James Durbin back in the studio this Fall

UglyScene had the pleasure to interview James Durbin. Ugly Scene: I wanted to talk to you about your new album, the writing process, and when we spoke before you had mentioned some of the people you had worked with and American Idol. James: As soon as I got off the show I went into tour rehearsals for the Idol tour and at the same time I started working on my album. I worked with a few different song writers and got to work right away with DJ and Sixx:A.M who also plays with Guns N Roses. We wrote a song called “Crawling Home”. That actually didn’t make the first record but was released only if you pre-ordered the first album on iTunes. It will hopefully be on the next record. Then I started working with Marti Frederickson and James Michael. Marty Frederickson writes with a lot of former Idol contestants as well as the biggest stars like Buck Cherry and Pink. I believe he worked with MnM too. He’s an amazing songwriter and most of the time writes with Aerosmith. We wrote a couple songs and James Michael from Six am is also an amazing producer. We wrote a bunch of songs and eventually got in the studio with Howard Bensen, a Grammy winning producer, and got Mick Mars from Motley Crue in there to write and play on a song called “Outcast” and once all the hard work was done the writing and everything I got in the studio and recorded vocals in two and a half weeks. The rest was history from there. We have been out on the road promoting it with radio shows as well as now on tour. Ugly Scene: You told me you were starting to working on the new album. Do you have any expectations for that album? What are your thoughts on your next project? James: I’m not quite sure actually what the sound is going to be just yet. I have my ideas of what I would like but I’m going to keep that my little secret. I’m just expecting a lot of the unexpected with this one. The first album we had to throw together quickly and I am surprised I was able to come out with something that transcribes very well live. We play almost the entire first record live. I am really looking forward to having more material and am exploring more of who I am as a musician and how the me and my band will write together now that we have been on tour and gotten to know each other better in a musical sense and now we can work together on that level. It’s very exciting. Ugly Scene: Do you know already who you are going to work with? Do you have people that you want to work with? James: We already know who we are working with and we are going to keep that a surprise. Ugly Scene: How is it touring and what is it like for you? James: You sit around, hang out, wait and drive. Tonight we are driving twelve hours from Michigan to Kansas City. Tomorrow we’ll be driving fourteen hours from Kansas City to Michigan and then six hours after that to Cincinnati. It’s a lot of travel and a lot of work but in the long run it’s all worth it. AC/DC says it perfectly. “It’s a long way to the top. If you want to Rock n Roll.” You can put out some prefabricated crap on MySpace page that you wrote on your computer and auto tune and end up some internet sensation for three years. And there’s your career. That’s all that your known for. Or you can actually write real music and go it on the road with the band, your friends, bust your ass and really try and make a difference. Make it something that people will actually remember in ten, twenty years. I can count on two hands a lot of people who won’t be remembered. They will be just forgotten and it’s just my personal opinion. Rock and Roll is where we came from and it’s where we’ll be in the end. I believe that until the day I die. Ugly Scene: How is it touring without your family? James: It’s hard to tour without my son just as much as it’s hard to tour without my wife. At this point we are still growing and trying to make a name for ourselves to get to the point where we can afford to bump up from a van to a bus. That’s why we are driving back and forth twelve and fourteen hours. To make a name for ourselves and prove to the Rock world, the music world, and the touring world that we mean business and we are not just messing around. This who we are and this is what we love and this is what we want to do. And by God we are doing it and no one can tell us no. My family is my life and it’s the only thing I’m sure about in life. Music has always been there but my wife has done far more for me than music ever will. I miss her like hell and I love her like crazy. I talk to her multiple times every day on Skype. I haven’t jumped on the smart phone craze yet. Ugly Scene: When you were growing up you were diagnosed with Aspergers and Tourretttes. James: I was ten years old when I was diagnosed. I can definitely tell that I was different. I was treated differently from other kids and by other kids. It was a strange time in life. Getting told that you have a “disease” and your ten years old. It was already different, weird enough getting teased, bullied and picked on. Ugly Scene: Aspergers. When did you find out you had it? James: I think it was really me kind of acting out in school. Teachers noticed that I would speak out of turn or if I said something that was maybe a little inappropriate. Or that I didn’t quite grasp it or understand where other kids my age did. I was getting in trouble a lot for that and I didn’t see how I was being any different than anyone else. If someone was bullying me secretly in class where the teacher couldn’t see and as soon as I yelled at the top of my lungs to leave me alone and stop I was the one who got in trouble. I always felt very casted out and different and not allowed to be a part of the group. That is kind of where I found my spot in being part of the group in a band and that’s where I can be and where I can be accepted. I think doing music has really helped me overcome that. I can go on stage and I can sing in front of people who don’t know who I am or if they do know who I am they have misconceptions about me and they want to be rude about it and be a bully from the crown to the stage. I have the upper hand because I am up there, the bigger man. Sometimes