Dillon James

Dillon James, a Bakersfield local, is one of seven finalists for season 18 of "American Idol." The finale airs Sunday on ABC.

Dillon James has turned tribulation into a triumph.

Now one of the final seven contestants in the current season of "American Idol," the Bakersfield native has been open about his struggles with addiction that left him homeless sleeping in a parking garage. He turned to his family and religion to help him on the road to recovery.

"I am grateful every day for the second chance that I have been given at life and want to help people that are ready to give up, see that there can be light at the end of that tunnel," James said in a previous interview with The Californian. 

In the season's penultimate episode, which aired on Mother's Day, James sang a cover of "Our Town" and "Hang On, Hang On" as an ode to his mother. This performance helped him advance to this weekend's "American Idol" finals.

"American Idol" finishes its 18th season with the live show, airing 8 p.m. Sunday on ABC, that will feature judges and contestants filming from their homes, which is a first for the long-running singing competition. 

James answered seven questions with The Californian before the finale of "American Idol."

Q: How does it feel to be in the final seven of "American Idol"?

A: It feels like a dream, like an out-of-body experience, but it feels great to be in the top seven.

Q: Obviously the production of the show has changed, with the contestants performing from their homes. How does this affect your performance? Do you miss the energy of a huge crowd?

A: Well, everything for "American Idol" is being filmed in my backyard with the help of my family, so I feel pretty relaxed in that environment. Although when it comes time to film the performance for the show, I still get nervous. Performing in front of a crowd is always great, you feed off all that energy like in Hawaii, but to be honest I am just glad that "American Idol" found a way to keep the show going even from home.

Q: Speaking of being in quarantine, how has it been treating you? Have you found yourself more productive during this time?

A: Being quarantined really hasn’t been that different for me, I am a homebody. I do all my music from my studio in my house and I have been so busy with "American Idol" that the days are flying by. What has been nice is spending so much time with the whole family because they are all home, too, except for my older brother, Garrett, who lives in Kansas.

Q: After your performance of "Yesterday," Lionel Richie said you had a voice that was identifiable to you — which seems like the highest praise a singer could achieve. What's your secret to having a sound that is so uniquely yours?

A: I did feel it was a great compliment when Lionel Richie told me I had a sound that was uniquely mine. I think every artist strives to be unique, to be set apart from the rest, to stand on their own. So to hear those words from someone that I admire so much was a moment I won’t forget.

Q: You've covered some classic songs on "American Idol" so far. Are there any songs that would be a dream to cover?

A: (Canadian singer-songwriter) Dallas Green is someone that I have looked up to my entire life. It would be an honor for me to cover any of his songs.

Q: You performed your original song "Tierra Dulce" on "American Idol." Do you feel more vulnerable playing your own music as opposed to covers?

A: If I had a choice to do covers or play originals, originals would win hands down. I have always been more comfortable playing my own songs than doing a cover of someone else’s.

Q: So far, how has your time on "American Idol" changed your life?

A: My family and I are literally filming a television show in my backyard, so I would have to say everything has changed. It has been such a great experience getting to know all of the people at "American Idol." I have made lifelong friends. Although it has been a lot of work, I’m so grateful for the opportunities the show has given me and I wouldn’t change a thing.

James' music can be found at iTunesSpotifyYouTube and most streaming services. For more on the performer, visit his Instagram @Dillonjames21 or go to dillonjames.com.

Bowen West can be reached at 661-395-7660.

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