Thursday, I had the opportunity to participate in a media call with Chikezie. He is as nice as he looks on TV and Iím personally sad that he is gone. I wish him all the luck for his future endeavors.
Along with David Cook you were one of the seasonís biggest risk takers in terms of song choice and selection. I was curious about your take on both Sheís a Woman and Iíve 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 wouldnít be as much fun.
Is that something youíd do anything if you had the chance?
Chikezie: Oh, most definitely.
I know you talked a little bit about it on the radio this morning with Ryan Seacrest. Are you going to return to the TSA Choir?
Chikezie: Yes. Iíve been thinking about it Ė weighing my options and I feel that Iíd be best suited if I were to move on from the TSA Choir.
You originally came out with your full name Chikezie Ezie and then as the competition went, on you dropped it. I was wondering; why did you drop your last name?
Chikezie: The last name is actuallyÖ I dropped it for that exact reason because it was constantly mispronounced.
And no regrets dropping the last name? I guess ultimately it just made it easier for everybody.
Chikezie: Yes. Basically no regrets.
And what song would you have sung for Dolly Parton week? What were you preparing?
Chikezie: Nine to Five.
You always seem to be one of the most joyous contestants Iíve 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 heís nervous?
Chikezie: I donít smile-- I tend to wear my emotions on my face most of the time so if Iím nervous, you can usually tell. Iíd 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 Ė to have this opportunity. Iím 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 whatís your mood right now?
Chikezie: Last night, I was glad that none of the other guys had to go home. Honestly it was because thatís probably the hardest part of the show Ė saying good-bye to your friends. I mean things couldnít have gone better. I didnít have to say good-bye to anybody and in all honesty, no one had to say good-bye to me because theyíll be seeing me again at tour.
What did you learn from your experience on Idol?
Chikezie: 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.
Whatís the best piece of advice you received and who was it from?
Chikezie: Best piece of advice I received. It was from a combination of people actually. It was from all the voice coaches Ė thatís 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?
Chikezie: No. Iím very happy. Iím very happy. If Iíd gotten another chance to do it, Iíd do it the exact same way because thatís the only way that I could have gone home happy is by following my heart. If Iíd done something that wasnít me and then Iíd gone home, I would have been so upset that I didnít follow my heart. I would have been so upset and so distraught about it, but Iím so glad that I did what I did.
We saw a couple different sides of you on the show musically so Iím wondering what kind of music you would like to record in the future.
Chikezie: Basically, I love the idea of fusion. I love the idea of bringing together several different styles to make something Ė make something new Ė make something fresh Ė 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 theyíre doing and theyíre dedicated to it.
I read in your bio earlier that youíve never attended a concert. I was actually wondering if thatís true and if so, what was the stage like for you and you putting on your own kind of concert, you know?
Chikezie: Yes. I mean it is true first off. Itís just incredible. Itís incredible being able to do that Ė being able to get on stage and perform songs that you love.
How did you kind of know how to work the crowd since youíve never been to a concert and I know Simon was saying you were touching the girlsí hands in the front and everything? How did you know how to work the crowd?
Chikezie: I mean I donít know if itís like a thing - I didnít know that it was like a skill to be had. I mean you basically just do what you feel is right whenever youíre on stage and you basically do all that stuff that you say oh that would be cool if I could do that. And all the stuff that you do when you think nobodyís watching Ė just all the crazy stuff like oh, you know, if it comes to mind, why not. Just go for it.
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?
Chikezie: 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 canít even touch them and then you have more obscure ones that didnít 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 Iíll go for that and see what I can do. If itís a complete song, if itís a song that you just canít touch, then I will make the very most of it. It has to touch me, though, first.
Also weíve 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, havenít been able to sing. Were there any songs that you had wanted to sing, but that were already taken?
Chikezie: No, I never-- Well okay thereís one thing, though. Itís kind of funny, but it didnít 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 hasnít 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 Ė you know starting with Randy Ė they just say youíre not doing it or whatever. And I was surprised. Were you surprised because you really did a great job with that song?
Chikezie: I didnít care. I didnít care honestly. I already knew that Simon wasnít 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 didnít make a difference.
You had said earlier before you sang that they said donít 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 ownó
Chikezie: Itís kind of like running on a diving board. You know the diving board is eventually going to end so you run even faster. Thatís the way I looked at it because I knew the judges Ė at least Simon would not like it. So it took a lot of the pressure off because then I didnít have that to worry about. Now, Iím just performing for the sake of performing, which is what I love to do.
During the rehearsals and stuff or during not the camera time, is your family your friends? Are they around giving you advice or are you pretty much there on your own?
Chikezie: Iím basically there on my own.
Did you sense any tensions obviously with the younger contestants like David Archuleta? Heís underage so his family is there. Did you notice any tensions between Idol people and Davidís father?
Chikezie: Oh, nothing much. No, nothing at all actually. Everyone got together pretty well. You know there wasnít any kind of rubbing anyone the wrong way. Everybody respected each otherís face.
So I just want to like be on the David Archuleta stuff. Can you speak to the relationships of what itís like being an idol backstage with the other idols? The kind of relationships you form Ė the kind of friendships. Anyone dating anybody?