I’ll call people out on it and tell them to quit ruining the show for the rest of us because there are people here that actually are having fun and actually enjoying themselves. Just because you are there and have a big head and want to try and be noticed you don’t have to ruin it for everyone else. I’m the one on stage and I’m the one with the microphone. That’s the non-explicit version of what happened. Ugly Scene: Can you talk a little about STAR? James: It’s WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment, and they created a coalition and they have their anti bullying campaign called Be A Star. Don’t be a bully, be a star. Star being an acronym for Show Tolerance And Respect. I’ve been a lifelong fan of pro-wrestling and WWE especially. Especially the time when I was very susceptible to bullying. I got home from an after school program one evening, went in my room and shut the door, very sad and just didn’t feel like I would become a part of anything. I was twelve years old and flipping through channels and stumbled upon wrestling. I think we were studying Greek Mythology in school and it’s like I saw some of them as Gladiators and some of them Norse Gods duking it out. I really got into it and started hearing stories about these guys when they were kids. A lot of them were picked on and were bullied because they were smaller or they were fat or they had big ears. I was like I’m overweight, have big ears and I’m different. I looked at these people and I thought I could really do something with my life. That really gave me hope and that really gave me the drive to stick it out. I knew that if someone like that, someone that big and that tough, could have gone from being a made fun of pip squeak and why couldn’t I? Ugly Scene: And you visit schools and talk about your story. James: I go to schools with the WWE Superstars, local celebrities, football players and a bunch of different people. We go into middle schools and we talk to the kids and tell them our stories. I tell them a story about how I was in high school and I was bullied a lot. There was one bully in particular and every day I was picked on. One day especially it got ugly and I got beat up but I didn’t fight back. What good would it do if I fight back? So I told the principal, told superintendent, everyone that I had to. They went and talked to him and confronted him, got witnesses and found out what happened. That kid got kicked out of school. A couple of months later I switched schools and my first day walking in you’ll never guess who walked down the hall. He came up to me got right in my face and he apologized. He said he was sorry for what happened because he got kicked out of school, got into a lot of trouble and he learned his lesson. From then on out, we weren’t friends, but we were certainly very cool with each other. I’m talking from the heart when I talk to these kids because I see a lot of myself in them. I can only imagine what they are going through, the exact same thing that I was going through. We meet certain kids that are going through a rough time. I was down in Miami for Wrestlemania this past May and we were doing a Be A Star Rally at one of the middle schools there. This one kid he greeted me in the parking lot. I can’t remember his name, I wish I could. He said I had some cool sunglasses and I said so do you man. He had on 3D movie glasses with the lenses popped out. They looked like Buddy Holly glasses. I found out that he was walking me to the room that I’m meeting up in so I let him wear my glasses and he let me wear his. He was walking through the halls and looked like the coolest kid in school. So we started hanging out and we were able to hang out in the office. The principal came and talked to me and told me why he was getting to hang out in the office instead of with the other kids. His mother was in prison and she just died two days before. No reason, no explanation, they just got a letter in the mail that she died. So that day I found out that we were doing a raffle. All the kids were given a ticket and we were raffling off tickets to Wrestlemania and for the Hall of Fame Ceremony the night before. So me and one of the WWE Superstars David Otunga, who actually Jennifer Hudson, Grammy and Emmy award winning artist who was on American Idol, he is husband. We were able to rig the raffle to make sure that kid got front row tickets to go to Wrestlemania. He was the biggest fan and knew all of the story lines. I thought I was one of the biggest fans and he was talking to David Otunga and myself asking all these funny questions and telling him that he was going to lose at Wrestlemania. It was hilarious. We just kept looking back and forth at each other after every number and the kid is sitting in the very back of the auditorium in the very last row with the principal and one of the school counselors. He’s got his hoodie all zipped up and looks all sad looking at his raffle ticket. David read off his numbers and he freaked out. It was so funny. It was like gospel church, he was standing up praising the Lord running down the aisle up on the stage and gives us both big hugs including the Mayor of Miami. It was awesome and it was something really cool to be a part of. Especially for someone who is going through a rough patch. A kid who is already bullied and then have to go through losing his mother, being underprivileged then getting the most amazing thing in his entire life happen all at the same time. I can’t imagine how he must have felt. We really felt good doing that and that is what this whole, whatever theme that I have, whatever momentum I have going, in the long run it’s not for me and I like it to be able to use it to give back and actually make a difference. To do something for someone else. I get enough satisfaction from being on stage but in my other spare time, the time not spent with my family, when I’m out I like to do good things for people. It gives us purpose other than doing something for ourselves. UglyScene: Thank you for your time and I believe we have run out of time. Good luck to you. James: Thank you very much.

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