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Vince Durrell, aka Vintege, just before his audition for X-Factor and the semifinals for South Coast Idol.
Vince Durrell, aka Vintege, just before his audition for X-Factor and the semifinals for South Coast Idol. (Ben Murray / S&S)

RAF MILDENHALL — Vince Durrell looks like a lot of the young hopefuls who compete in the “American Idol”-style contests that have become the launch pad for so many musical careers.

Well-spoken and well-dressed, he’s got the youthful optimism that drives singers to put themselves in front of picky audiences and fickle judges in the effort to kick-start a career.

Though he looks 25, at 39 Durrell, aka Vintege, has a bit more experience than some of his competitors, which may be part of the secret to his recent successes in major British musical contests.

Last week Durrell, the younger brother of a retired Air Force member who lives in the Mildenhall area, competed in the semifinal round of the regional, untelevised competition “Live and Unsigned South Coast Idol” and the opening round of the show “The X Factor,” a British talent competition along the lines of “American Idol.”

By Friday, there was good news and bad news. Though he had made it through two rounds of the “South Coast Idol” contest, he failed to advance to the final round of eight singers.

“I think I was a little too much for them,” he said of why he thought he was cut. Durrell went for a big finish on the song “Lately” by Stevie Wonder and said he thought the judges found it slightly “overwhelming.”

On the bright side, however, he got a foot in the door with the juggernaut of televised singing contests in a successful audition for the “The X Factor.” On June 4, Durrell will go for a second audition, which, if he passes, will have him taking the shot of a lifetime in front of “celebrity judges” Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne and other yet-to-be-named judges, he said.

Last week’s performances certainly weren’t the first for Vintege, who moved to England from Los Angeles in November.

In L.A., Durrell sang a cappella on the TV show “Jack and Jill,” which used singers during transitions on the show. He also performed on an episode of “Girlfriends.”

He’s even performed in front of “American Idol” judges Cowell and Randy Jackson. To get in front of the two high-powered talent judges, Durrell spent about a year at Disneyland, where he sang in a group at the park’s attraction called “Soaring over California,” he said. The group landed a guest spot on “The Wayne Brady Show” in 2003, attended by Cowell and Jackson. That gave Durrell the opportunity for a sort-of practice run in front of the caustic Cowell, should he move on in “The X Factor.”

In addition to his live performances and TV work, Durrell has released several albums in different genres, including what he called “positive pop,” “urban” and “smooth R&B.”

Vintege also does a lot of karaoke singing and has hosted karaoke nights at the Galaxy Club on RAF Mildenhall.

But contests don’t pay the bills, and to keep cash coming in, Durrell works at a car wash near Mildenhall while he pursues his musical interests.

Before going into last week’s events, however, Durrell said he wasn’t too nervous about the performances. He’d received good reviews from some of the judges in the previous “South Coast Idol” rounds and wasn’t too intimidated by the star-making potential that comes with an audition at “The X Factor.”

“This could be the difference in my future,” he said. “This could be the start of something good.”

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