After getting the ax on Wednesday, Chikezie spent Thursday facing a fate far worse than Simon Cowell — television reporters. The following is what Chikezie had to say about his AMERICAN IDOL experience, the now infamous IDOL mosh pit and of course, his Grammy aspirations.
Along with David Cook you were one of the season’s biggest risk takers in terms of song choice and selection. I was curious about your take on both ‘She’s a Woman’ and ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’. Did you have any idea that they would play out as they did with the judges as far as reception and would you make the same risks again if you had the chance?
Chikezie: I had absolutely no clue how the judges would feel about it and I think that was why I did it because if I knew how they would respond then, it wouldn’t be as much fun.
Chikezie, you always seem to be one of the most joyous contestants I’ve seen in any area. You always seem to be smiling and happy. Is that real? Are you really that happy of a guy or are you just a guy who kind of smiles when he’s nervous?
I don’t smile– I tend to wear my emotions on my face most of the time so if I’m nervous, you can usually tell. I’d probably be like sweating without doing any kind of work, but I tend to be pretty happy because I just feel se blessed to be in this position – to have this opportunity. I’m really, really blessed.
And so in the final thing even when you were voted out, I mean it looked a minute like you were unhappy, but even then you were showing some smiles. What was your mood last night and what’s your mood right now?
Last night, I was glad that none of the other guys had to go home. Honestly it was because that’s probably the hardest part of the show – saying good-bye to your friends. I mean things couldn’t have gone better. I didn’t have to say good-bye to anybody and in all honesty, no one had to say good-bye to me because they’ll be seeing me again at tour.
What did you learn from your experience on Idol?
I learned that hard work pays off. Perseverance pays off. If you believe in something and you just fight with everything you have, you can get it.
What’s the best piece of advice you received and who was it from?
Best piece of advice I received. It was from a combination of people actually. It was from all the voice coaches – that’s Byrd, Dorian, Matt, Michaelo, and from Ricky Minor. They got together and told me to be true to myself and that was probably the best advice that anyone could have given me.
You mentioned I think on Tuesday that the band encouraged you to sing the song that you did. Now are you upset that they gave you that advice or that you took it?
No. I’m very happy. I’m very happy. If I’d gotten another chance to do it, I’d do it the exact same way because that’s the only way that I could have gone home happy is by following my heart. If I’d done something that wasn’t me and then I’d gone home, I would have been so upset that I didn’t follow my heart. I would have been so upset and so distraught about it, but I’m so glad that I did what I did.
We saw a couple different sides of you on the show musically so I’m wondering what kind of music you would like to record in the future.
Basically, I love the idea of fusion. I love the idea of bringing together several different styles to make something – make something new – make something fresh – make something people have never heard before. I really respect artists like Gnarles Barkley who are willing to take risks with music and end up coming out on top because they believe in what they’re doing and they’re dedicated to it.
I wanted to ask about song selection. I know that was like the biggest thing that the judges have been harping on this year. I kind of wanted to know like how you decided on your songs this year?
I would listen to a song and first off, I would see if I could possibly change the song if I felt it had space for a change. Because you have so many songs that are so complete and just so established that you can’t even touch them and then you have more obscure ones that didn’t get that fame of the other ones that you think oh, maybe I could do this or that with. First if I see that potential, then I’ll go for that and see what I can do. If it’s a complete song, if it’s a song that you just can’t touch, then I will make the very most of it. It has to touch me, though, first.
Also we’ve talked to some other contestants this year who have had songs that they really wanted to sing, but because of the kind of first come first served basis, haven’t been able to sing. Were there any songs that you had wanted to sing, but that were already taken?
No, I never– Well okay there’s one thing, though. It’s kind of funny, but it didn’t really make a difference. Almost five of the songs that were sung on 80s night were from my year. So I thought that was pretty funny, but I mean, I honestly wouldn’t have picked any of those songs because all the songs that they picked were so right for them. So, no, that hasn’t been a case for me.
When you sang the other night, I thought you were great. I was thinking I was going to hear you know all this praise and then the judges – you know starting with Randy – they just say you’re not doing it or whatever. And I was surprised. Were you surprised because you really did a great job with that song?
I didn’t care. I didn’t care honestly. I already knew that Simon wasn’t going to feel it no matter what. I knew that when I picked the song that Simon was not going to like it. So I came in knowing that and I did a song anyway you know. I just had to do what I felt was right and that I felt represented me. So it didn’t make a difference.
You had said earlier before you sang that they said don’t do ballads or whatever. They sort of discouraged you it seemed and then you decided you were going to do it anyway. So were you nervous before you sang or were you just going to follow your own.
It’s kind of like running on a diving board. You know the diving board is eventually going to end so you run even faster. That’s the way I looked at it because I knew the judges – at least Simon would not like it. So it took a lot of the pressure off because then I didn’t have that to worry about. Now, I’m just performing for the sake of performing, which is what I love to do.
We saw your mother and pick up your family on the camera shots – a lot of reaction during your shows. Tell me what the atmosphere is like when you guys are rehearsing and stuff. Is your family your friends around or pretty much was it just you around?
I’m basically there on my own.
Did you sense any tensions obviously with the younger contestants like David Archuleta? He’s underage so his family is there. Did you notice any tensions between Idol people and David’s father?
