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MAR
20
9 MOS

'American Idol' Season 13: C.J. Harris Was Introduced to Music by His Grandfather

After failed auditions for 'The X Factor' and 'The Voice,' the Alabama singer decided to 'get it together.'

C.J. Harris
Michael Becker/FOX
C.J. Harris

The Hollywood Reporter sat down with American Idol's season 13 finalists to give an in-depth look at the top 10, including their earliest memories of music, when they knew music would be their career choice and what led to their decision to audition for the singing competition.

Meet the rest of the top 10 singers here.

C.J. Harris
Jasper, Alabama
Born: Jan. 28, 1991

Harris will never forget the first time he knew music was going to play an important role in his life. “I was six years old and my mom was in prison. She would sing to me over the phone and tears would just flow out of my eyes. When I was a little older, my granddad gave me a guitar. He had one in the shed and it had three strings on it. He said I didn't need to buy a whole new set of strings. So I would tune it in a way that when I strummed it, it sounded like it's in a key of whatever. I find different sounds. I just love music so I really try to find a sound that I really like and just play it. I know that's weird, but that's what I do.”

PHOTOS: 'American Idol' Season 13 Meet the Top 10 Singers

Harris’ grandfather did much more than give him a guitar. “My granddad had me working and hunting in the summertime. I was shoveling dirt and gravel. He showed me how to cook and how to run a business. He helped me so much with becoming a man. It's a big reason why I am who I am today.”

Growing up, Harris was influenced by Usher and Keith Sweat. “In high school I got into country music and blues and rock music. I can play piano, too. That's something I haven't done on the show yet which I can't wait to do.”

When he was a little older, Harris discovered Hootie and the Blowfish. “Everybody said they reminded them of me. I started playing their tunes and seeing what I could do with them. Darius Rucker has really influenced me in so many ways. I'd love to meet him someday.” (Idol producers, are you listening?)

STORY: 'American Idol,' Get to Know Season 13’s Top 10 Singers

Harris auditioned for Idol once before, in 2010. “I never made it past the first round,” he told THR.  “I auditioned for The X-Factor. I auditioned for The Voice and I never got through, and it hurt me. It really did. So I went back home and that's what made me stop playing in bars. I wanted to get it together and find out who I am.

“I was always on the internet, trying to find a break, looking for which producers I could send my stuff to. I searched for American Idol and I saw they were doing the bus tour and they were going to be 30 minutes down the road from me. “I said, ‘You know what? I'm going to give it another chance. I've gotten so much better, my voice has matured and my playing has gotten so much better. I'm 23, before you know it I'll be 33 and I want to give it another chance.’”

It’s early in the season but Harris has already had a taste of what it’s like to be famous. “Everywhere I go I've been recognized, like at Taco Bell, the mall and airports. People ask me, ‘Are you C.J. Harris?’ I think, ‘What in the world is going on?’ I'm shocked. I don’t know them, they’re from a whole other world than me, but they know who I am. It's amazing.”