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Chris Rene: Q & A

WRITER Chris Casey

Newly signed Epic Records artist, Chris Rene has exploded onto the music scene after finishing third place on "The X Factor." The Santa Cruz-based rapper/singer/songwriter/musician enamored audiences with his raw talent and then-recent triumph in overcoming addiction. Masterfully capturing Rene’s struggles with substance abuse and his journey to recovery, the revamped “Young Homie” now boasts a fatter beat and smoother groove perfectly suited to Rene’s inspired fusion of hip-hop and soul-pop. This guy is an incredibly down-to-earth individual and very entertaining. He’s a family man that’s “Just trying to keep [his] house clean.” Check out our latest interview as Chris Rene sits down with Inked Magazine to talk about his struggles, his inspirations and his ink.

Inked Magazine: Can you tell us a bit about what it was like growing up in a musical family?

Chris Rene: I would hear stories about my grandfather (Leon Rene) and how he wrote ‘Rocking Robin’ and how he used to hang with Louie Armstrong aka Satchmo. All the stories about the 1920’s Jazz scene. We just loved music. My father had a studio outside his home and a studio in his house. I grew up around that. The studio in his house was fucking rad. It was set up like it’s own universe. Old school cutouts of planets hanging from the ceiling. A Grand Piano was even in there. Then the room with the mixing board was the space ship. The cockpit with all the controls basically. It was rad. My sister was in a band named Solstice in San Francisco. My brother was a Producer. I just watched them and thought it was so cool that they got to go to parties and be the source of entertainment.

Inked: Which musicians inspired you most in the beginning of your musical journey?

Rene: My family was naturally a driving force, but NOFX and Pennywise were big inspirations. I love Stevie Wonder, Dre, Tupac, Bone … between those artists I was able to hear a lot of messages and sound that I loved.

Inked: What was the first tune(s) you learned?

Rene: The first song I learned was the song we wrote. I wrote that shit and that was it. I was like "we’re writing and building our own shit". (Plays the air guitar and makes some power chord noises). We wanted to create (laughs).

Inked: What does the "last played" list look like on your iPod?

Rene: There's some Pantera, Van Morrison, Wiz Khalifa, some of that new Pink, Nicki Minaj. My playlist is Pop, Old School Rock, Hardcore Metal, Gangsta Rap and... Mozart. And can’t forget my new album, I’m Right Here.

Inked: Whom in the current music industry would you most like to do a tour/concert with?

Rene: Now that I’m signed to a label, it changes my thinking a bit. I would love Pennywise, but Wiz Khalifa definitely. I want to touch a new crowd and branch out as much as possible, but I like his sound and following.

Inked: Can you try to summarize the experience of auditioning for X-Factor and doing so well?

Rene: Going out on stage at my audition was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I stood behind the curtain waiting for the act before me to finish. (A Harley comes roaring on set as we’re talking and he let’s out an emphatic ’Yeeeeaaaah!’ Without skipping a beat he jumps back into his train of thought and answers the rest of the question). I was preparing to go out on a stage to perform for Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and LA Reid … and I’m like: "damn I’m not sitting in some garage somewhere wasting my life away doing drugs." I was just out of rehab and feeling like I had nothing to lose. I went out there fearless. Thinking "this is the change. I am going to sing my music. And this is going to be on TV". After performing and getting the incredible feedback (especially from LA), I felt like it was the beginning of what I had wanted to do my entire life. A lot of people give up or die. I was blessed, took advantage, and haven’t looked back.

Inked: Do you recommend the “reality tv/competition” route for others? What are some of the first things that come to mind when I ask that?

Rene: People can think of it like damn I have to go out in front of all these people or they can see it as I get to go out in front of all these people. The latter is the way to view it in my eyes or you aren’t really in love with this way of life. For a new artist, it’s an opportunity for the artists and labels to get together and test things out. I used to think [these reality competition shows] were all fake. Plastic people in my mind. But then I go do it and realize that was just a projection, something I conjured up and created. Shows like that are definitely worth the shot. It’s great publicity and a great experience.

Inked: Who was the coolest judge to talk with off camera?

Rene: I like girls, so Paula was my favorite. She’s also a legend.

Inked: Coming off the success of your X-Factor run, what or whom do you look to most to keep you motivated and focused?

Rene: My two sons, friends, family, and God. They are the reason I do this. I get all the inspiration I need from them.

Inked: What is most important to you when making your music?

Rene: It’s about entertaining and making music that rocks. I like to provide a distraction from the shit in life that sucks. All of us have problems, some more severe, but we all have problems. So I concentrate on making the best product I can and connecting with my fans.

Inked: What are your upcoming plans for music (i.e. projects, collaborations, tours, etc.)?

Rene: I’m promoting the EP, I’m Right Here. Getting word out and letting people know what I’m about.

Inked: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Rene: For the artists out there that are rising, just keep going and have no fear. Do what you do and don’t stop having fun with it. No fear and believing in yourself will do incredible things for you.

Inked: When not doing something with music, what do you like to do most?

Rene: Hang with my boys and love life. I go to the beach. I’m just trying to keep my house clean.

Inked: Who are a few tattoo artists you haven't been Inked by, but would like to be?

Rene: There are so many. Do you have any Cali. recommendations? I know you know some dope cats.

Inked: Which is your favorite tattoo and why?

Rene: "Love Life" It's on my knuckles, right in front of my face, and will always be a good message. Shout out to Tiffany Wells ad Cub for zapping this message on me.