WebExclusive: ‘X Factor’ contestant and Santa Cruz local Chris Rene wows judges, advances to top 17
It’s been almost a month since 28-year-old Chris Rene brought “The X Factor” stadium audience to its feet during the TV series’ debut episode. Since that fateful performance of his original R&B/rap song, “Young Homey,” the Santa Cruz raised garbage collector and recovering drug addict has been consistently wowing the show’s judges—particularly Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid—with his onstage charisma, down-to-earth personality, and, most importantly, his voice. After performing “Everyday People” by Sly & The Family Stone for Reid and Rihanna on Sunday’s top 32 episode, Rene earned the opportunity to advance to the top 17, as part of the group set to perform live next week. Eager to enter the public-voting round of the competition, beginning Tuesday, Oct. 25, Rene took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with GT about his experience on “The X Factor,” performing in front of music superstars, how Santa Cruz has shaped him as a person, and what he plans to do if he wins.
GOOD TIMES: How does it feel to make it through to the live round?
CHRIS RENE: It’s the best feeling ever! I feel like a king!
What are you most looking forward to in the competition?
CHRIS: I look forward to performing—I like to get down onstage. No matter what happens I’m just happy to be here.
What was it like singing in front of Rihanna?
CHRIS: Haha! It was nerve-wracking. It was definitely intimidating—especially coming from a small town.
Was it hard to see your sister Gina get eliminated from the competition?
CHRIS: That was the hardest part for me. Seeing that made me appreciate where I was at. They want to see me step up. I was excited to make it though—it was a trip.
How do you think you’ll do in the public voting round?
CHRIS: We’ll have to see what the performances are like. It all depends on the performances.
Do you prefer singing your own original songs or songs by other artists?
CHRIS: I like doing my own songs, it’s second nature. Doing other songs is a challenge because I have to put my own spin on them.
When you first stepped on to “The X Factor” stage, did you think you would end up where you are today?
CHRIS: I didn’t know what was gonna happen! I just knew I was gonna give it my best.
How has this experience changed you?
CHRIS: I’ve learned a lot. I got to work with some of the most amazing people in the industry. It’s beyond me. Whatever happens is what the higher power wants for me.
How has Santa Cruz helped shape you into the person you are today?
CHRIS: I love Santa Cruz! I love my hometown. Santa Cruz has given me so much. I got a lot of songs on my first CD about Santa Cruz. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, and it has helped me through by turning bad decisions into good. The scenery is so beautiful and to know people everywhere you go—I love that.
What are you competing for?
CHRIS: It’s hard work. If I end up [winning] it’s gonna be CDs, albums, tours, and raising my son. It’s gonna be a hard, but beautiful journey. Even if I don’t make it, I’ve still been working on albums for the last two years, so I have a lot of material. If I do win the money, I want to start my own rehab [center]. I want to find my own counselors and help other people who are going through what I went through. It helped me, why can’t I help other people?
What does your son think of the show?
CHRIS: Ya, he’s seen it. He’s like, “It’s me and daddy on TV!” At age 3, you get it, and it’s super cool.
I can’t even explain to you guys how excited I am—Wooo! Santa Cruz baby!
Tune into FOX on Tuesday, Oct. 25 to see Rene compete in the public-voting round of “The X Factor.”