James Durbin had a weird feeling when he got to the "American Idol" studios on Thursday.
"Something was off with the kinetic energy," he said Friday (May 13) during a call with reporters. "I felt it in people's body language. ... There was a real somber feeling."
Asked if he was blindsided, then, by the news that he would be going home in fourth place on the show later that night, Durbin paused and said, "I'm not going to lie, I definitely was." He said he "freaked out" a bit just before the show went on air and had a feeling that his ride might be over.
With less than an hour of sleep since his surprise ouster, Durbin said the hours since his elimination had been a "whirlwind" of emotion. "I've been really thinking about why I came on this show and why I even auditioned in the first place," he said. "It's for my family and to try and give a voice to a genre of music that seems like it's slowly fading away. I really accomplished a lot on the show, and I'm grateful for the opportunity."
While other fourth-place finishers, including rocker Chris Daughtry, have said not winning "Idol" was probably the best thing that ever happened to them, Durbin said he understood that sentiment, but "winning would have been just great too."
He said his first instinct when host Ryan Seacrest broke the news was to think about how badly he'd wanted to win and fight back the feeling that somehow he'd failed. But after some time to reflect, Durbin said he'd come around on that thought. "I haven't failed at all," he said, adding a refrain often heard from "Idol" finalists. "This is just the beginning."
The singer, who provided one of the most emotionally engaging moments of the season with his tearful farewell, compared the journey on "Idol" to a roller coaster, saying it has loops and corkscrews and that while some people think of elimination as the first step toward the crazy ride down the other side of the fame hill, he sees it differently. "I'm still clicking up the track," he said of his wild ride yet to come. "I'm really, really stoked."
While some of his castmates have hooked up with movie starlets, Durbin said one of the biggest celebrity perks he enjoyed on "Idol" was becoming close to professional wrestler and "Dancing With the Stars" contestant Chris Jericho, whose show is filmed at the same studio as "Idol." For the lifelong wrestling fan, who always idolized Jericho, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And given that Jericho fronts his own metal band, the boys bonded over body slams, life on the road and all things hard rock.
Given the Hollywood-ready arc of his story — from his Asperger's and Tourette's syndrome to the death of his musician father from a drug overdose when James was 9 years old — someone asked who the singer might like to see portray him in a movie. At first, he was speechless and then said he might want to do the honors himself. But then he suggested Matt Damon, since some people have said he resembles the actor, and maybe Steven Seagal for his older incarnation, since he used to rock a Seagal-like ponytail back in the day.
Durbin has lots of plans for his debut album. He'd like to work with Dream Theater's Mike Portnoy, reunite with guitar legend Zakk Wylde and bring out his "secret weapon," his best friend from home who is a shredding guitar player. As he's said before, James wants to bring back the classic metal sound, starting with an iconic singer/guitarist pairing along the lines of Wylde and Ozzy Osbourne or Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry.
And given the chance, he'd like to re-create the sound of his favorite record, the 1983 debut from late Black Sabbath metal screamer and solo star Ronnie James Dio, Holy Diver. He wouldn't give any details, but Durbin said he heard the song that might be his first single Thursday. "I really dig it," he said of the unnamed tune. "It's something I can really work." He described it as having a heavy edge, but also being radio-friendly enough to get airplay.
With no regrets, Durbin did point out his one potential misstep on the show when asked why his number might have been called Thursday. Referring again to his friendship with wrestler Jericho, he noted that the last song Jericho danced to on "Stars" was, yes, Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'."
" 'Don't Stop Believing' eliminated James Durbin, Chris Jericho and Tony Soprano," he said with a laugh.
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