As we reach the halfway mark on American Idol, it may be time for the contestants to start thinking about life after the competition. No one knows better how life can change when you walk off the Idol stage and take your career into your own hands than James Durbin, who made his first appearance on the show last week since he was a Season 10 contestant.
“Idol is basically a crash course for getting into the music industry,” says Idol alum. "But there are a lot of things that you don't know about. And you either give up or you die trying."
Wetpaint Entertainment recently caught up with James to discuss life after Idol and to get the scoop on who he’s betting on for this season.
Wetpaint Entertainment: Are you jealous watching the new Idol crop? Do you wish you were there still?
James Durbin: Sometimes I do wish I was there. I mean there's a real freedom about having producers in a full stage production, and lights, CO2 jets, pyro, and lasers — literally anything that you want. “Oh, you want a riser on the stage for you to jump off of from six feet in the air? Sure. We'll give you that. You want pyro as soon as you jump and as soon as you land? Yeah, we can do that. You want fire? Blow up a piano? Sure we can do that.” I do miss that, and I do miss the camaraderie that I had with my guys. I see the guys on there, and they're having fun. They're bonding. It’s something that I miss. But, now, I've got my band, and we're bonding. And we're hanging out all the time. So you don't really lose that feeling.
What was the process of transitioning from American Idol to being responsible for your own career like?
Coming off the show and going straight into the tour was pretty stressful because you had to find the time to write music and to do co‑writing sessions, then get to the studio to sing demos. While on tour, I only got to record one song, “Stand Up.” Then we had a week off and I recorded “Love in Ruins.” Once we got back from the Philippines, it was balls to the wall and I recorded all the vocals on the whole record in two and a half weeks after that. So there was definitely some crunch time, but I found I work really well under stress.
I learned that from being on Idol. You're only given a certain amount of time to learn your song, get your whole stage set up, figure it out. And I really wanted to put on a real big production every single week, so it was a lot of stress. It never ends. It brings out stress in you that you didn't know you had. But I'm definitely very grateful for it.
What do you think people would find most surprising about being part of the Idol wheel?
I think the biggest thing that I was surprised about was that you don't get any time for yourself. If you have friends in the area, you can't really go hang out. You're expected to just stay in and practice your song. But I'm not going to lie, I snuck out a couple times to go hang out with Chris Jericho. Once we became buddies, we’d go have dinner at the Rainbow or go meet up with Miz at Boa. I snuck out. He picked me up. We went to a couple of concerts. We saw a Kiss tribute band, a Metallica tribute band, and an Iron Maiden tribute band. And then another time we went and saw Stevie Nicks and Rod Stewart at the Hollywood Bowl. It was just so funny.
Idol still seems to be that one competition where people are very much guided through the process. The Voice doesn't seem to tell people what they can do at night. Is that a good or a bad thing?
I definitely think it's a good thing. You don't want to get caught in a strange situation, because when you're in L.A. and you're on Idol you're in the spotlight. So paparazzi, TMZ, they're going to be reporting on where you are. And if you're somewhere that's going to affect the way that America looks at you, that could work against you.
What do you think about the Season 11 contestants?
Everyone's different. Everyone has their own thing. And that's what I love about the show — everyone brings variety with their voice. Everyone brings different variety with just what they bring to the table.
Colton Dixon seems most James Durbin-like this season. There's not the “metal guy” but he seems to take after you more than the others.
And it really adds excitement to the show. And I definitely know that Colton's got it in him. I think the only thing he needs to look out for is Jessica… and Hollie… and Skylar… and Joshua and Phillip. God. I don't know. I cannot put my finger on one person.