'American Idol' exit Q&A with James Durbin: 'I'm so proud that I was able to bring a voice to metal' -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

How does James Durbin feel about his unexpected fourth place exit on American Idol? “Sad, relieved, excited, not disappointed at all,” Durbin told EW backstage about 90 minutes after the results show was over. He added, with a chuckle, “Man, only nine other people can say they got fourth place on American Idol. That’s a great way to look at it.”

While he said he felt “strange” when he got up Thursday morning, as if he may go home, he has no regrets about his performances of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Love Potion No. 9″ by songwriters Leiber & Stoller. Instead, Durbin had another surprise fourth place Idol finisher on his mind. “I know that when people think someone’s safe, you know, they’ll vote for who they think’s in jeopardy so that everyone’s equal,” he said. “But it ends up not working out that way. You get pushed to the bottom. That’s what happened with Chris Daughtry.”

As for James’ biggest accomplishment on the show, that’s easy: “I’m so proud that I was able to bring a voice to metal, you know, to a ‘dying genre.'” He had hoped, in fact, to return to his metal roots for Top 3 week with the song “Rainbow in the Dark” by Ronnie James Dio. And now? “The ball’s in my court. I’ve just got to run with it.”

Check out the full interview below, for James’ reaction to having to sing his swan song in front of his fiancée Heidi, and what the judges had to say to him after the show: 

Read more:
Annie Barrett’s ‘Idol’ recap: Tail of Tears
On the scene for the ‘Idol’ Top 4 results night
‘Idol’ coaches talk the Top 4 — EXCLUSIVE

Comments (129 total) Add your comment
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  • Arthur Tweedle

    American Idol is a running sore, running from itslef and society. Yet one day its scab might heal us all.

  • Minutiae

    It’s too bad he didn’t do the Dio sooner. I would have loved to see RJD get some props on such a big stage.

    • RCB

      He is soooo much better than the one-trick pony, scotty. Even in their recent duet, James outsang Scotty (despite them singing a country song).

      • AI Fan

        Oh? That’s one opinion. Everybody has one! Obviously James didn’t get enough votes. I do hope he does well, but I definitely don’t like heavy metal!

      • Amy

        Totally agree about James’s and Scotty’s duet.

      • Brock

        I can’t stand Scotty either, one of the most boring contestant ever. He hasn’t had a single moment in the course of the season.

      • cherrie

        Never underestimate the hard work all did to entertain us, and as much as I also thought James would take all… I think everyone needs to see also the great sportsmanship they all showed… it’s never easy to lose, and I think in a sense… THEY ALL ARE WINNERS!!! AND VERY UNIQUE! AND SHOULD NEVER GIVE UP ON THEIR DREAMS,,, if it’s meant to be.. it will happen.God is in control and knows that they all are bright lil stars ..and I’m extremely proud of each one of them! I’m just an old granny who still has “her groove on!!!” an “IDOL” LOVER FOREVER !!!

  • Jennifer

    He thinks he brought a voice to metal? A dying genre? Oh please! Metal is hardly dying, even if it isn’t mainstream; it’s just evolved from what it was in the late 70s and early 80s when it was more mainstream. And the only metal James did on AI was the Judas Priest song in the semis – a lame Sammy Hagar tune does not count despite the title.

  • Kiki

    James — stop being so full of yourself. You did NOT bring back metal by singing exactly ONE metal song.

    • Jeffrey

      Actually, he did Heavy Metal (One Way Ticket To Midnight) as well, in addition to doing songs that influenced metal (Great Balls Of Fire for example)…and you gotta keep in mind there were certain weeks when his hands were tied (Carole King week, etc)…But he rocked when the genre enabled him to…and I hate to disagree with some in the forum, but metal hasn’t exactly set the charts on fire as of late…I think James embracing it will help more than you realise..Enjoying the diverse commentary so far..let’s keep it polite.

      • AI Fan

        To each his own! Just not what I want to listen to at all.

      • sue


    • Amy

      I think it was more just that he was avid about metal, even if he didn’t do a whole lot of metal songs. Also, even for a lot of the non-metal songs he did, his performances had a metal vibe. I’ll say that it worked on me. I used to pretty much never listen to metal, but after watching him on American Idol, I decided to give it a chance, and while I’m still not a fan, I can definitely see its appeal. However, I also think it’s good that he didn’t do exclusively metal and changed it up almost every week; otherwise, he would never have made it nearly as far.

  • darlene

    You can still hear James sing “Rainbow In The Dark” on you tube. He would have killed it on AI. I am so, so, so, sad he got voted off! He was my favorite!

    • Amy

      Wow. I can’t believe he put all that effort into a karaoke performance. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like on Idol.

