I just kinda put it out of my mind. And then, it was two days before the auditions; I was still thinking, like, can I call in sick? Can I just not show up? Should I quit? Like, what do I do? So it was, like I said, two days before the audition, they call everyone at work into the back kitchen and the owners say we have no more money to run our business with. You’re all laid off and out of a job -tomorrow. So I had a day to prepare and my amazing fiance at the time, now my wife, Heidi, she helped me prepare and gave me a pep talk. [She] got me ready, I got a haircut. [I then] went down and auditioned and next thing you know I kept going to more auditions and it just worked.

NIKKI: Your new album “Celebrate” is being released on April 8th. What can we expect? I hear you are trying a different style of music this time around?

JAMES: Not so much a different style, just polishing things up, cleaning it up a bit, cleaning up my look and my act. It’s been three years since I was on Idol. I’ve come back down to Earth and remembered where I came from. I think I got a little bit of an ego right after I got off the show. I’m just back to being who I really am and I just..I don’t know, I love a good hook, something catchy. I love popular music, I mean it comes from the Beatles pop like back in the day and anything that’s popular is considered pop so, I want to be popular. And people to buy my music and listen to it and come to my shows and if I gotta be “pop” to be that, well then okay. It’s just catchy….good, fun, catchy music. I just turned 25 (1/6/1989 is his birthday) so I’m young, I don’t have anything to be angry about. I think that my music should reflect who I really am and who I am on the inside and how I’m feeling and my outlooks on life. And my outlook on life right now is to just to celebrate. I have nothing to complain about. I have nothing to be mad about. Nothing to be bitter about. Stuff happens, life happens, you just gotta go with the flow. There’s always something good around the corner.

NIKKI: So what inspired you to write your music; are they mostly personal experiences?

JAMES: They definitely are. I was given the chance and definitely given the time on this record versus my first record where I only had 2 ½ weeks to record, mix, master, do all the art work and put it out. This time I’ve had well over a year and a half to write all the songs and really draw from my past and draw from my present. And, like I said, write about where I’m at. I’m just kinda celebrating my life and just giving the chance to be alive and giving the chance to perform and do music for a living. And so, definitely drawing from that and also from my past and growing up in Santa Cruz and getting into mischief and just getting to write about that and draw from those experiences. It’s fun, it’s definitely fun.

NIKKI: I heard a portion of the proceeds for this album will benefit Autism Speaks. You must feel so good to be able to give to a cause that is so close to home for you.

JAMES: Yeah it definitely is. I’ve gotten to work with Autism Speaks and I'm also working with the Tourette Syndrome Association. On my website www.durbinrock.com I have some pre-orders and it’s a bundle pack that comes with a signed copy of “Celebrate”, when it comes out April 8th around that time you’ll get it. I will get a box of pre-orders and they will come to my house and I will sign them with love and approval. And it’s not some machine or a stamp, like, it’s real! It came from my fingertips. And with that comes a t-shirt, an exclusive t-shirt with lyrics from one of the songs on the record called “You Can’t Believe” and then $5 from every pre-order goes directly to the Tourette Syndrome Association.

NIKKI: I’m autistic myself and it means a lot to me personally what you do and what you’ve shown we are capable of, so thank you so much.

JAMES: Absolutely! That means the world to me that you say that. I’m glad to be talking to a fellow Aspy.

NIKKI: When you first found out about your Aspergers Syndrome and your Tourette Syndrome diagnosis how did it effect you?

JAMES: Oh it was weird. I’m not gonna lie it was really weird. I was 10 when I was diagnosed with Aspergers and with Tourettes. I mean, just being 10 years old itself is weird. Then, having all these new things happen with school and growing up and coming into yourself and growing into yourself. And then suddenly you’re told that you’ve been diagnosed with these two diseases. And you’re like, I have diseases? I already feel like I’m from another planet and now you put this on me. So it was pretty weird; I didn’t really know how to handle it. But luckily we had really good resources like the Tourette Syndrome Association, which is why I’m doing the partnership with them. They were there for me and my Mom and for all the questions that we needed answered and resources and everything. We had absolutely no idea what any of it was. It was very challenging. But, I think like just like any human being, but I definitely think more, so for people that are on the autism spectrum, is that we need to overcome it and show the world that we can overcome it. It’s just a hurdle put in our way. It’s just a block, put in our path and we can definitely overcome it. And we can really do whatever we want to do. I mean anybody can do whatever they want. Just because a doctor tells you that you’re on the spectrum and that you have this puts a label on what makes you different and unique and special and it doesn’t mean that you’re incapable of doing what anybody else can do.

