X FACTOR LIVE DISCUSSION + Meet Playback's Johnny Maxwell

The American One Direction are set to find their fate tonight!

"Single Johnny Maxwell is just 16 years old, but he’s got the swagger of his idols Justin Bieber and Drake combined."

The California boy charmed judges with his original rap during his X Factor Season 2 audition, following it up with a bonus Bieber cover. Well played, kid. On Twitter during the show, judge Britney Spears called Johnny “adorable.”

Johnny is a junior at Castro High, according to this Patch profile, and has been writing original raps for some time. Johnny also looks to be quite the ladies’ man, according to his profile page. We can’t wait to see more of this kid!

He auditioned as a solo artist and made it to the boot camp rounds. At the end of boot camp, the judges decided to put him in the group category and advanced him to the judge’s home for rounds with a newly formed group called Playback. Playback consists of 6 young males aged 16-17 who all auditioned as solo artists.

I spoke with Johnny Maxwell about auditioning for the X Factor. Here is what he had to say.

Belinda: Thanks for taking the time out and talking to me. I wanted to find out what made you decide to try out for the X Factor?

Johnny: I was so certain that I wanted to do music and I wanted to do it as a career, like something that I do as a living. And I knew that it’s so hard to get into that part of music where you are getting paid, doing it as a career. And then when my mom told me about the X Factor... she read it off of an email. When she told me that, at first I was kind of skeptical because there are so many great artists out there making all this. Then I told myself I am a great artist too and I think I really have a good shot at the show. Before we know it comes time for the auditions and I just go out there and do my thing.

Belinda: You tried out back in June in San Francisco. Were you familiar with the show? Did you watch a little bit of last season?

Johnny: I watched the last season. I was in and out. The main reasons why I watched the show was that I would tune in to see Astro’s new song that he was doing because I grew to really admire his lyrics. You know the stuff that he could really put together was just crazy, and it limits him to just his potential of writing and I respected that. And also Chris Renee – those are my two artists I really admired on the show. The main reason why I did admire them was because before they became these big stars they were just everyday people. Astro was probably going to school and Chris Renee was working his job. And I just thought hey I am in the same position right now so who says I can’t go out and do what they are doing. That was one of my biggest inspirations for doing the show.

Belinda: That’s great. Now you are 16 years old and you did something that most people don’t do and they suggest you don’t sing an original song. What made you think to go with an original song as opposed to picking a cover song?

Johnny: What made me pick an original song opposed to a cover was that I joined the show for one huge reason overall and that reason was to get my feelings and my message out to the world and my stories and because I just felt with my all heart that everybody out there was probably feeling what I am feeling. And listening to other artists, the really great ones that separate the good from the great are the ones that make songs music that people can relate to because that’s what people want to hear. It’s almost like for those who don’t have a father or mother figure in their life it’s almost like it’s a replacement for that because those stories or those lessons you have to be told except through music and a lot of people nowadays they don’t get that. They learn a lot through music. It’s a beautiful piece of art when you think about it because there are some people who probably don’t take speeches well and when they listen to music it’s as if they are taking a speech that says watch out or I feel you on this without them even knowing it because it’s been put in music.

Belinda: It’s a great song. How long have you had the song? Did you write is specifically for the audition? Or were you already working on it before?

Johnny: Originally, I believe it was a couple of months ago, I had found some beat on YouTube, I didn't know what beat it was and I was kind of vibing with it. And said okay. I wanted to make an inspirational song because I made a lot of songs in the past about girls and whatnot and I really wanted to expand and really show people my artistic side of the music and my creativity. I don’t know if that makes sense…. as far as lyrics go. That’s why the chorus… because I was thinking my head “What do I want tell them?” Basically what came out was I want to do it big in front of everybody…. I want to show everybody that hey this kid’s got something. From there I ran it because I had the chorus, and then from there I didn't want to use the YouTube beat or anything… I wanted to make it my own. I started sitting on, almost to the point where I just forgot about it. I think three months later I remembered the song “I am Coming Home” by J. Cole… by P. Diddy. I really liked the vibe of the song and just said hey I want to make a song with that kind of vibe.

