X Factor finalist Chris Rene is in New Zealand and has joined us for a live-chat today. The 29-year-old who had just come out of rehab when he applied for the first X Factor US season last year, made a splash with his original song entitled Young Homie.
Although born in a family of musicians it wasn't a smooth ride into the business for Rene.
His grandfather, Leon Rene, is a famous songwriter and record label owner, and his father played piano, which gave a very young Chris a very early music education.
"I would just watch my dad play piano as a little kid," recalls Rene. "He didn't teach me, but I watched and observed. And, I grew up knowing my grandpa was a songwriter, who wrote 'Rockin' Robin' [Michael Jackson], 'When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano' [Bobby Day], and 'When It's Sleepytime Down South' [Louis Armstrong]. So, my mom was really supportive and would let me and my band practice in the laundry room."
Despite the serious R&B pedigree from his family, Rene chose a different musical path. It was punk rock, the skate scene, and later rap that made him want to pursue a life in music.
But soon Rene's rebellious ways grew beyond punk music and into the drug world, which derailed his band and nearly killed him. "Drugs had a hold of me for almost a decade. I wasn't even living. I was slowly dying and there were many occasions that I almost died," he explains, noting that his troubles started with pot then progressed to meth, cocaine, and crack.
Rene, now a father of two sons, got clean in 2006. Blending his favourite musical styles into one, he released his first solo record, Soul'd Out, in 2009. He soon fell off the wagon, only to find recovery again as of April 20, 2011 and today works his program daily to stay clean.
You can replay the chat here: