James Durbin: I really feel I accomplished a lot on 'American Idol'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/13/2011
James Durbin's American Idol journey ended when he was eliminated during Thursday night's live results show which determined the competition's Top 3 finalists.
The 22-year-old from Santa Cruz, CA, became the tenth finalist sent home from American Idol's tenth season after he received the fewest home viewer votes following Wednesday night's performance show -- becoming the fifth-straight male finalist eliminated after the finals began with five female finalists being ousted.
During a conference call with reporters on Friday, Durbin discussed his experience on American Idol -- including whether he was shocked he was eliminated and didn't make the Top 2, how much he has changed as a singer and person recently and why, when he and his wife Heidi first met, whether he felt not winning the competition was a positive or negative for his rock and roll career, and what he has up his sleeve for the near future.
What was your reaction to your elimination during Thursday night's live results show? It seemed like many people were in shock over it.
James Durbin: Wow, that's insane. Wow, it's a whirlwind of emotions, but you know, I've been really thinking about why I came on the show and why I even auditioned in the first place, and I'm brought back to those feelings of, "It's for my family."
But I was trying to give a voice to a genre of music that seems like it's slowly fading away, and I just really accomplished a lot on the show. It was really great so I'm thankful for the opportunity.
You were never in the bottom two or the bottom three, so how blindsided were you when you were eliminated?
James Durbin: I'm not going to lie, I definitely was, but there was something off with the kinetic energy of everyone at the studio yesterday. I just kind of felt it off of people's body language, you know?
Not that people knew, but there was just something -- a real somber feeling -- so I just kind of caught up with it. I kind of freaked out a little bit before the show started, and I just knew it. I really did. I just knew it. I just said, "Don't worry about it," but I knew it.
You got eliminated from the show at the same time Chris Daughtry did during his Idol season. He said he was glad he didn't win Idol because he thought that would have ruined his rock and roll credit. What you think about then for yourself?
James Durbin: That makes plenty of sense, you know, but winning would have been just great too. I don't know. There's a first instinct when you're up there and [American Idol host Ryan Seacrest] says, "You're going home." The first instinct is, "Gosh. I wanted to win so badly and it feels like I failed." But thinking about it, it's like I haven't failed at all.
This is just the beginning. It's like a rollercoaster, but it's not how you think. You think while you're on Idol that the rollercoaster is doing all its turns and loops and corkscrews, but that's not it. Idol is still just clicking up the track before it drops down into the craziness. I'm still clicking. I'm still just clicking on the track, and it's amazing.
I'm glad I can really appreciate now -- and I'll figure it out some more in the coming days -- but it's still emotional. But in the coming days and the coming weeks, with the finale and the tour and releasing my stuff, it's really just getting to work. It's exciting and I'm really, really stoked.
Have you heard from any celebrity fans besides the judges?
James Durbin: Oh, well I became good friends with Chris Jericho -- who was on Dancing with the Stars -- because we filmed at the same studio and that was really nice. I've been a wrestling fan since I was 12 and he's always been one of my favorites. So, to get to hang out with him -- and we could talk about wrestling and talk about music, talk about the road -- he's a singer in a metal band, so it really worked out.
How much have you changed and grown in recent years and would you say the theater organization you were involved in played any role in your progress?
James Durbin: One of the things that comes with Aspergers and the high-functioning autism is awkwardness, and I really had a lot of it starting out. But being in that theater organization and just being around people constantly, really helped with that.
And so from one performance to the next, it was a complete 360 of my attitude and just everything -- just how I presented myself, and I was able to talk to people and hold a conversation, and not get really emotional before the performances, and that sort of thing.
Because in theater, even in children's theater, there's the week before the show -- or two weeks before the show -- it's called "hell week." And that's just when all hell's going to break loose. That's what's going to happen, and after being in one of those hell weeks, if anything was going to happen, it would have happened then. That's when I and everyone else noticed a real change.
How did things change when you met Heidi and how did you two meet?
James Durbin: When I was four and Heidi was 13, our moms were friends at church and the funny part is that she watched me when -- and I had a play date with her younger sister -- we went to the park or something.
You know, and then she -- it wasn't anything. It's not like we grew up together or anything, but I was singing karaoke and she was at a restaurant for the going away party for one of the managers, and we crossed paths.
I was singing and she dug the song, and she came up and just said, "Hey, I'm Heidi and you're James, right?" And I'm like, "Yeah?" (Laughs) And she said, "Our moms were friends at church. I don't know if you remember me." I didn't remember her, but I wanted to.
She was there the whole night and I got her number and called her but hung up, because I was nervous. It just took off from there, because at that point, I was 19 living at my mom's house, no job, no car, no money, no license even, no diploma.
I was about as low as you can get and then I met her and everything just changed, and I wanted to be a better person and I wanted to succeed. I wanted to advance in life, and so behind every great successful band, there is an amazing, amazing amazing woman.
Who would play you in the movie of your life and why?
James Durbin: (Laughs) I think I would want to play myself. I don't want to sound conceited or anything, but yeah. I mean, maybe Matt Damon because I was told that I kind of look like Matt Damon, and then Steven Seagal could play me when I'm an old man.
Because when I was a kid -- listen, listen (laughs) -- when I was a kid, I had my hair dyed black and I had it long down to my shoulders. I had to pull it back into a ponytail and I always got told that I look Steven Seagal. I was a little overweight too.
What was the best advice any of the judges gave you?
James Durbin: You know, it would probably have to be just, "Don't hold back" -- just overall. Don't hold back. Just roll with it. Just keep going and keep giving it everything. [Randy Jackson] said, "This is your competition to lose."
I felt like I'm going out on top. Wednesday, I had two of my best performances of my entire life. They were both very consistent; they were both pinpoint perfect. I'm my own biggest critic and I shut myself up on that one.
