He had the most inspirational run of the season. Sensitive, soulful and passionate rocker James Durbin, 22, who was diagnosed in middle school with Tourette's syndrome and high-functioning autism, let the stage be his safe haven as he rocked his way to fourth place on American Idol. It was a shocking ouster for a contestant who's been a frontrunner from the start. Durbin's mastery of the stage was a victory over two neurological diseases that make it hard for him to socialize and control his face from twitching. It was a victory over the hurts from the outside world that used to cause him so much pain. "As I was getting older, at school, people would tell me, 'Cut that out, stop that.' I was like, 'I can't,'" Durbin said on his audition tape. "I always got made fun of and beat up. I was just lost."
TV Guide Magazine: What was going through your mind when you were eliminated?
Durbin: I've been really thinking about why I came on this show, why I even auditioned. It's for my family. And trying to give voice to a genre of music that seems like it's fading away.
TV Guide Magazine: How blindsided were you last night?
Durbin: I'm not gonna lie, I definitely was. There was something off with the kinetic energy of everyone at the studio yesterday. I felt it off of people's body language. Not that people knew, but there was a real somber feeling. I freaked out a little bit before the show started. I just knew it, I really did.
TV Guide Magazine: What was your fiancé Heidi's reaction?
Durbin: When I was standing up there, I kept looking over at Heidi and saying, "It's okay, it's okay." Looking back, what's the reason I auditioned in the first place? It's because we couldn't afford diapers. I don't think I'm ever going to have to worry about affording diapers now.
TV Guide Magazine: Why do you think you were eliminated now?
Durbin: I don't know. The funny thing is, a friend I made is Chris Jericho on Dancing With The Stars, because we're at the same studio. Big metal head. Singer in a metal band. Pro wrestler. The last song that he danced to before his elimination was "Don't Stop Believin'." So that song eliminated James Durbin, Chris Jericho and Tony Soprano.
TV Guide Magazine: Best piece of advice from the judges?
Durbin: Probably have to be, "Don't hold back. Just roll with it and keep going. Keep giving it everything." Randy said, "This is your competition to lose." I feel like I'm going out on top. Wednesday I had two of the best performances of my entire life. They were both very consistent. They were both pinpoint perfect. I'm my own biggest critic, and I shut myself up on that one. I didn't have anything to say. Just really proud of myself. But not everything works out the way you expect it.
TV Guide Magazine: You've shown so many different emotions on the show.
Durbin: Idol has helped me change. I've never been very business savvy. Thanks to being on Idol, I kind of got to let loose, and get into my stage manager and production bag. Flaming piano and [guitarist] Zakk Wylde and marching band. Figured out what I wanted to wear and designed it and had it made. Every one of my stage performances was all me. I drew out a storyboard for everything. Every performance had an idea. I did what I wanted to do, I accomplished it, and I put my foot straight through the door.
TV Guide Magazine: You and Chris Daughtry were both fourth, and he said he's kind of glad he didn't win because that would've ruined his rock and roll credibility?
Durbin: That makes a lot of sense. But winning would've been just great, too. The first instinct, when you're up there, and Ryan says you're going home is, "Gosh, I wanted to win so badly. And it feels like I've failed." But now, thinking about it, I haven't failed at all. This is just the beginning. It's like a roller coaster, but it's not like you think. You think while you're on Idol that the roller coaster is doing all its turns and loops and corkscrews, but it's still just clicking up the track before it drops down into the craziness. So I'm still just clicking up the track. I'm really, really stoked.
TV Guide Magazine: At Idol, how were you affected by the Tourette's and the Asperger's syndrome when you weren't on stage?
Durbin: When I was a kid, I took medication. And when I was 16, I thought, I'm not gonna let a man-made substance control me. God made me a certain way, and I'm perfect in His eyes. So I'm gonna run with it. I'm gonna be me. I've been looked at funny, I don't care. I'm different. I'm a freak. But different is the new normal. If you're not different, you're not it.
TV Guide Magazine: What was the change in you when you met Heidi?
Durbin: When I was four and Heidi was 13, our moms were friends at church. I had a play date with her younger sister. It's not like we grew up together. I was singing karaoke and she was at a restaurant for a going away party for one of the managers. And we crossed paths. I was singing and she dug the song. She came up and said, "Hey, I'm Heidi. Aren't you James? Our moms were friends at church." I didn't remember her, but I wanted to. We hung out the whole night. Got her number, called her but hung up because I was too nervous. It just took off from there. She is my saving grace, my guardian angel, because at that point I was 19, living at my mom's house, no job, no car, no money, no license or diploma, about as low as you can get. And then I met her and everything changed. I wanted to be a better person, I wanted to succeed and I wanted to advance in life. Behind every successful man is an amazing, amazing woman.
TV Guide Magazine: If Hollywood did a movie about your life, what actor would you want to play you and why?
Durbin: I think I would want to play myself. I wouldn't want that to sound conceited. Maybe Matt Damon, because I've been told that I sort of look like Matt Damon.
TV Guide Magazine: Who did you become close to at the show?
Durbin: Definitely closest with all the guys. Stefano is going to be the best man at my wedding. Paul's gonna be one of my groomsmen. We had a little jam band with myself, Paul, Casey and Stefano.
TV Guide Magazine: Where is your dream vacation spot?
Durbin: I've always wanted to go to St. Lucia. This is my story and I'm sticking to it. Heidi made me watch The Bachelor and they went to St Lucia. And it was like, "Oh my God, it's so sweet, we've gotta go there, it'd be amazing." That's how we talk at home.
TV Guide Magazine: What are your emotions this morning?
Durbin: I'm just really, really excited. It's definitely been a whirlwind of emotion. But this is just the starting point. I really feel that I've been given something special, and given this great opportunity to run with it and bring a voice to a new generation. Maybe it's bringing a voice from an old generation to this generation. Excited to see what happens at the finale. Really excited for the tour. It's gonna be amazing. I may have to run away from security a couple of nights and jump the guard rail and run into the crowd. Expect the unexpected.