From there I said alright let me write some words so I ended up writing two verses to the actual “I’m Coming Home” track. Okay but I want to make it my own… how do I make it my own? I called up my boy and asked him… I want a beat that sounds cool. I talked to him about X Factor and I really think people would take something from this if I could get it to sound good because he is really good at what he does. I went to his house and he and I collab... on the beat and I gave him my input and he kind of puts it on the program and we just started from there.

I know it’s a long story… but basically I get the verses on there and I needed a chorus and that was the chorus that I actually put in there because I was thinking alright let’s build it off of this I remember this chorus – I really feel that people could really take something from this. I just start singing the chorus and he starts building part of the beats from that chorus. From there we got the whole beat going. The progression of it. It all feels right and it kind of with everything that I was doing. I just had a great feeling about it. This is going to be the one. This going to be the one. I know a lot of people skeptical about me doing an original.

Belinda: Yes LA Reid was the first one to say “Uh Oh” about you doing an original. What was your reaction to the judges when LA Reid, Simon [Cowell], Britney [Spears] and Demi [Lovato], all said yes and all had positive comments?

Johnny: My reaction was… I was wowed. I mean I could not believe it. Because I see these shows, and I see all the great people that are on this show and that get all this positive feedback and get four yeses. You look at and you watch and it’s an amazing thing to see. For such an amazing thing to happen to me it left me speechless. I was barely able to say anything back to them. Is this really happening? Are they really liking my song? You know what I mean. Even LA said it’s great doing an original because you put yourself out there that much more doing your song opposed to a well known song. To get all that good feedback it just made me feel good so good inside because I wrote this song and here you have these high ranked music people enjoying the song, and liking it and vibing with it – it’s just crazy. It makes you feel that you are meant to do what you are doing.

Belinda: There is a lot of good feedback about you online from after the show aired. How long have you been singing and rapping?

Johnny: I started off rapping about a year and half ago I think with some iPod headphones and Garage Band, that my cousin had introduced me to. When I wrote my first song with him, I fell in love in with it. This is so fun, I want to go to house all the time. He lived in Heywood and I lived in Castro Valley. It was almost a 30 or 40 minute commute every day if I wanted to go there. My parents would say you are always going over there but I need to make sure you get back on time. I almost knew every time I wouldn't be back on time because I wanted to do music until the very last moment until my parents would say I am going to get you because you been there all night. That’s how I felt.

Then my mom was singing with my church and I was vibing with the scene and thinking how cool would it be if I could say that I rap and I sing. So I think about four months ago I really got into the singing and rapping and I started trying to implement the choruses here and there. I really starting liking even though I didn't have any vocal training ever in my life but I really liked it. From there I just started progressing with both. And it’s been really a fun experience as far as the music world goes and making music. So I can expand my music that much more.

Belinda: Wow that’s great. You sound like natural on stage. Did you ever perform live or do you just practice at home?

Johnny: I performed live a couple of times. You know.. At a couple of schools or some at my church but nothing like the X Factor.

Belinda: Who are your musical influences? What artists do you like?

Johnny: The artists that are my inspirations would be Drake and second artist would be Justin Bieber.

Belinda: Why Justin & Drake?

Johnny: I have been a fan of Drake since he was on Degrassi …always been relatable that it’s just crazy, I like it and I saw his come up from the ground all the way to Young Money where he is right now. Almost the same thing with Justin Bieber. The main reason I admire about Justin Bieber, when he went he went through his phases of getting into the industry and locked in there - he didn’t let the hate phase him because there was so much hate. Let’s face it, not a lot of people like to see success. He didn't let it stop him from doing what he loves to do. And his music was also listenable … I felt I could relate…Respect for girls. And he made girls feel so special with his music and that’s what I want to do too. I want to make everybody feel like they are special. There are so many people out there. I want to make sure everyone knows they are capable of doing whatever they want, and that they should not let what somebody else is saying phase them.

Belinda: That’s fantastic. I want to thank you Johnny for taking time out and I wish you luck and am looking forward to seeing what happens on your time on the X Factor.

Johnny: No problem. Thank you

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Synopsis: The finalists for the live shows are revealed, finally.