Santa Cruz Fans Try to Reach Out to American Idol Contender James Durbin

The 21-year-old father is apparently in bad financial straits, and locals want to help buy diapers for his baby.

Santa Cruz fans and Patch readers have started collecting money to help American Idol contestant James Durbin during tough financial times.

Durbin can't talk to the press or even communicate with friends during the weeks of American Idol broadcasts, some of which were prerecorded. Some locals said there may be a profile of this 21-year-old's struggles on one of this week's editions of the show, (which airs Wednesday and Thursday on FOX at 8 p.m.). 

Durbin's father died of a drug overdose when James was 9. He has Asperger's and Tourette's syndromes, which are forms of autism. He studied music as the first person to receive a scholarship from the Santa Cruz's Musicscool, run by Dale Ockerman, the former member of the Doobie Brothers.

In an interview aired during his San Francisco audition, Durbin said he was unemployed and sometimes didn't have money for diapers for his year-old son. As a result, fans and locals are trying to raise money to help him.

He and his girlfriend, Heidi, have a post office box to take donations for them and their son: P.O. Box 94, Capitola, CA. 95010.

In a late-night Facebook interview, his former teacher, Ockerman, had this to say:

"I love James; he's a great cat, and one of my favorite singers.

"I've worked with Mike McDonald, Bill Champlin, Steve Marriott, Richard Bryant—some of the best of the best, and he's up there with those musicians, a unique soulful powerful voice; he seems to not have any limits.

"James was the first scholarship recipient at my Musicscool. He was sponsored by Kids on Broadway and the Lundbergs, bless their hearts. He picked up keyboards, guitar, songwriting, all with such a healthy appetite and intense concentration, it was a joy to be around. Last time I saw him, we were doing blues harp stuff, and within 30 seconds, he was bending, isolating notes, not an easy thing to do.

"I don't think it's easy. I just think he works really hard, really fast, and he has a pulse on what sounds good to an audience, or to a group of musicians. 

"Every performance he's done singing with the White Album Ensemble, he gets standing ovations, people who saw Guitarmy—our Zeppelin band with 10 student guitarists, Dave Tucker on drums and Tiran Porter on bass—said it sounded scarily like a Zeppelin record, on stage.

"I was a big fan of his late dad, the virtuoso bassist Willie Durbin. We had some very funky jams, back in the day."

