Durbin was born in 1989 to Judy Settle-Durbin & Willy Durbin. He was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome and Asperger syndrome. He attended Musicschool, a music school run by Dale Ockerman in Santa Cruz, CA.
In 2006, he performed in a Santa Cruz children's theater group called Kids on Broadway and played the lead role in Grease and Beauty and the Beast. In 2007, he played the leading roles of Tony in West Side Story and Oscar in Sweet Charity—both productions produced by All About Theatre, a Santa Cruz community theatre company. In 2008, Durbin appeared in Alan Parsons' "Art & Science of Sound Recording" educational video series, recording a version of Parsons' "We Play The Game" at Ex'pression College for Digital Arts.
He was the lead singer in a band called Hollywood Scars, where he went by the stage name of Jimmy Levox. Influenced by bands such as Quiet Riot, Skid Row, Judas Priest, Queen, Guns N' Roses, Iron Maiden and Mötley Crüe, Hollywood Scars drew their inspiration from the glitz, glam, and decadence of Hollywood's Sunset Strip in the 1980s. The band released a single entitled "Under The Cherry Tree". He was also in a band called Whatever Fits that released 2 EPs.
Durbin had previously auditioned for American Idol in Season 8, but was not chosen.
Durbin was eliminated in the Top 4 on season 10, but despite his elimination, he received a homecoming previously reserved for Top 3 contestants, the first time such an exception on the homecoming policy was made by the show. Footage of his homecoming, dubbed the "Durbin Day", was shown briefly on the Top 3 performance show. "Durbin Day" set the record for "Largest Gathering For A Public Event In The History Of Santa Cruz, CA".
He appeared on the American Idol Season 10 finale, singing "Livin' After Midnight" and "Breaking the Law" alongside British heavy metal band Judas Priest.^Note 1 Due to the judges using their one save to save Casey Abrams, the Top 11 remained intact for another week, when two contestants were eliminated.
After his elimination Durbin appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Live with Regis and Kelly, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Along with the rest of the Top 11 finalists, he participated in the American Idol Tour that season.
He appeared in a documentary, Different Is The New Normal, that focused on a teen's effort to overcome Tourette syndrome.
Durbin was managed by 19 Entertainment, alongside fellow contestants Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart. It was announced that he was signed to Wind-up Records on September 5, 2011.
On May 28, 2011, Durbin and the other American Idol top 4 performed at the opening of the new Microsoft Store at Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta, Georgia.
Durbin, along with fellow contestants Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, and Haley Reinhart, released a Walmart Exclusive EP with his highlights from American Idol. The tracks feature "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," "Uprising" and a previously unreleased recording of "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)."
Durbin started working on his debut album after appearing on American Idol, and wrote with a number of people, such as James Michael and Marti Frederiksen, as well as his favorite band Hardcore Superstar. The album was produced by Howard Benson. He recorded a track entitled "Stand Up" for the album Official Gameday Music of the NFL, Volume 2 which was released for sale on September 27, 2011. The song was also included in his album.
On November 21, 2011, Durbin released the album, titled Memories of a Beautiful Disaster. The album debuted at number 36 on the Billboard 200, at number eight on the Billboard Rock Chart, number 25 on the Digital Album Chart, and sold 28,000 the first week. Two singles were released to radio simultaneously - "Love Me Bad" was released to Top 40 radio stations, while "Stand Up" was released to rock radio.
Durbin released a Christmas single, "Santa Claus Is Back in Town" on November 27, 2012, which was an exclusive prime at Yahoo! Music.
Durbin performed "Love Me Bad" on Conan & "Higher Than Heaven" on American Idol in support of his album.
Durbin's second album, Celebrate was released April 8, 2014. Produced by Scott "The Ninja" Stevens, Durbin co wrote songs with Scott Stevens, Ted Bruner, Griffin Boyce & Stevie Aiello (among others). The first single from the album titled "Parachute" and was released on November 22, 2013.
Durbin performed "Parachute" on Conan in support of his album.
In 2015, Durbin raised funds for his third album via PledgeMusic. November of that same year Durbin released a Christmas EP, A Thrill of Hope. He released the video for his first single "Smackdown" through Loudwire.com and YouTube in April of the following year.
On April 7, 2016, Durbin returned to Idol for the final episode of the fifteenth season.
On Durbin's 28th birthday, he released a stop motion animated music video he made with his son Hunter (7) through Billboard.com and YouTube.
In 2016 James Durbin and Alex Grossi of Quiet Riot began work on the album project "Maps to the Hollywood Scars". "Volume 1" was released as a 5-song EP in February 2017. "Volume 2" is expected to follow in the summer of 2017.
March 2017, Durbin announced via his Facebook page that he had joined Quiet Riot, as their new lead singer, stating: " Well...The rumors are TRUE TRUE TRUE!! I am the official singer of Quiet Riot!!!!! Words I never imagined I would utter. I want to thank my brothers Alex Grossi, Frankie Banali & Chuck Wright for having me. We're not wasting any time in coming to make you Feel The Noize, Bang Your Heads & Party All Night! Stay up to date by following Quiet Riot & www.QUIETRIOT.band/shows I can't wait to entertain you!! Are you ready?? -JD".
The band later reported that their upcoming album, Road Rage would be re-recorded prior to its release to feature Durbin on lead vocals. Seann "Tarsha" Nichols, the band's former lead singer, had toured with the band as vocalist for some time and had originally recorded vocals for the album.
James Durbin is married to Heidi Air Lowe. They have a son named Hunter, and a daughter named Kinzee Cruz. The couple were married on December 31, 2011. He has a passion for pro wrestling.