James Durbin has a whole lot to celebrate right about now.
Durbin, who came in fourth place on the tenth season of American Idol,
is readying for the release
of his new disk. Celebrate hits stores this April. The
album is awesome Ė itís got a little something for everyone. Durbin is a
nice guy, and his music is great. Heís calm, cool and collected, but
when it comes it singing, James is not shy. Recently, I sat down and
had a conversation with him about his new album, his
fans and his career.
You were on tour recently, right?
Yeah, I just got off of an acoustic tour.
What was your favorite part of being on tour?
My favorite part of being on tour is not only just playing
music, but itís also meeting my fans and making new fans. When my fans
come see me they always bring someone new that hasnít seen me before, so
itís nice to always know that Iím trying to win someone over. It really
makes me perform at my highest. It keeps me, and the energy levels high,
even for an acoustic show. First off, when people heard acoustic show
and James Durbin they thought that was really weird. Even some people
came to the show not thinking it was going to be very high energy. They
left very surprised cause we made it a lot of fun.
Youíre going on tour again soon, right?
Iím in the middle of booking some tour dates right now. Iím
trying to get a summer tour started up.
That sounds really cool. Whatís the best city youíve performed in?
Whatís my favorite city that Iíve performed in? I really
liked Ė letís see Ė we did Dallas and we did Houston back to back and
those were really awesome shows. They were at the House of Blues. They
were really cool. They were in the smaller rooms. I think one of them
was the Peacock Room, so the architecture and the design, they had all
this really cool folk art. The sound guys knew what they were doing and
all that good stuff. Another great one was the Agora Ballroom in
Cleveland, because the likes of Billy Idol, The Beatles, Elvis, they all
played there. So it was cool, you could really feel the energy emanating
through the building.
a lot of music history. Must be inspiring.
Oh yeah, a lot of music history. And then also, 7th Street
Entry, which is at the venue called First Avenue in Minneapolis. Thatís
where they filmed the movie Purple Rain. Thereís just all these
amazing bands coming through there.
Wow. Sounds like youíve performed in a lot of interesting places, to say
Yeah, definitely. It was awesome.
Youíve got a new album coming out which I really enjoyed. Letís talk
Yeah, totally. So yeah, Celebrate comes out in about a month now,
like one month. Iím really excited. I just got a really big box of
pre-orders with CD covers at home and Iím driving home to go sign Ďem
all. (For the record, he signed them all the next day. Impressive.)
youíre really happy with how it turned out?
Oh yeah, Iím really happy with the way it turned out. I
spent about a year and a half working on it writing songs and producing
and yeah, itís really great. Itís definitely where Iím at right now. Iím
just riding the wave and living the dream, so why not make good music.
love that philosophy!
Itís all good music. I loved the music on my first record.
I love the music on this. I just like to go with the flow and evolve and
change a little bit and try new things, you know? It doesnít hurt to try
Speaking of new, how is this album different from the other stuff that
youíve put out?
Iíd say itís a little bit more mainstream than the first
record. It has songs on it that catch your ear. You hear them on radio,
but also writing some hooks, keeping in mind licensing, commercials and
movies. When you hear a song in a movie, itís very catchy. Thereís
something about it, it just sticks in your ear. I made sure to put a
couple of those on the record.
Yeah, and from what Iíve heard, youíve definitely got a few of those at
Well thank you!
do you want your fans to know about this album before they hear it?
I donít know. I havenít really thought about that. When I
went into writing this record, before it turned into Celebrate, I
didnít really know what kind of record I was writing. So along the road
I wrote some pop songs, a bunch of rock songs, I even wrote a
Iíve got to hear that!
So I guess, Iím not worried about naysayers or negativity.
Itís not affecting me in any way. Iím really just focused on
perfecting my craft as a songwriter. Thatís writing super heavy songs or
lighter pop songs or what have you. Itís all going up. You look at an
artist like Bruce Springsteen or like The Beatles. Especially for the
Beatles. They were only together for like six years as a band. In that
short amount of time they wrote pop songs, rock songs, country songs,
punk songs, ballads, storytelling Americana folk songs and everything in
between. With Springsteen songs, he takes you on a journey, like he did
with the high ends and the low ends, the heavy jam bands songs.