  • yawn

    @Jennifer and Kiki: James brought metal to American Idol’s audience, which is primarily not made up of heavy metal fans.

    • BumbledBee

      Yes, Love Potion No. 9! Head banging shizz right there!! Metal singers don’t go on American Idol.

      • Sally

        Sigh – I don’t think Lieber and Stoller had any heavy metal songs in their catalog. At least James put a different spin on one of their songs, something that cannot be said for some of the other singers.

  • BumbledBee

    Sorry, James, I would have never voted for you (safe or not). He’s gone because he didn’t have enough fans backing him, end of story.

    • Christine

      Not true… The winner of American Idol will always be who American Idol wants. I hate to admit it because I vote. But Americas votes don’t count….

      • Melyssa

        This I completely agree with, Christine. I think that’s been proven with last season Lee DeWyze winning over Crystal and as much as I dislike Adam Lambert, Kris Allen winning over Adam, IMO, proves that it’s who AI wants, not who the voting fans want.

        James was the best contestant on Idol this season, hands down. He knows how to sing and entertain. He wasn’t a stiff board standing on stage. He knows how to perform and he’s good at it.

      • AI Fan

        Do you think American Idol wanted Taylor Hicks? No, the American public voted him in! I’m so tired of hearing this theory. Trouble is, some “Americans” vote thousands of times, and some don’t vote at all! Which category are you in?

      • Melyssa

        Yes, I do believe that.

      • Melyssa

        The other trouble is, AI has a severely flawed voting system.
        I think it would be nice if they would have one male and one female winner every season.

      • bob

        This is just a convenient conspiracy theory to justify when one’s favorite doesn’t make it. If the voting was rigged it would get leaked by someone, a disgruntled ex-employee or someone else in the know and the whole AI franchise would be scandalized. No way they would risk their billion dollar juggernaut on that.

      • Sally

        AI’s voting system is flawed. As long as they continue to allow unlimited voting, the true winner will not be known until after the show. Based on albumn sales, some years AI gets right – Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, David Cook. Some years AI gets wrong – Kris Allen, Taylor Hicks. We won’t know about this year until albums are released post Idol.

      • Janice D.

        Melyssa, I do agree with you 100% that American Idol that I wished has and had a male winner and a female winner instead of just one–either male or female. Same with AI wishing to also having a male first runner-up and a female first runner-up, instead of just one–either male or female–each and every season, every year. You’re so right. I am on your side.

  • Carrie

    keep your head up james you were the best thing that has ever happened to american idol and now i have no reason to tune in each week because you were the only thing i looked forward to watching each week on my tv. you have such amazing talent and passion for what you do and you will go far just like Chris Daughty did if not better. Unfortunately america got it wrong and now there is nothing left but boring performances from well predictable contestants. I look forward to buying your cd and going to sold out james durbin rock concerts. rock on james!!!!!

    • Rachael

      DITTO…. can hardly wait for your concert and c.d. … and i am a 63 year old grandma….love ya james…rachael (spokane, wa)

      • roz from new york

        Ditto again…you are the greatest James with that special charisma, passion and talent…Would love to see you star in a rock opera…stay focused and stay away from too much f the high life so as not to get lost…good luck and happiness to you, grandma rozzie , a BIG fan..70 yrs. old

    • Teresa

      I totally agree- no reason to tune in anymore. James was the one bright light on the show. He has a great story to tell. He will go on a become a big star. Looking forward to buying his first CD too. America did get it wrong. Now I have the time when Idol is on to do other things that I put off when it was on. Boycotting Idol. The Voice and X Factor will take it’s place and Americas Got Talent is coming back “Rock on James.”

    • Kim & Al

      Totally agree, looked forward to your performances each week. I believed it when you said you left everything on the stage every week. It showed. Looking forward to your concerts. Maybe you could open for Lady Gaga! LOL Chin-up, James. You rocked the house and you have a great future ahead of you in the music industry.

    • Viktoria

      Carrie I agree with everything you have said. I was so bored with Idol last year I said I was not going to watch this year. My daughter said mom the talent is so amazing this year just watch one show, I did, loved James and continued to watch becasue of James. Will not ever watch again!!!! Blessings James

    • carynnhh

      I agree 100% Kim and Al: I look forward to JAmes concerts. James rocked the house

  • Sue Ann Nivens

    I agree with several people here. Amerian Idol’s “voting audience” (which does differ from the strictly “watching” audience) is really not a good showcase to show America the joys of Heavy Metal music. (And really, half of his songs weren’t heavy metal. “Maybe I’m Amazed”? “Don’t Stop Believing” (most people now associate the song with “Glee,” not hard rock. (Who knew “Unchained Melody” didn’t get it’s start in “Ghost?”) It takes a METAL band to properly do METAL. James sounded just too much like a cover-band singer doing his versions of all the radio rock tunes we know and love. Maybe if he could have done some great, unknown, GREAT Metal music, the kind that really lends itself to the performance…not just the vocal. (But I’m sure the “mentors” and Nigel L. would have vetoed those selections.) Because most people can’t judge a great rock and roll vocal when it’s put up next to a pretty, Taylor Swift-type puff-piece. No place for Heavy Metal. No place for Broadway or Cabaret vocalists. I just knew that his chose genre, no matter how well presented it, wouldn’t carry him through with the voters to the final.

