James Durbin made a name for himself on "American Idol" as Season 10's resident rocker — screaming for vengeance with Judas Priest, grandly brandishing a Gothic cane while covering Muse, covering Sammy Hagar's "Heavy Metal" movie theme, and coining the widely obeyed catchphrase "give metal a chance!"
But there's a softer side to James, as evidenced by his new toned-down look, the poppier sound of his sophomore album, "Celebrate" (on which he co-wrote 10 of the 11 tracks), and his recent unplugged performances at Yahoo Music.
"I'm feeling really good. I haven't colored my hair, or cut it," the kinder, gentler James jokes about his makeunder. "I'm not so worried with being portrayed as something. I'm more light-hearted and easy-going. I'm not angry. I'm not sad. I'm 25. I'm a husband, a dad, and I get to do what I love for a living. Like, I have nothing to be depressed about!"
As for backlashing fans who may complain that "Celebrate" is too radical a departure from the headbanging sound of his cranked-to-11 debut album, "Memories of a Beautiful Disaster," James points to the breadth of his "Idol" Season 10 performances and says: "I love hard rock and love '80s metal, but that's not all I am. I also performed with Tom Jones on the finale; I sang 'What's New Pussycat.' I did Thirty Seconds to Mars, Carole King, George Harrison, the Beatles, Harry Nilsson, Stevie Wonder. I did a lot of stuff that's not metal."
See James go acoustic here, and check out his frank chat below. You'll soon see the guy still totally rocks, just in a slightly different, slightly unexpected way. "Celebrate" comes out April 8.