Charlotte 17-year-old takes on Fox's ‘X Factor’

10/08/2012 7:38 PM

10/09/2012 10:13 AM

Owen Stuart, a 17-year-old senior at Northwest School of the Arts, has made it through several rounds of Fox Network’s show “The X Factor.”

Stuart, a singer/rapper from Buffalo, N.Y., said he thrives under competition pressure. So far, said Fox spokesman Brian Rubin, Owen has been on eight episodes in this year’s competition and made it to the X Factor weeklong boot camp in Miami. The first show from boot camp aired Oct. 3; episodes are taped in advance until the live portion of the competition, which begins in November. Neither Rubin nor Owen will say how far he gets.

More than 120 acts made it to boot camp, Rubin said, but only half remain, and Owen is one of them.

Owen has been singing since age 6, he said, and finds himself drawing inspiration from hip-hop artists. “Singing is my escape from everything else in life.”

He said his greatest challenge so far has been moving from New York to Charlotte, in September 2011.

“It was hard to leave behind friends and my girlfriend,” Owen said. “It’s hard to leave somewhere you’ve started your life.” If he won the competition and its $5 million prize, he would move to New York City.

In his first performance in front of judges, Owen told judge Simon Cowell he would call his first album “The Fallout,” inspired by the experience of moving to North Carolina. For that performance, Owen sang “Airplanes” by B.o.B., featuring Hayley Williams. In his version, Owen raps his own lyrics.

Teenage girls in the audience sang along and gave Owen a standing ovation.

Judges had mixed reactions, mostly positive, though Britney Spears said Owen didn’t “wow” her, and sipped a Pepsi during his audition piece, looking uninterested. During the show, he said he was determined to prove the pop star wrong.

“Auditioning in front of the judges and the crowd was really life-changing,” Owen told the Observer. “I learned that you have to know who you are as an artist.”

He admits he still gets nervous before every performance and has not developed a technique to shake the nerves before going onstage. “It doesn’t matter the crowd size, I always get nervous,” he said.

Owen’s advice to other young singers: “You should give it your all, because you never know who’s watching.”

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