  • Ash

    He shouldn’t of went home, he should of won…he’s better then the three left. I love Scotty and Lauren, but James is better then them overall. Haley should of went home..she don’t deserve to be standing next to Scotty and Lauren. Her attitude is horrible and her voice is scratchy, which hurts my ears. I’ve watched this show since it first started and I am so disappointed. This is just like what happened with Chris Daughtry, who should of won seasons ago instead of Taylor Hicks.

    • carynnhh

      I agree Ash (except, I did like Taylor Hicks). Scotty is really good, but James is the whole package: many of his songs are extremely memorable, sing it from the heart, would-make-a-hit record GOOD. Hailey is NOT consistent. James was consistently good. LEt’s all buy James albums and support him!!

    • Janice D.

      I agree with the entire portion with Ash.

  • dacky

    James was obviously the best singer on it and doesn’t even make it 2 the final 2.
    Its not neccessarily Idols fault- its the idiot voters with taste up their collective butts. First they pick pick Kris over Adam- I liked Kris but a better singer than A Lambert??? Give me a break!
    Then that walking Ambien Lee DeTwit over Crystal.
    Now they vote up Take-A-Loungenz-Haley, Never-Missed-Missing-A-High-Note-Lauren and good ole country who CANT FRICKIN SING Scotty.
    As long as the insecure south keeps voting for God N Country N NONTHREATENING TO THEIR FRAGILE EGOS decent better singers like James, Pia and Stefano dont have a chance in this Southern Fried Hell!
    I fully expect Scottyy 2 win which would be a travesty. And will SOMEONE PLEASE TELL HIM TO STOP HOLDING THE MIC LIKE HE HAS MS!!!
    My venom is equal parts to the judges who keep encouraging them to “do your thing”! They wouldhve LOVED Tiny Tim!!! THIS IS A SINGING COMPETITION AGAINST EACH OTHER NOT A “SPECIAL” OLYMPICS!!!

    • katherine


      • Melyssa

        Pia has a strong voice. The problem was that she is a boring performer.

      • Andre

        I’ll agree Pia’s stage presence was not that good but…..remember the one week she attempted to sing an uptempo song (suggested by Randy) she got booted….Let me ask a question…when she was singing BALLADS, how many times was she in the bottom 3?? ZERO. So it wasn’t because of stage presence….otherwise she would have been eliminated while she was singing ballads.

    • Viktoria

      Hey I am from the south the deep south and all of my friends voted for James and I am over 50. It’s the teeny boppers and the pre-teen group who have nothing better to do than sit home and vote, vote, vote. Haley should have went home weeks ago, she was one of my least favorites from the start. I think America deserves Haley, just like America gave us Taylor Hicks over Chris Daughtry.

      • laure

        I agree

      • Davleen

        I agree, I feel sad that when I vote, it’s over shadowed by those who are younger and have more time to repeat their votes for 2 hours. I don’t think thats a really fair representation of American voters. There’s got to be a better way. I thought they all had something special this season, but James really got to me, and I’m older and not a fan of rock. I’m gonna give Metal a chance! Thanks James.

  • katherine

    What in the world has gone wrong with AMERICA??? James was one of the BEST singers out there! Much better then the two girls left! Someone needs to give him a contract!!!

    • kim

      waht you are saying is so true

      • Melyssa

        Agree. While I do like Lauren, she is the weaker performer. Haley just sucks all the way around. Scotty has my full support now and I hope he wins. But I have a feeling that because so many have complained that a girl has not won Idol for so long, that one of the girls will win.

  • Michelle

    So good to see this extended interview. Here’s hoping James has a great career in front of him. Love his voice and his passion!

    • Teresa

      American Idol is coming to an end cause they have run their course- They need to have a save for the final 5. Rock on James

  • trish

    What a disappointment. How come it seems like every from the south wins! I realize America loves country music but come on James was the best. Get real America.

    • Teresa

      Totally agree

  • gato

    I saw this season once, Wed nite, this dude was like Adam Lambert-Lite, with worse and tighter clothes. VERY PITCHY TOO. The country boy will probably win, IMO

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