Would you say that your album is the story of how you grew over the time
that you wrote it?
Yeah I definitely think so. Thatís one way of looking at
it. It starts out big and dramatic with "Children Under the Sun" and
then right into "Parachute." Then it takes you back. Thereís a song
called "You Canít Believe" which is more somber. Itís got like a Frankie
Goes to Hollywood, Muse, and Modest Mouse sound, which I havenít
compared to anything but a whole lotta Durbin. Itís really me and itís a
lot of fun. Then bringing it back into the song about being okay with
who you are because you are different. The song called "Issues," because
we all have them. We all have issues, but it ends up being that weíre
all completely different, and if anything it means weíre all the same. I
think the album really flows and it drops. It takes you on a ride. Itís
a magical mystery tour. (laughs)
Speaking of which, tell me, if you had to pick a favorite song on the
album, what would it be?
Well, itís hard to pick. I think Iíd have to go by the
writing session and just how the song came about and where it came from.
In that case, it would be "Celebrate," the actual song. Itís a bit
different, very different and poppy and trippy. Itís very chill. I can
listen to that song in every mood. Thatís what we set out to write and
we really accomplished that through this song.
Did the process of perfecting it take a long time?
I think it took us probably around two days to really get
been working on and putting out some music videos right?
Yeah. So far Iíve done one video for "Parachute," and a
lyric video for "Parachute." The lyric video for "Celebrate" is coming
out soon. Iím hoping to do a video for that. I have lots of fun trippy
ideas that we conceived during the writing of that song itself. Itíll
just be a lot of fun. Itís really weird and odd and it gives you a
little bit of an idea of the song. The song and the lyrics are very
simple, but where they came from, and the conversations that we had and
the session that we had, Ted Berger and myself, it was just very
When you make these videos, whatís that like? Do you get a lot of
creative input yourself in making the video?
Yeah, I definitely do. Itís a nice problem to have. You
have to see it and you have to be in it and it has to be representative
to you. So, yeah, I definitely put some creativity into the video
many people know, you started out on
American Idol. How
did your experience there influence you today?
Being on Idol, itís like a crash course in the music
industry. When I went in, I had played shows. I had been in a bunch of
bands and had been doing that for a few years. Being on Idol,
itís completely different. Thereís cameras. There are interviews. You
have to learn how to talk right in front of the camera and give
interviews. What to say.
And what not to say.
How to dress. All these different things that are really
important when you are trying to be current in the musical scene and the
big industry. Iím forever grateful to Idol just for giving me
that chance. Letting my talent become something that could be molded
into success in the industry. Itís pretty cool. Itís truly weird, but
itís pretty cool. Some say that anyone that makes it from Idol,
whether you end up going for it afterwards or not, itís just something
you really have to be grateful for. You wait in line. I actually waited
in line, well, my wife and I waited in line for 32 hours, just so I
could sing for 30 seconds.
Wow, thatís dedication. And hey, it all worked out right?
Yeah it did. Thatís hanging onto a dream so tight that
nothing is going to stop you.
would you say is the most important thing that you learned? What piece
of criticism helped you most in becoming an artist?
Thatís something that Iím learning more now, because when
you perform you kind of pick your spot. When Iím playing a show, like on
my first tour post-Idol, I was just stoked to get out there and
scream my head off. Play over and over and over. I started to show off
with a big scream for every song and every song was high. Each was an
11. How was there room to go anywhere else once your already at 11?
Thatís definitely something that I focused on making Celebrate,
the record itself. I wanted to be able to take some songs down a little.
Have a little bit of brood and attitude and some chill and of course,
some rock. It really just kept it flowing.
totally get that. So James, tell me, if you werenít a music artist, what
would you be doing now?
Well, when I was a kid, I either wanted to be a singer, a
professional wrestler, or a cartoonist and voice-over artist. So
probably Iíd be doing cartooning. Iím not really tough enough to be a
Cartooning... are you a good drawer then?