NIKKI: That is so true! So how did the kickoff of your tour go in LA on January 3?

JAMES: It was a lot of fun! It was really cool. It was at the Viper Room I played there one other time. When I played there [last] it was the same night that I performed on American Idol with my band when we performed “Higher Than Heaven” we got to go and perform at The Viper Room that same night and it was so much fun. And now getting to go back and play there with my new line up and play an acoustic performance there it was great! It was very intimate, very fun. I just like it when the audience is silent and they’re hanging on your every word and your every lyric. I love the liberty of being able to perform with just me and my guitar and I can throw everything down and bring everything back down to Earth and kind of almost whisper through songs and just kind of perform things almost like a prayer, ya know, perform things and put so much emphasis on each and every word. That’s how it was written. That so much thought went into each word of each of these songs and when you’re writing you’re thinking so hard and putting so much energy into it. When you’re done writing a song you just kinda relax and you breathe and you just UUUUHHHH ….that’s it….. like that’s so special, so important. And I love being able to perform it like that. And show people that much love was put into making this record.

NIKKI: Touring can be fun, but it also must be hard being away from your wife Heidi and son Hunter?

JAMES: It makes me really sad. [January 6th] was my 25th birthday and then the following day I had to leave for tour I’m on tour for 5 weeks, but the last show is in Santa Cruz. So I get to go home and play my last show of the tour for my wife and for my son and my family and all of our friends and everyone, so it’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna be like a little homecoming after being gone.

NIKKI: So how old is Hunter now?

JAMES: He’s 4 ½

NIKKI: What are some of your favorite things to do with him?

JAMES: Well, we love to draw. He is very creative. He’s extremely intelligent. He loves singing songs from my new record “Celebrate”, he loves it. He loves singing “Parachute” and “Louder Than A Loaded Gun” and “Celebrate” and “Fool For You”. He just loves screaming them at the top of his lungs and he puts on a little scarf and grabs my microphone stand and microphone and we’ll just sit in the living room. I’ll play guitar and he’ll just dance around the room whaling and screaming and jamming and rocking out...He just loves it, he loves being a little rockstar.

NIKKI: I know you have been on a few, so, what was your favorite talk show experience?

JAMES: I was in New York I had just gotten eliminated [from Idol] and had just gone home to do my homecoming and 30,000 people showed up in Santa Cruz. Then I go and do… and that was right after I had just done The Tonight Show with Jay Leno…. and then I go I fly to New York and play what’s called the Up Fronts and it was for FOX for the FOX Corporation and Idol is on Fox so it’s where they pitch all of their shows to see what they’re gonna get renewed for another season or new shows that are gonna get to be seen for the people that are working on them. So after that performance Randy Jackson came up to me and he said what are you doing tomorrow? And I told him that, as far as I know, I am leaving with everyone else. And he said, well, ok I’m gonna have my people call your people and I’ll see you later. And I didn’t know what that meant. So, that night I get a call saying that Randy is gonna be on Jimmy Fallon the next night and he wants me to go on with him and come out as his surprise guest and sing “Any Way You Want It” with Randy and Jimmy Fallon, the song by Journey. So I ended up staying in New York an extra night and I got to go on The Jimmy Fallon show and perform with Jimmy and Randy. That was definitely the funnest part.

NIKKI: That’s awesome!! I read you love Pro-Wrestling. Who are some of your favorite wrestlers and do you like to just watch it or do you actually wrestle as well?

