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May 22nd
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Santa Cruz’s Idol Returns

durbin_pr1Thousands gather to welcome back James Durbin with open arms

Judging by the surging crowd and the number of squeals heard outside Louden Nelson Community Center Saturday afternoon, tourists might have thought Justin Bieber was in town.

But every local knew—Saturday was Durbin Day.

Just two days earlier, James Durbin was tragically eliminated on American Idol, after show-stopping his way to the final four.

News of the hometown hero’s elimination sent shockwaves throughout Santa Cruz County, where locals had tuned in every Wednesday night for weeks to text in their votes and bring Durbin to the winner’s circle.

For many, the weight of the loss was amplified by the fact that an elimination meant Durbin would not have the opportunity to return home until after the Idol finale. The top three competitors earn the chance to bring the cameras home with them and show off their roots to the world.

durbin_pr3But Santa Cruz doesn’t give up that easily.

According to Zach Friend, Santa Cruz police public information officer, the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council, the Boardwalk, the City of Santa Cruz, the police and other local agencies rallied, and pleaded with the producers of American Idol to allow Durbin to come home anyway.

“It was the first time American Idol had been asked to do this,” says Friend. “And it’s the first time they’ve made an exception.”

As a result, Durbin was transported back to Santa Cruz for the day, where a full line-up of media events, starting with a press conference and concluding with a concert at the Boardwalk (where 20,000 people were expected to attend), awaited him.

“It feels great to be back,” said Durbin, from behind a podium at Louden Nelson. “I went to Zoccoli’s today and had two sandwiches!”
Donning a jean jacket with the phrase “Give Metal a Chance” stitched into the back and a peace-sign bandana around his neck, Santa Cruz’s idol spoke of his last day on the show.

durbin_pr2“I was so emotional at Thursday’s elimination because I knew I couldn’t go home,” said Durbin, holding his baby boy. “I almost started crying when I was walking around [The Tonight Show with Jay] Leno and got a text about going back home.”
On Idol, Durbin stood out from the competition with his love of metal and avoidance of mainstream music, choosing to perform songs by artists like Judas Priest. He says his debut single will be in the same vein. “I potentially heard my very first single, I didn’t write it, but it’s catchy,” says Durbin. “In this day and age of entertainment, it’s got to be pop-y, with all the fun and excitement of ’80s hair metal.”

Durbin says he hopes to get a record deal soon, so that he’ll have the opportunity to record while on tour in early fall or winter. Until then, he’ll fly to New York for the first time Sunday morning to meet up with other Idol contestants, and then it’s off to Los Angeles for more press, followed by rehearsals for the Idol finale.

“I got great momentum right now, to waste it would be a shame,” says Durbin. “Everything I’ve done in my life—it’s been a Godsend that it all lined up in this order and built up to this.”

Throughout his childhood, Durbin was involved in performing arts groups in Santa Cruz County including Kids on Broadway and Santa Cruz Melody Makers, many of whose current members were in attendance Saturday to support him.

“I’ve loved being in front of an audience since I was a kid—I wanted to be seen,” says Durbin. “Every kid who picks up a guitar or drums dreams of a nationwide tour. I can’t believe it until it happens.”

American Idols Live comes to HP Pavillion in San Jose on July 13. And according to Durbin, three of the tour stops have already sold out of tickets.

If the number of fans wearing homemade “We love James Durbin” T-shirts and pressing themselves up against the glass of the room where the press conference was held, is any indication, Santa Cruzans will undoubtedly snatch up most of the remaining tickets.

“There’s so much love and support in Santa Cruz,” says Durbin. “I’m going to have to run away from security and run around the arena a couple times giving people hugs to thank all of my fans around the country.”

Though he is no longer in the competition, Durbin encourages fans to continue watching the show and voting for their (second) favorite. Considering he got fourth place in a contest for which an estimated 140,000 people auditioned, he says he couldn’t be happier. Besides, Chris Daughtry placed fourth, and look at him now.

“I feel I did amazing. And if I’m going out, I’m going out with fire and a big old leap,” says Durbin. “But I don’t want people to give up on the show—[American Idol] did all this for me.”

It’s hard to believe that less than a year ago, Durbin was just one of many people unemployed by the recession in Santa Cruz County.

“Domino’s on Clares [Street] had closed and I got laid off,” says Durbin, who was convinced by his fiancée to audition for Idol. “Two days later, I said [to her], ‘let’s go wait in line for 28 hours.’”

Fast forward to Saturday, when thousands gathered just to catch a glimpse of the hometown star.

His reaction? “WOOOOOOO! It’s magical! It’s nuts!

Comments (7)Add Comment
...
written by Darlene, July 10, 2011
You were the best entertainer american idol ever had !!!!
You are the REAL DEAL, JAMES!
written by Zenolia_Brazil, May 28, 2011
I'm soooo happy for you to have had the chance to go to yor hometown, have this amazing reception from the Santa Cruz people and from your family. I watched AI from Brazil and cheered for you every week. For me, you're a winner in life and will be as a singer. You also got my admiration for your love for your family and fans and for all the difficulties you left behind. You're a very strong man to surpass it all. Hugs for Heidi, Hunter and your family. YOU ROCK! I can't wait for your album!
...
written by anne johnston, May 15, 2011
Way to to James,, I am from Sarnia On Canada, and I have been watching you throughout the season, and you are my American Idol....you have so much heart and soul, and you sing it with great thought and care for others who you are singing too. I know for sure that you will be a bigger star than you ever dreamed of, and that a "good" thing.....will be watching for your albums to come out......good luck in all your indevers.......L. Anne
...
written by James1101, May 15, 2011
Thank you James for sharing your gifts and inspiration. Keep the faith. ROCK ON.
...
written by Sheryll Punneo, May 15, 2011
James.........hang in there. I thought that you were the most AMAZING contestant in the competition. All original, you had to do it your way. That is what tells me that you are an artist and an entertainer. I felt the hurt that you were feeling on stage. OMG, I really did feel that you did get robbed. You are Season 10's Adam Lambert. I would love to see you together. Heidi and Hunter are so lucky to have you in their lives !!!!!!

Sheryll Punneo
Liberty, Missouri
I think you are awesome
written by Karen Puleo, May 15, 2011
You had my vote every week I was dissappointed you were voted off. I know you have a great career in front of you the records companies would be fools not to sign you. I wish you the very best. The best is yet to come for you
...
written by Trina, May 15, 2011
James, I have watched you from the beginning get better and better. You had me out of my chair when you sang the theme song to Heavy Metal. I would buy a concert ticket if you were to perform right now. When you are onstage you are electric. I am just a middleage mom who was 20 in the eighties, you do that music proud! I will be looking forward to the music that you will surely create. All the best to you.

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