James grew up barely knowing his bass-playing father, who was always on the road, and was raised by his mother after his dad died of a drug overdose. Durbin reveals that he was never able to spend much time with his father, who was always away touring. James stated, “People say that I get my musical talent from my dad. Well, I’ll never know.”
Later diagnosed with both Tourettes and Aspergers, James turned to music to help deal with his stress. Both Tourettes and Aspergers are extremely debilitating neurological disorders that can result in behavioral tics and extreme social awkwardness. Durbin is classified as "high-functioning” (i.e., his symptoms are milder, he's able to handle social situations with more tolerance than others with Tourettes or Aspergers, and his facial and vocal tics should become more manageable with time).
Tourettes and Aspergers are lifelong conditions, but experts say that adults "can learn to understand their own strengths and weaknesses." As living proof, James Durbin says he does his best to "suppress" the negative effects and play up what he's best at – “singing.”
Durbin hasn’t let his disorders slow him down as a performer. He’s gone on to star in productions of Singing in the Rain, Grease, Beauty and the Beast, West Side Story, Sweet Charity, Fiddler on the Roof, and My Fair Lady. He was also the lead singer for the band Hollywood Scars and jammed alongside a teen music ensemble known as Guitarmy.
James views “the stage” as a form of therapy, a place that allows him to put aside his tics and obsessions. He went on to meet his fiancé, Heidi, and the two went on to have a son. The singer credits his family for helping him turn his life around.
James Durbin has a pitch-perfect voice and a hard rocker’s attitude. American Idol footage shows James ‘tearing-it-up’ with Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Another clip has him floating his way through the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with equal power. His versatile voice has already earned him comparison to American Idol favorite Adam Lambert.
On the show, James stated, "I have Tourettes and Aspergers, but Tourettes and Aspergers don't have me. I'm doing what I can to suppress it. I don't let it take advantage of me. It's not who I am. You need to give it 210 percent. The reason why I can be the next 'American Idol' is because I believe. From day one, all I've been doing is believing …believing that I can …believing that I have the power to do something real.”
So, what does this mean for Aspergers awareness? Clearly, as was dramatically demonstrated on American Idol, Durbin has talent. American Idol truly found a genuine San Francisco rocker in the form of James Durbin.
James Durbin performing While My Guitar Gently Weeps: