Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rock News Artist Of The Year #9: JAMES DURBIN

As part of the 2011 hennemusic Rock News Awards – recognizing the biggest rock news stories and artists of the year - hennemusic is counting down the Top 10 rock news artists of the year.

The Top 10 are determined by music fans: numbers are based on the combined total page views of the top 50 hennemusic rock news stories of the past twelve months.

Rock News Artist Of The Year #10 – PEARL JAM

The 2011 hennemusic Rock News Award winners will be announced on Tuesday, December 20 at hennemusic.com.

Rock News Artist of The Year #9 – JAMES DURBIN

What a difference a year can make.

Consider that most of us had never heard of James Durbin at this point last year but, in that time, the former American Idol rocker built a fan base through the reality series, secured a recording contract and released his debut album.

Like many Idol contestants, the 22-year old from Santa Cruz walked on to Idol with some solid stage experience - Durbin was no rookie, or fluke.

Although he was technically unemployed when he went into the Idol auditions, James had developed his performing skills through the years, including a stint with a Santa Cruz children's theater group called Kids on Broadway, where he played lead roles in Grease and Beauty and the Beast. The following year, Durbin again played leading roles in West Side Story and Sweet Charity.

Broadway would have to wait, though, because Durbin’s passion for hard rock led him to a lead singer gig in the metal band Hollywood Scars; he also spent time as singer in a band called Whatever Fits.

By March 1, 2011, James was front and center on Idol doing what few had tried before – rocking some metal on the play-it-safe televised singing contest. Durbin’s cover of the Judas Priest classic “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” announced his arrival in a big way, blowing both the judges and new fans away in the process.

Durbin seemed to grow stronger and more confident as each Idol week went by, effortlessly nailing classic tunes by Paul McCartney, Bon Jovi, Stevie Wonder and Elton John, for starters.

As word spread quickly about Durbin in the rock community, James stepped up his game by teaming with guitar wizard Zakk Wylde on a Sammy Hagar classic that brought the Idol house down.

The combination of Durbin’s stage presence, vocal abilities, charm, charisma and likeability – not to mention that air raid siren of a scream – made it look like the kid from Santa Cruz was going to help Idol re-brand itself as a home for rockers by winning it all, despite the efforts of mentors like record producer Jimmy Iovine to try to steer him away from his natural hard rock leanings.

It was not to be, though, as Idol fans voted to keep the show as predictable and musically safe as it had been the prior 9 seasons.

Surprisingly, Durbin was eliminated in the #4 spot - behind far less compelling competition - but came charging back two weeks later by kicking everyone’s ass on the Idol finale when he joined metal gods Judas Priest for the show. Durbin went toe-to-toe with Rob Halford – no easy feat for anyone – and the two screamed their way to metal glory in front of a reported 30 million viewers.

A summer tour with the Idol finalists followed and, by September, Durbin was signed to Wind-Up Records with a November release date etched in for his debut. Recording got underway, including a guest spot by Motley Crue guitarist Mick Mars, which surperfan James is probably still trying to wrap his head around.

The NFL released Durbin’s first solo single, “Stand Up,” as part of a season-launching marketing campaign, and on November 21, “Memories Of A Beautiful Disaster” was in stores.

James Durbin James Durbin

James Durbin – Love Me Bad