Anyone who knew Chris Medina before American Idol would vouch for his talent.
The Chicago native and now Oak Forest resident spent the bulk of his teenage years behind a mic, guitar in hand—as the frontman for four different bands. Before his name bounced around the Oprah Winfrey show, Access Hollywood and YouTube, former was a staple on the Chicago music scene. He always believed it was just a matter of time before one of his bands would break into the industry in a big way.
It's no surprise to family and friends, then, that 28-year-old Medina continues to make a go at a music career, riding the wave of last year's powerful
Since his appearance on the show, Medina's single What Are Words has sold 97,000 copies in the U.S., and has gone quadruple platinum in Norway and double platinum in Sweden. He has written and released a full album and traveled to Sweden, Norway, Singapore and France. He has performed before crowds of 70,000—a far cry from the smaller, south suburban stages of his roots.
In his early music endeavors, he had always expected it to be a slow climb for his band The Able Body—an "evolution," as he called it. He had hoped their brand of progressive/indie rock would set them apart from others.
But things changed after a fateful night in October 2009, when .
Medina set aside his music and devoted himself to her recovery—until she insisted he audition for the singing competition. Their heartwrenching story of unconditional love and undying devotion touched hearts worldwide.
Although his run on the show was short-lived, his mother Gloria Medina noticed a difference in the singer.
"Idol came like a breath of fresh air," she said. "His whole demeanor changed.
"He was laughing more, smiling more—there was some sort of goodness back in his life. Idol made him feel like he was worthy again. The whole world—them embracing him—the whole world was falling in love with him. It validated the pain he went through, he had a twinkle back in his eye."
The show opened doors for Medina. The single drew international attention and led him to producer David Eriksen, who went on to help Medina land a record deal with Norwegian label Eccentric. In late November, Eccentric released Medina's debut album, What Are Words.
The pop sound isn't quite the type of music she envisioned him making, Gloria said—and Medina agreed. His earlier work had an edgier feel. But as the single and his love story attracted more attention, Medina shifted his focus in songwriting while composing the album. His fans loved what they saw of him on the show, and he wanted to give them more of that.
"There's more people out there falling in love with his music now," Gloria said. "As a mother, I'm very proud of who he is as a person."
On Jan. 29, Medina will set out for Denmark and Finland, where he hopes to tap into a fresh market where his story is less known. Ultimately, he wants to return to the U.S. and attempt to break into the American music industry.
Part 2: WATCH Medina talk about his album and experiences breaking into the music industry.
Part 3: WATCH Medina address his future with fiancé Juliana Ramos, including the topic of marriage.