JAMES: I don’t actually wrestle. I’d love to. And I’ve said my entire life a rock star or a wrestler? And as I found out with many of the wrestlers that I’ve met and become friends with that that was what they’ve said their entire lives too. When they were kids and when they were growing up they wanted to either be a rock star or a wrestler. Of course the wrestlers chose wrestling, with the exception of my buddy Chris Jericho, he has a band called Fozzy and he’s the singer, so he gets to be a rock star and a wrestler. Whenever I talk about wanting to actually be a wrestler my wife Heidi reminds me of how dainty and….. (laughing) whimpy I am. According to Heidi I am very whimpy, like if Hunter jumped on me I would be like AAAHHH feel my ribs I think it’s broken. I mean how can you… she’d say and you always say I want to be a wrestler. Maybe I could just be a manager or just get in there and throw some hay makers and jump on someone for a minute and then get out. I love to watch wrestling. As soon as I woke up today on the bus I went in the back lounge and put on some old wrestling from 2003. I love watching, I love talking about it, I love watching it live in person. I have a wrestler tattooed on me of Rey Mysterio, it’s mother Mary wearing a Rey Mysterio mask. I just love wrestling it’s in my blood.

NIKKI: I was looking on your Facebook page and I saw that you adopted a new addition to the family, your dog Max. How’s he doing?

JAMES: He’s doing really good he’s an old guy, but you’d never guess it by looking at him. Our new adopted dog Max and our first adopted dog Thomas if you look at the two of them… Thomas is only a year old and Max is like twelve years old, but you’d think that it’s the other way around because Thomas is very crotchety and he’s like a crotchety old fart. Then Max he is this sweet little puppy faced dog. It’s just weird. They are like the odd couple. It’s horrible. Heidi just called me before I talked to you and told me that they were just running circles around the house and crazy and trying to out do one another. They are just really fun to watch the two of them. We thought that Max would actually mellow out Thomas but Thomas’ hipster attitude has kinda made Max a little bit of a worry wart. When we first got him he didn’t bark at all and now he’s a little yapper. Barking at the fence whenever a leaf falls or something.

NIKKI: (Laughing) That’s great. Do you have any fun facts about yourself to share?

JAMES: Fun facts… um I don’t know. I mean I can’t give away all my secrets. (Laughing) When I was in the Boy Scouts when I was a young Durbin there was this thing that we did with a big stick, like a big long pole stick. We had to sand it and stain it and everything and make it our own and it was called our Gumby stick. So, they showed us this like weird stretch thing. You hold the stick behind your back and it’s long enough it’s tall, it’s like as tall as I was at the time. I definitely am taller than the Gumby stick now. And you hold it behind you. Then you kinda like bend and contort your body and like you have to be double jointed and then it ends up from behind you and then it ends up in front of you at the end of the strange contortion. So I learned to do it but I did it great! And so they had a competition at Scout camp to see who could be the Gumby stick champion. It came down to me and somebody else and that somebody else was an adult. And he was a little bit faster. I don’t know why they let an adult play because I would have won. And I would have kept my glory. And one day, mark my words, I will return and I will reclaim my Gumby stick glory that was stolen away from me. Mark my words!

NIKKI: (Laughing) What advice would you give to kids with autism that have the same passion for music as you do?

JAMES: Always be yourself no matter what anybody tells you. I think it’s really good to get involved with something active. Something where you have to talk to people. My problem when I was a kid, I wasn’t good at talking to people. And now you can’t even shut me up if you tried. I just love to talk. I will talk your ear off! I just love to talk to anyone about wrestling or music or the universe and how my theory of things work. I got involved in theater, in musical theater, and at that point I could barely keep eye contact with someone when they were talking to me. I had a great great Director and she helped me to adjust.. I don’t know.. she just really helped me with being a functioning human being and keeping eye contact and paying attention to people and just kind of chilled me out I guess. I think any theater is great for anyone on the spectrum. If you’re backstage doing lights or a stage hand... Or if you’re in the background as a background singer and dancer... Or if you’re front and center as the star of the show. I definitely think that doing any kind of theater is definitely key to growing as a person, especially having autism. It helped me make friends... It helped me feel like I was a part of the world... And it kinda helped me feel a little bit normal. Not that I ever want to be normal. (Laughing) But it helped me feel a little bit less of an outcast. I think theater kids in general are kinda the outcasts of what’s socially acceptable, whatever that means. I’m really proud to have come from being a theater kid. It really helped me to be able to be on stage and just to function.

You can contact James at his website www.durbinrock.com and he can also be reached on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t forget to order his new CD “Celebrate” being released on April 8th.