James Durbin is perhaps best known as the season 10 American Idol contestant who carved a path for heavy rock during his stint on the show. His debut album, ‘Memories Of A Beautiful Disaster’ followed suit somewhat, but according to Durbin, wasn’t an accurate representation of his artistry or his eclectic influences. Because of this, he went back to the drawing board for his sophomore album. It took 18 months but this reputably edgy rocker emerged from the studio with a surprisingly smooth, melodic and acoustic product.
‘Celebrate’, due out on April 8th, spotlights the evolution of Durbin’s journey in the music industry and surprisingly finds him flirting with the pop genre. Working with a different group of writers he said frankly, “I ended up evolving because I had no one telling me to stay within certain parameters. It's an artists dream.” That dream became the album in reality. I caught up with James and as we chatted, he candidly gave insight into the writing process, the changes that have occurred since his debut on American Idol and what plans he has on tap going forward.
Marian: I’m guessing at this point you are getting weary of discussing your time on AI season 10, but I’m still going to venture in there...How did your time spent on Idol prepare you for your solo artistry and career today?
James: When I first started out on Idol, I was extremely green. I had a very limited knowledge of how the music industry works and flows. In a very short time, you have to learn how to and how not to act in the spotlight. I learned both ways haha. Its strange going from obscurity to suddenly being a household name. But I would do it all over again and not make any changes. I’m so grateful for being given the chance of a lifetime. Its the reason I'm here today.
Marian: I understand that writing ‘Celebrate’ took you a couple of years. How did your artistry and music evolve as a result of really taking your time to flesh out this album?
James: I’d say that "Celebrate" took about a year and a half to write, record, etc.. At the very beginning of that journey, I still wasn't 100% sure what kind of record I wanted to make. So I started off with a few sessions in LA before venturing off to Nashville for 2 months. We were writing a lot of rock songs, starting to lean a little more Pop but at the end of my trip, even though we'd written close to 30 songs, I wasn't satisfied with putting that out. I didn't feel like I'd evolved since my first record. I took a little break from writing before trying out a different group of songwriters. Guys who had not only written charting rock songs, but also charting pop songs too. From My Darkest Days & Black Veil Brides to Katy Perry & Selena Gomez haha. So I just went full force into it. I knew I had zero limitations with these guys. I ended up evolving because I had no one telling me to stay within certain parameters. It's an artists dream.
Marian: It sounds as if you really identified yourself as an artist through the writing process. How would you personally characterize this album?
James: "Celebrate" as a record is where I am in my life right now. I'm in full celebration mode haha. This record represents me in a way my first record doesn't. These are my feelings and my stories.
Marian: Is there a defining track for you on ‘Celebrate’ or is the entire body of work more defining for you in general and why?
James: I certainly have my babies on the record haha. But I'm extremely happy with it as a whole. Its hard to think of what "Celebrate" would be like if certain songs hadn't made the cut over others.
Marian: What are the creative and writing processes like for you? How many songs did you write, how did you narrow it down, etc.?
James: Because I got to take my time, I ended up co-writing 10 of the 11 songs. Like I said before, writing with guys like Ted Bruner, Griffin Boice, Steve Aiello, & Scott Stevens, (who would go on to produce "Celebrate") gave me freedom to create. I didn't feel like I was being pigeonholed into one category. We didn't allow ourselves to be. This age of music is undefinable by genre. Why should we be any different. "Celebrate" doesn't necessarily shift genres from song to song, but if you'd heard some of the other tracks I wrote along the way, you'd be shocked haha.
Marian: Give me some of the highlights of the tour you wrapped up earlier this year. How did the audiences respond to your new music? What were some of the songs that really synergized for you on stage?
James: Yeah, the tour was a lot of fun. My fans really enjoyed the new songs and twists on old stuff. I even dusted off a few of my Idol songs. Every show started off with "Children Under The Sun" which was always well received. Other successes were the title track "Celebrate", "Issues", & my single "Parachute". Cant wait to get back out on tour and Celebrate with everyone again!
Marian: If you could tour with anyone in the music industry, who would you pick and why of course?
James: I mean...wow. That's a tough one haha. Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, One Republic, Daughtry, Train, 30 Seconds to Mars. The list goes on and on and on. I'm honored just by the fact that people want to see me in concert. I just wanna play my music for people. I just love to play.
Marian: What are your plans after the album drops? More touring in store for the spring/summer?
James: I definitely plan on being out on tour this spring/summer/etc. That's how I can connect with my fans and keep gaining new fans. The tour I just ended went all throughout the northeast and the polar vortex. Im ready to get back out there when its warm out haha! Bring it on!
Marian: What goals do you still have for your career, co-writes, collabs, duets, take over the music world?
James: Just like my dream tour list, theres a huge list of artists I’d be honored to write with, duet with, etc.. I still wanna duet with Steven Tyler!
Marian: After being on American Idol and the media buzz that has surrounded you in recent years, what is a little known fact that fans may not know about you, or your artistry, that you want them to?
James: I can’t give away all of my secrets ;)