Katie McKee February 16, 2011 at 02:13 PM
Great article, Brad. Thank you. They are so grateful for what is coming to them.
Redwoodgirl February 16, 2011 at 05:02 PM
So happy for them! Couldn't happen to a nicer guy!
Chris Maddox February 24, 2011 at 07:30 PM
I KNOW James can go ALL>>>THE>>>WAY! Santa Cruz will help him and his family regardless. I hope SC does something publicly so we home town fans can wave and say....... " YOU'RE WELCOME". He has such a fan club, and not just the USA but ALOT of other countries. Look at his Facebook. He's a star even if he doesn't win. We pray he does!
Katie McKee February 24, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Very nicely put, Chris.
Diana Marks February 25, 2011 at 12:52 PM
SO relieved someone is reaching out to the Durbin family! I have actually lost sleep since I saw his first interview on Idol. The kid is very talented! I'm just concerned that he is being misunderstood. It's obvious he admires Adam Lambert but some Glamberts believe that he thinks he is as good as or better than. That' s NOT good! Conerned bout voting!
Katie McKee February 25, 2011 at 05:38 PM
Hey, Diana. Didn't see last night, but know he made it through. James goes way beyond Adam Lambert. He is under the wing of former Doobie Brothers who knew his dad, and they will help him navigate the record biz. He got into Santa Cruz' Kids on Broadway at 13, and you ain't seen nothin' yet. As soon as he is allowed to show that side of him, everyone will be further blown away. If he sings something like The Impossible Dream or the Soliloquy from Carousel, it will be all over. Actually, it already is all over. The world knows about James, now. This is a very powerful time for him and for those of us who have watched his journey.
Diana Marks February 26, 2011 at 05:46 AM
Katie I am pulling for him! He has certainly shown some promise. His story has captivated me. I wish him & his family incredible success. IT is such a tough business. Seems to have so much unfairness. I hope James experiences the up side of it! Btw I am a HUGH fan of Adam Lambert! Got to see four of his concerts this past yr. I hope to see James do as well as Adam. Pls keep us posted on the success of the help the family is receiving. Thanks for what UR doing for them!
Katie McKee February 26, 2011 at 07:04 AM
Hey Diana. Just keep putting it out to the universe. I'll try to get an update tomorrow. Too late tonight. I know they are just SO excited about the help they are receiving. James is concentrating on the work at hand, but Heidi is just blown away by this. Spread it around. Post the P. O. Box on fb and ask your friends to do the same. Durbin, P.O.Box 94, Capitola, CA 95010. Thanks.
Carol Baligush February 27, 2011 at 03:00 PM
I, too, wish all of the new contestants on American Idol the best of luck. They will have a hard time measuring up to what Adam Lambert brought to the table on that show. He had/has the total package of amazing stage presence, charisma, good looks and out of this world vocal range that was well trained since he was 10 years old. I see some very promising talent in the 24 guys and gals who have made it so far!
Chris Maddox February 27, 2011 at 10:54 PM
Katie, Has the city contributed to Heidi and James? I guess they live in Capitola since that is where the POB is. DoesHeidi work or a stay at home mom. I loved staying at home with my 2 kids. I had more time to show them parts of the world. I quit my job when my daughter started walking and the bbsitter saw it first. I wanted to be the one to see her firsts. I hope Santa Cruz is doing alot for her. I wish I could help out. My baby will be 18yrs in May. Time FLIES by so fast. Empty nest syndrom hitting already! We will vote Tuesday for sure. Never voted b4, lol. TNX
Katie McKee February 28, 2011 at 06:45 AM
Hi, Chris. Yes, many, many folks here have contributed to James and Heidi and Hunter, and many have mentored him over the years who knew his dad, Willie, and will continue to mentor him in the crazy days ahead. Thanks, Carol. I haven't followed the show for years. That gives me some perspective. I heard tonight that he lost?! I am curious. Where are all of you folks from? I just assumed you are from here, because it's Santa Cruz Patch. Please let me know, and I will pass along to the family. Thank you!
Lauren Loustaunau March 02, 2011 at 07:09 PM
1st Saw James at Malones Nov. 2010 where he sang "Oh, Darling" and he was absolutely amazing! I was so happy to see him make it to American Idol! I'm now reading about all the places he's performed in the Santa Cruz area and really feel like I missed out! I'll be voting for James without question!
Dru Vincent March 19, 2011 at 05:38 AM
This guy is The real deal...i live in Monterey Peninsula and rooting ALL THE WAY....American Idol and the world..."You got another thing Comin'!!"
nelly April 29, 2011 at 03:00 PM
i think he deserves to win american idol
Shelby Baker May 08, 2011 at 04:24 AM
I wanted to know if that address is still current to send help. His story hit me in the heart when he told about being laid off as I am in similar place. If I could spare or share even a bit in support I still would do it, especially seeing I am local so it is giving back to someone part of my area
Katie McKee May 08, 2011 at 03:29 PM
Hey, Shelby, as far as I know it is current. Send him a good message, how much you admire him. I don't think he will need financial help. This kid has it made, now. James' heart will take him all the way.
Shelby Baker May 08, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Hi Katie: Thank you. Are you going next Saturday? I am going to try and give a card of thoughts at the signings or whatever else. I am so excited.
Katie McKee May 08, 2011 at 05:14 PM
Wouldn't miss it, Shelby. I live in Santa Cruz because people are united through art. James is just another example. A moment in all our lives to treasure. This community is very special. We are united through earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and art. So grateful to live here.
Shelby Baker May 08, 2011 at 05:17 PM
I wrote something to that effect to the Sentinel for an article they posted via FB and asked for "what does this mean to you" I will try and post it here. I think I might have to use two posts cause of character @ limits
Shelby Baker May 08, 2011 at 05:19 PM
1/2 my post to a Sentinel article/request for responses Santa Cruz has a certain magic about it. It is the jewel of the bay area where I have lived my entire life. Santa Cruz is what I call the place you go "to make it without having to fake it" There is a certain spirit or pride and individualism that set it apart. A community appeal. Where you show your "scars" actual and figurative with comfort as they simply are. Growing up we often lose that, and when I feel a bit too jaded or as though I want to run from the Bay Area or CA I make the short drive through the windy road that is highway 17 to Santa Cruz. Instantly I feel a sense of calm and belonging. I fall in love or appreciate my home all over again as though seeing it through virgin eyes. Some people have a love affair with San Francisco, but for me Santa Cruz is the epicenter. Where everything falls into place and feels effortless and perfect.
Shelby Baker May 08, 2011 at 05:19 PM
2/2 So naturally when leisurely watching American Idol I saw a contestant from Santa Cruz my eyes and ears took notice. I listened to the background story; foremost of a young man that like me was unemployed due to a layoff. The tears and frustration in his eyes were ones I knew all too well. The heartfelt and pure love between him and his fiancee and family was also something so endearing. Again the things I know deep down are most important, and really do exist all coming from a community I admire so much. I have been fighting my own battles and been gloomy. Stepping outside myself and seeing this has been incredibly lifting and motivating... So I am watching a fairy tale of sorts come true. So fitting it is Santa Cruz. This is where dreams come true. No earthquakes, economic hard times or any other worries can keep it from building or rebuilding stronger. James represents Santa Cruz so perfectly. With a grace, humility, and tenacity that we all can learn from. Not just ones with dreams of fame but those of us just wanting to make it. So look to Santa Cruz. You can survive and be who you are with no regrets.
Katie McKee May 08, 2011 at 07:28 PM
Beautiful, Shelby. Yes, so many of us can relate to the hard economic times, but they have truly been a time of growth in the heart. I am very grateful for the lessons of the last few years.
Shelby Baker May 08, 2011 at 07:30 PM
that is the great thing about this part of the country. We still have that spiritual aspect along with the survival instincts. Somehow we manage to rise above and be stronger and better and more compassionate for it all
Katie McKee May 08, 2011 at 08:06 PM
You said it. We are having this conversation because someone has touched our hearts. I am just staggered at what has happened to this friend. There is still stuff to believe in!
Shelby Baker May 08, 2011 at 08:22 PM
it is great isn't it? I have made a handful of new friends since all of this started through various connections. Including one helping me with my job and career search. A couple of other people that I know are going to be great friends and confidants independent of this. It was just a means for people with certain ways of seeing things or experience to pass and know each other. Had I not been writing a blurb here and there how I felt I would never have met them...so I guess I feel grateful for that.. I love James cause I sense a pure of heart a dreamer's and a believers soul yet still has the duality of someone that has weathered so much. It is not easy to have both.
Katie McKee May 08, 2011 at 08:54 PM
Agreed. Hey, Mr. Kava, look what a good thang you done!
terry wadsworth May 13, 2011 at 01:33 PM
It's very doubtful the voices of Haley & Alaina will be instantly recognized if at all in the music world, Scotty's voice will be a blend of most all ballad type country male singers and won't stand out much, but James's voice & music will be instantly recognizable and will be bought,sold & listened to for years to come! I am going to keep supporting him & his family as long as I can


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