James Durbin, who rose to fame as a finalist on the tenth season of American Idol, just released his new single, "Parachute," which is now available on iTunes. James was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and Tourette Syndrome when he was 10 years old at Stanford Medical Center. A portion of the proceeds from his new album "Celebrate," which comes out on April 8, 2014, will benefit Autism Speaks.
Autism Speaks Staffer Kerry Magro sat down to discuss the release of James single and what he is doing today in the autism community.
Kerry Magro: Thanks for giving us a few minutes today James! So James, what were some of the key supports you had early on to help get you to where you are today?
James Durbin: My mom was always my greatest support. She was really all I had at the time. She made sure that I had great outlets and she got a godsend when she discovered I loved music, art and theater. She did everything she could to get me scholarships into as many music, art and theater programs as possible which helped me progress & grow.
KM: So many people on the autism spectrum have been influenced by music. How did music play a part in your life growing up?
JD: Right around the time when I was diagnosed, I got a hand-me-down guitar with a chord book and a cheap busted tuner. I didn’t know what I was doing, haha. I taught myself some chords to play some basic songs and then I tried writing my own little songs & jingles and it really helped me. It was a big change up. Ive always listened to different music since back then. I think music is like medicine and can be a benefit for anyone no matter what genre. There’s just so much you can learn. It’s all about focus and for me, not only on the Autism spectrum but also the Tourette's spectrum, focus was something I needed help with. Music is my focus.
KM: You may not know this but when you were on American Idol we had an Autism Speaks Voting Club to vote for you every week. How has the reception from the community been since American Idol?
JD: Oh wow! No way? Thank you so much for voting for me! The reception has been amazing. I’ve enjoyed meeting so many fans & so many who are on the spectrum. I love hearing their stories. It’s so incredible hearing peoples success stories and knowing you inspired them. Once you start believing in yourself it can do wonders. Parents are always telling me their stories at my shows, “Johnny couldn't keep eye contact before & he had difficulty holding down a conversation...and now he has a girlfriend, has his grades going up.." When I was a kid I didn’t have a role model who went through the same things I did, so I’m glad I get to be that for others.
KM: Your new single “parachute” comes out today. Can you tell us a little bit about the song and your new album “celebrate” which comes out in April?
JD: Parachute is officially up today. I co-wrote the song with Andy Stochansky & my Ptoducer Scott Stevens. The first time I heard the song idea, I knew I wanted it on "CELEBRATE", we just had to finish writing it. I think "Parachute" is very relatable & can work as a Euphemism, not only for relationships but for those with Autism. If there's something you are worried about, I think that hearing the line "Jump, Jump, Jump, Jump, Without My Parachute..Straight Into You" can be almost like a mantra to push through it. Throw away any feelings that hold you back. Get rid of all the negativity that keeps you from being who you're meant to be.
KM: What advice would you give to the future James Durbin’s of the world in our autism community?
JD: I really think that regardless of what it is.,, Whatever they are trying to pursue to be.. a doctor, teacher, actress, musician, anything. You can do it! I love being on the autism spectrum, I don’t see it as a disability. I see it as something extra that normal people don’t have. I tell all my autistic friends & fans this. You have an extra sprinkle of genius in you. And it’s different for so many on the spectrum. I know so many people who have a hard time with eye contact but then they are complete geniuses in the key interests they love and are passionate about. That’s what I do. I immerse myself in it. I love it.
In order to get yourself to a point of success you need to stop judging yourself based on what others think. I judge my own success by my own merits. You should look at your success based on what you want to accomplish as a person. If you set your own goals and your own standards and you beat your own goals then THAT’s success!
KM: Thank you James for your time today and best of luck with your single and your album coming out in April!
JD: Thank YOU guys. It’s been a total blessing. I’m seeing things so clearly now in my life. And I think it’s a complete waste to go into life without caring for others. I’ve never loved so much and worked so hard in my life and I’m so grateful to be here. Thanks again.