Chris Rene: Q & A
WRITER Chris Casey
PHOTOGRAPHER Jason Goodrich
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.