I think so. Iím okay. I like to draw. I draw on canvases.
Iíve sold a couple of them so Iíd say, I guess Iím good enough to do
bet your fans would love to see something that youíve drawn.
Yeah, I post them from time to time on my Instagram (@durbinrock).
A couple fans have auctioned some of my canvases.
Thatís so cool, Iíll make sure to check it out! Besides your knack for
cartooning, what is something that a lot of people donít know about you?
I donít really know that there is anything that my fans
donít know about me, without giving away all of my secrets. I guess one
thing is that my hair doesnít like my fingers. My hair just hates my
hands. When other people do my hair it works, but when I try to do my
hair it goes off on me. It pops and does this weird Free Willy
dorsal fin thing where it flops over and sags.
Thatís an interesting problem to have...
Yeah, thatís probably my biggest pet peeve about myself.
weíve all got Issues, right? (Oh, album puns...) So James, where do you
see yourself in five years? Will you still be performing?
I think regardless of where I am and what I have, Iíll
always have music. Thatís what I do. Itís what I love. So regardless of
how records do and how many sell and how many tickets sell, Iíll always
have my voice. Iíll always be able to sing either by myself or with a
band. I wish I had a better answer for you, but I donít really like to
look that far ahead into the future. I like to focus on tomorrow and
this weekend, the things that I have coming up recently.
Itís a good way to live. Tell me a little about your family.
Well itís myself, my wife Heidi, our son Hunter, heís four
and a half. And we have two rescue dogs named Max and Thomas, and two
cats named Jedediah and Okie.
Whereíd that name come from?
"Okie from Muskogee," the old Merle Haggard song.
you have any words of wisdom for aspiring artists?
Yeah, figure out who you are as an artist and as a persona
so to speak. Just what makes you different and unique. If you try to
sound too much like someone else and try to be too much like someone
else, strive to be just like your heroes, nobody wants another. We
already have them. We already have a Rihanna and we already have a
Steven Tyler, all these different people. Be you, be different and be
unique. I think you should record your voice over and over to know what
you sound like. A lot of people think they sound really good and they go
sing somewhere and itís not really that, or vice versa. You might think
that you donít have a good voice and then you record yourself and listen
back as a bystander and youíre like ďOh, thatís really good.Ē
Thatís some good advice.
Youíd be surprised. Iíve listened to my voice recorded and
I hate how it sounds. When I was a kid Iíd try to change up my voice and
make it sound like me and more original. Donít try to sound too much
like Steven Tyler or John Lennon, I just need to be me.
What do you want to say to your fans who have stuck with you through the
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you,
thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank
you. For everything; for buying the shirts, for coming to the shows, for
supporting me, for donating money to put up posters to promote shows.
You name it and my fans have done it. I just got a doll, someone made a
doll of me. They made me a poster of my album cover. T-shirts and fun
stuff. All sorts of cool things. They gave me stuff for my birthday and
Christmas, and for my sonís birthday and my wifeís birthday. Theyíre
just very loyal and itís really a beautiful thing, especially coming
from Idol. You have a built-in fan base, but itís not only that.
You are on the Idol journey. Youíre on this journey on TV. You
have your fans watching you. Growing with you so much that theyíre
voting for you. They have this attachment to you because theyíve gotten
here with you. Wherever I am and where I am today, Iím here because of
my fans, because they voted for me. They supported me. The last three or
four years wouldnít have happened if it wasnít for my fans. Iíd still be
delivering pizzas at Dominoís. You can get so far because of your
talent. Once you have a fan base and you get records sold and tour, it
becomes like a joint custody of your career, you and your fans.
Itís teamwork. You get there together. I always thank my fans for being
along for the ride, because if weíre going to get to the top weíre going
to get there together. Weíre all going to celebrate together.
For more info on James Durbin, check out the following:
CHECK OUT JAMES
DURBIN'S VIDEO FOR HIS NEW SINGLE "PARACHUTE"!
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