James Durbin had a very happy new year. The almost-23-year-old finalist from last year's American Idol season wed his longtime girlfriend, Heidi Lowe, New Year's Eve in a ceremony in his hometown of Santa Cruz, California. Durbin tells Rolling Stone the relationship is among the things in his life that inspired his recently released album, Memories Of A Beautiful Disaster.
"I wanted to write and sing and create an album that I can put experiences from my life into," he says. "I’m able to put loss and love into these songs. I’m madly in love."
But the album also has a dark side: Durbin also sings about his own past of being bullied. "I was picked on throughout all of elementary school, middle school and high school," he says. "I was humiliated, pushed, beat up, spit on, called awful names that I would never repeat and I was able to channel that and put it into songs like 'Outcast,' 'Screaming' and 'Everything Burns.' And hopefully my fans and new fans will listen to those songs and get something greater out of it."
Recently, Durbin has found support from the metal community. "I just saw Black Label and Priest and I had these old fucking crazy metal heads coming up to me, 'Dude, I never would’ve watched that fucking show, but you were fucking awesome, man,'" he says.
Durbin also dismisses the idea that going on American Idol undermines his credibility. "I got out of playing good music to four people in a bar on a fucking Tuesday evening to be able to sing for 30 million people a week," he says. "That’s a smart move right there, man."
It also opened the door for him to work with people like Mötley Crüe's Mick Mars and Guns 'N Roses DJ Ashba on Memories. He's got an eclectic wish list of people he'd like to collaborate with on his next album, including Jared Leto, Steven Tyler and Marti Frederiksen. "It was Joe Perry, Steven Tyler and Marti Frederiksen who wrote tons of Aerosmith’s greatest songs," he says.
But even though he was the only rocker on Idol last season, he didn't get any special treatment from Tyler. "I didn’t interact with [Steven] too much," he says. "People would think he would be biased to the rock people, but he was very unbiased and maybe gave me a harder time than anyone else."