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Chris 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 lead single.

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 round ...

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 up.

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 beautiful.

At what point in your recovery were you when you wrote "Young Homie"?

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?

Bill Clinton.