Oh, nothing much. No, nothing at all actually. Everyone got together pretty well. You know there wasn’t any kind of rubbing anyone the wrong way. Everybody respected each other’s face.
So I just want to like be on the David Archuleta stuff. Can you speak to the relationships of what it’s like being an idol backstage with the other idols? The kind of relationships you form – the kind of friendships. Anyone dating anybody?
It becomes a family because you’re a group of people that are basically going for a similar goal and it’s not necessarily to win or to beat anyone, but simply to be successful in what it is we love. So we basically just form these bonds where we’re just helping each other out. We create this amazing support system. If one person is having a bad time, then two people come up and back them up, you know. We never have too many problems.
Did you notice any special relationships forming backstage? I know that there were rumors that … and David were dating and then rumors of course that Carly was pregnant. Did you notice any relationships blossoming backstage?
No, nothing more than friendships you know. Nothing more than friendships. If there was anything more than that, it would be awkward on tour.
I was just wondering now that you really have had this wonderful platform to showcase your music, where you really see yourself going musically and if you have any other aspirations in terms of acting. Blue sky scenario, just where would you like to see yourself in ten years?
In ten years, I would like to see myself getting at least one Grammy. That’s for starters. I really want to get started with my music career and get to work with that and start making albums and making music that makes me feel good and hopefully makes others feel good. Also I mean – acting – who knows – why not. Why not try everything you know? I’m the type of person that I like to see what I can do. I like to know what my boundaries are. You know I’m always testing myself to see what I can accomplish.
I just wanted to find out which was the mentor that you were looking forward to the most?
It would have to be Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber. I respect his body of work so very much. I mean when you’ve created a masterpiece like Jesus Christ Superstar, you know it’s just like – I mean – what an honor. I mean that would have been great to meet him and be able to perform his songs for him.
You had previous Idol auditioning experience before this year. Could you talk about sort of the difference between the Chikezie that auditioned previously and the Chikezie this year who we got to know?
The biggest difference probably is realizing that yes, I can sing, but what else. That was probably what hit me the hardest last year and the previous years that I had auditioned was okay, what’s wrong? Why aren’t I getting anywhere? Why don’t these people get what I’m trying to do and I came to the realization okay, I came to this competition thinking okay, all you’ve got to do is sing. Then you realize, hold on, that’s what everyone else is doing. So you sing, what else can you do? You know, can you perform? Can you work a stage? Can you entertain basically and that’s the realization that I had to come to to basically step myself up and get to where I got.
What was the process of realizing that you had reached the point where you were ready to be that different person?
Basically going to Hollywood last year and getting all the way to the very end of Hollywood, only to get sent home. That was probably what told me like okay, there’s something missing. I know there is. So what is it? And I just went home and studied, studied, studied. I studied music styles. I studied artists and I would videotape myself performing and look over it and say, what’s missing. Why aren’t people connecting? Why aren’t I connecting, you know?
I’d like to know sort of building on what the other gentleman was asking you, if you made it all the way to Hollywood last year, you got so close and then you were sent home. In your head, you must have been imagining what it would be like if you actually had gone through and made it. Can you talk to me about when you finally did go through, how did it compare with what you imagined it would be like?
That’s a really good question actually. Well last year when I had gotten sent home and everything, I went home and as I said before I worked and I worked and I worked and I worked. And all I expected to get out of it was to get to the next step and get to the top playing four is all I expected to get out of it. So when I got there I was like oh, wow, this is awesome. And it was so much easier. Not to say that it’s the easiest thing in the world. It’s very difficult, but it was easier than I thought it would be. I thought that I would have to be this person or look this way or act this way to get through, but I was just being myself and I made it. And then I kept going and going and oh, my goodness, this train is still moving you know. So it was just amazing how much and I really believe that it was God stepping in you know. Where I’ve done my part of the work and God is just doing the rest you know and He really carried me through this competition.
What was kind of going through your head yesterday before the results show? You know did you think you had a chance of being in the bottom three or were you surprised to be eliminated. What were you kind of thinking?
I knew I’d be in the bottom three. I knew I was going home and that was okay with me.
Is there a specific reason why you felt that way?
Because I had followed my heart throughout the entire competition and I knew that eventually I’d have to go home at some point. So I was fine that it was at some point where I’d still be able to come back and do the tour.
I’m wondering you know you talked about the tour a little bit and the kind of music that you’re envisioning, but when you were before Idol started, before all of this, what was really your dream? What did you picture for your life moving forward? Does this match it at all?
This magnitude – I mean I could never have imagined this for myself you know. This was just I mean God’s plan in the works you know. I never thought that I’d be doing things this big. Like before Idol came along and everything, I thought that maybe if I could just get by just singing here and there you know, maybe I’d be able to have some sort of a mini career or something. You know just something so I could look back and say I tried, you know. I had my time, but now it’s just like I could really do something with my life and with my career. It’s just amazing.
The mosh pit in the front of the stage – this is a new thing obviously for this year and all the swaying of arms – at least on TV it doesn’t look like it’s really with the music. So is it distracting to you guys or what do you think about all that?
No, it’s exciting. I mean I’ve never heard people scream so loud. It shocks you every time no matter what. I mean some of these little girls can throw their voices like no one’s business.