I didn't have anything to say. I was just really proud of myself and just really excited to see what was next and going home for that Top 3, but not everything works out the way you expect it.
How does it feel to share all your different kinds of emotions with America throughout the competition?
James Durbin: I've gone through so many different changes throughout this show. Earlier, I was talking about how I changed in life before and how Heidi has helped me changed, and kids on Broadway have helped me change. Idol has really helped me change.
I've never been very business savvy, and thanks to being on Idol, it helped me kind of let loose and get into my stage manager production thing and organize this and that -- learning piano and marching band and costumes and all that.
I figured out what I wanted to wear and designed it. I had it made, and this and that. I just threw out ideas and every single one of my stage performances was all me. I wrote it, I threw out a storyboard for everything. Every single one of my performances happened with an idea, and I just ran with it.
I'm really, really happy. I really am. It sounds cliche, but honestly, I feel with the amount of stuff that I've done -- with my run on Idol -- I really did what I wanted to do. Other guys in the past had put their foot in the doorway to hold the door open for guys like me, but I feel like I did what I wanted to do. I accomplished it. I came in and I put my foot straight through the door.
When you were acting as an idol off the stage, how were you affected by your Tourette Syndrome and Aspergers?
James Durbin: In all honesty, I use to take medication and when I was about 15, I just decided, "I'm not going to let a man-made substance control me. God made me a certain way and I'm perfect in his eyes. So, that's what I'm going to do.
I'm just going to run with it. I'm going to be me." So, I've been looked at funny. Who cares. You know? I don't care. I'm different, you know? I'm a freak. Different is the new normal. If you're not different, you're not in.
Has anyone given you any reason to believe that you already have a recording contract or that you could expect a recording contract when the show is over?
James Durbin: I mean, who knows. Expect the unexpected. That's what I wish I would have done Thursday night, but I don't know. We're still going with the flow on the show, and we get to write stuff and figure out that sort of thing. I potentially, yesterday, heard my first single, but it doesn't signify that there is a contract.
When you say "potentially your first single" what do you mean by that, and what is that song?
James Durbin: I just heard a song. Someone sent me a song and I really dig it. It's something I can really work with and it still has my influence on it. It still has a heavy edge, but it's still radio-friendly enough to be on the radio.
What might your debut album sound like?
James Durbin: Man, it definitely has to have a real throwback feel, going back to "Holy Diver" -- is probably my favorite album or "Neon Knights" by Black Sabbath. There would definitely be some [unintelligible], definitely [unintelligible] and Les Paul. My guitarist is a total shredder and he is amazing.
It's going to be awesome, and we're going to force it on the airwaves, definitely. It's no joke. I feel, we feel, real strongly about our music, real strongly that it seems like it's dying out. That just can't happen. It was taken off the list for the Grammys and we have to find some way to get it back out there.
We gotta take another door, take another lane. But I'm definitely really excited and really excited to collaborate with different people and work with different songwriters and musicians and it's just going to be awesome. Totally awesome.
What were you planning for the finale?
James Durbin: Once again, expect the unexpected. No one would ever expect it. Whatever it is, I don't know. I haven't been told, but I'm just saying, expect the unexpected.
What was Heidi's reaction to your elimination and have you seen or been able to talk to Hunter yet?
James Durbin: I haven't gotten to see him. I didn't get to see him last night. He's back at home with my mom and my sister and Heidi. And I don't know. When I was standing up there, I just kept looking over at Heidi and was trying to reassure her that it's okay. It's okay.
Looking back, that's the whole reason I auditioned in the first place. It was because we couldn't afford diapers, and I don't think I'm ever going to have to worry about affording diapers now.
Did she have any words of support for you after the show?
James Durbin: Just that she loves me, loves me to death, and that's all that really matters.
What was the first thing you did once the cameras stopped rolling Thursday night? What was your night like?
James Durbin: I really just went around and thanked all the crew and hugged everybody -- the band and the crew -- just everyone. Those are the people that put on the show. Those are the people behind the scenes, so it's not possible without them, and so it's not just the emotion because of getting eliminated. It's an emotion because I see those people everyday.
They're like our friends, so we don't get to see them anymore. So, it was just rough. It was a rough night. I wasn't expecting it, so I think because of that, it kind of caught me off guard and got to me a little bit more.
Did you get any sleep afterwards?
James Durbin: Probably a half hour... It's okay. I'm excited. I haven't touched coffee or five hour energy or anything. I'm running off adrenaline.
Is there anyone you're really pulling for in the finale and who did you become the closest with out of everyone in the cast and crew?
James Durbin: Well, I'm definitely closest with all the guys, really, and [former Idol finalist Stefano Langone]. Stefano is going to be my best man in my wedding. [Former Idol finalist Paul McDonald] is going to be one of my groomsmen. You know, we had a little jam band with myself, Paul, [former Idol finalist Casey Abrams] and Stefano.
We won't go there. (Laughs) It was just fun hanging out and making up silly songs, boys stuff, you know? Songs about boogers. That sort of thing. Yeah, it's -- I don't know. I have a feeling who might take it, but at this point, you can't really choose... Mmm. I ain't saying.
Why do you think you went home now after you had two very good performances and sang two very popular songs, "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Love Potion #9?" Do you think there was anything about those songs that just didn't connect for some reason?
James Durbin: I don't know. It's kind of funny and I've been waiting for someone to ask me this question all morning, since 5AM here. The funny thing is, a friend I made out here is Chris Jericho -- who's on Dancing with the Stars -- big metal head, singer in a metal band, pro-wrestler.
The last song that he danced to before his elimination was "Don't Stop Believin.'" "Don't Stop Believin'" eliminated James Durbin, Chris Jericho, and Tony Soprano.