With his soulful, folksy interpretations of modern pop songs and a nice-guy image, Kris Allen managed to win over millions of voters to become the season eight winner of Fox's hit reality competition series, "American Idol" (2002- ). Kristopher Neil Allen was born on June 21, 1985 in Jacksonville, AR to Kim Allen and Neil Allen, a former musician. The future "Idol" winner's interest in music began at an early age; in elementary school, he played the viola, and then taught himself to play the guitar, piano and ukulele at age 13. After high school, Allen moved to Conway, AR to study business at the University of Central Arkansas, but he dropped out in his junior year to release an album titled Brand New Shoes (2006). In 2008, Allen's younger brother persuaded him to audition for the eighth season of "American Idol" in Louisville, KY. While he failed to impress judge Simon Cowell, who told the soft-spoken hopeful that he lacked personality, Allen advanced to the semi-finals round in Hollywood.