Rene: 'X Factor' Star Talks Addiction, Fatherhood and Music's Poor Role
Models During In House Q&A
Posted on Apr 6th 2012 1:30PM by Contessa Gayles
"When it comes to
recovery, you don't promise anything, to anyone -- ever." "X
Factor" third-place finalist Chris Rene may have come a long
way from his days as an alcoholic and drug addict, but he's the first
to acknowledge that he's still got a long way to go. The 29-year-old
Santa Cruz, Calif. native became an instant favorite when he told
his story of conquering his demons on the "X Factor" audition
stage -- then even more after he performed his own original song about
those struggles. "Young Homie" is now the new Epic signee's
With just a month until his one-year anniversary of sobriety, Chris
stopped by AOL Music's New York office for an exclusive In House interview
and photo shoot. During our time together, he told us about the promise
he made to Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid that he may not be able to keep,
his disappointment in music industry "role models," and
his 3-year-old son Ryan's reaction to seeing his dad on TV.
At the time of your "X Factor" audition, you were only 70
days clean and sober. Was there ever a point during the competition
when you felt overwhelmed by all the pressure, and that maybe you
jumped into this huge undertaking to soon?
Not once did I feel pressured in a way that made me want to use or
drink. I felt motivated and pushed in the opposite direction. I had
a responsibility to have people see me, and see what I went through,
and see me overcoming.
You made a deal with Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid during your audition
to stay off drugs and alcohol if they put you through to the next
Part of that is real, and part of it's not. I can make a promise,
but when it comes to recovery, you don't promise anything, to anyone,
ever. For people who aren't alcoholics and who don't know what it's
like, it sounds good, and yes, I wish I could do that for the res
of my life. I can't guarantee I'm not going to. I can want to, and
know that I'm going to do everything I can each and every day I wake
So when they said on live TV, "If we put you through you have
to stay clean," I was like, "For sure." But if one
of those days I slipped, it would have been over -- not only for "The
X Factor," but for my life. Hopefully I'll have a year [of sobriety]
one month from today. They're waiting to have a party for me at my
rehab center in Santa Cruz.
What was the turning point
for you during your addiction?
I was just too messed up. It was just too much. So many years of doing
this, the same repetitive cycle -- it was like, it's time to wake
up or die.
You could have been written off as just a drug addict. Were you surprised
by all of the fan support that you got, and how much the "X Factor"
viewers embraced you?
Yes. I was so happy! They edited a lot of stuff out, but when I said
I was an alcoholic and drug addict in recovery, it was like [simulates
cheering noises]. I was like, "What? Whoa!" That was so
At what point in your recovery were you when you wrote "Young
At that point I had an apartment, I had a job, I had a car, I was
clean, I had my son. Life was good. I wrote the song in case people
were having a bad time, or in case I was going to go down hill and
having a bad time -- this would hopefully lift me back up and bring
positive light to the situation.
It was very brave of you to use that original song for your audition,
rather than someone else's hit that everyone would be familiar with.
It was weird from other people's perspectives, but for me it was just
all I could do. If I were to sing someone else's song, it just wouldn't
work, and I couldn't learn them either. I thought, "Maybe I'll
do something by Chris Brown. He's a gnarly singer and he's famous."
And I tried, and I just couldn't learn his song. And then there was
Cee Lo, I was going to do one of his, but then I thought, "Why
would I? How could I?" So, I called "X Factor" and
said, "I'm not coming this year." And they said "Why
not?" I said, "I'm going to work on my sobriety ... and
I can't learn anyone else's song, I can only do my song." And
they said, "So come."
Now that everyone knows your story, are you comfortable with taking
on the role model position that is often expected of celebrities and
people living in the public eye?
I'm comfortable. If people are inspired by me to do something that
they didn't think they could do, that's the thing right there! There
are so many people that are "role models," but they're not
good role models. Their music is not promoting growth in any way.
It's stopping growth. It inspires me to go out and do the opposite.
I'm not going to name names, but when it comes to hip-hop especially,
I just want to do the opposite of whatever they say. I'm stoked.
What has your son's reaction been to seeing you on "The X Factor"
and your subsequent fame?
It's exciting and it's crazy for him to see his dad on TV and for
everyone to know him and be singing this "Young Homie" song.
He's 3 years old and he calls me and starts singing, "Hey young
homie what you trippin' on?" It's insane.
Now that Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger are off the show, who
do you think should replace them?