Chikezie: It becomes a family because youíre a group of people that are basically going for a similar goal and itís 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 weíre 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?
Chikezie: No, nothing more than friendships you know. Nothing more than friendships. If there was anything more than that, it would be awkward on tour.
On the Web site you did list that community college was one of your places of vocal training. How do you relish that experience of being at SMC?
Chikezie: Oh, man. Being at SMC and taking a class with Dennis Farno was what made me the singer that I am. Honestly, I learned more there than I could have ever learned on my own or anywhere else. I would not be on Idol if it was not for that class, point blank.
So did you take any other classes while you were at SMC that you felt or were you just mostly like a voice major?
Chikezie: I was basically doing voice. I took other classes here and there, but my main focus was on voice and I took musical theater. I did a few of the shows over there and that was also where I got a lot of my stage work from was doing musical theater up there with SMC. Their theater department is just amazing especially since they just got the new theater built. Itís awesome.
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?
Chikezie: In ten years, I would like to see myself getting at least one Grammy. Thatís 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 Ė acting Ė who knows Ė why not. Why not try everything you know? Iím the type of person that I like to see what I can do. I like to know what my boundaries are. You know Iím always testing myself to see what I can accomplish.
And then I know you said earlier that your favorite performer of all time was Michael Jackson. Is that someone in terms of his career that youíd like to emulate in terms of the sort of music heís doing and the performances he puts on during his tours?
Chikezie: Whatís so great about Michael Jackson and what I try to get from him is basically he is an inventor. You know when it comes to performance, heís an inventor. I donít believe that he has a routine ever you know. He just gets on stage and he does what he does best. He works it you know. He works it and works it and works it. And thatís something that anybody should look up to because itís that freedom that separates singers from artists.
Did you get a chance to meet Austin Clark when he played the Dobro for you in Iíve Just Seen a Face?
Chikezie: I did get a chance to meet Austin Ė amazing guy Ė an amazing guy Ė an amazing musician. It was a pleasure to have him play. It was a pleasure and an honor.
Are there any future collaborations with him and the Clark Brothers?
Chikezie: Oh, goodness, if Iím lucky Ė if Iím lucky. I will try and make and keep that contact if I can because Iíd be blessed to share a stage with him again and with the rest of them. Theyíre just so talented.
Which was the mentor that you were looking forward to the most?
Chikezie: It would have to be Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber.
And why is that?
Chikezie: Because Ė my phone is going off Ė sorry. Oh, goodness. Because I mean I respect his body of work so very much. I mean when youíve created a masterpiece like Jesus Christ Superstar, you know itís 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?
Chikezie: 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, whatís wrong? Why arenít I getting anywhere? Why donít these people get what Iím trying to do and I came to the realization okay, I came to this competition thinking okay, all youíve got to do is sing. Then you realize, hold on, thatís 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 thatís 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?
Chikezie: 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, thereís 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, whatís missing. Why arenít people connecting? Why arenít I connecting, you know?
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?
Chikezie: Thatís 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 itís the easiest thing in the world. Itís 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 Iíve done my part of the work and God is just doing the rest you know and He really carried me through this competition.
Thatís odd because usually when people finally get to Idol, they say wow it was so much harder than I thought. It was so difficult. We had to work so hard, you know, things like that. Did you have any of those thoughts?
Chikezie: Not really because I worked as hard as I possibly could to get here you know and the rest wasnít nearly as difficult as what it took to get to that point. You know I was just enjoying the ride from then on.
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?
Chikezie: I knew Iíd 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?
Chikezie: Because I had followed my heart throughout the entire competition and I knew that eventually Iíd have to go home at some point. So I was fine that it was at some point where Iíd still be able to come back and do the tour.
Iím wondering you know you talked about the tour a little bit and the kind of music that youíre 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?
Chikezie: This magnitude Ė I mean I could never have imagined this for myself you know. This was just I mean Godís plan in the works you know. I never thought that Iíd 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 Iíd 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 itís just like I could really do something with my life and with my career. Itís just amazing.
Do you feel like you personally changed it all as much as youíve stayed true to your own style or has this process just sort of just been a bigger version of the core Chikezie?
Chikezie: Iím realizing about myself every time I hit that stage you know. What I would do because Iíve had so little experience doing Ė like I havenít gone on tour and done this or that or anything. Most of my experience comes from choral performances or musical theater you know. So itís a totally new format for me and itís pretty exciting getting to learn new things about myself and how I react to certain things and how I feel about certain things and what I would do in certain situations. So itís been more of a growth than a change.
Youíve said a couple of times that one of the reasons that you want to stay on Idol was to kind of pay back your parents for everything theyíve done for you and all that stuff.
I was wondering have they said anything to you along those lines either during or since you left? Do you generally think youíve kind of fulfilled that aim?
Chikezie: I donít feel like Iíve fulfilled it until a time comes where my parents no longer have to work Ė no longer have to feel that they have to get out of bed and change into this or that and just drive off to work in the morning. When they no longer have to do that, then I know that my job is done.
What are your mom and dadís names and what do they do?
Chikezie: Richard and Shieka Ezie. My father is a respiratory therapist and my mother is a registered nurse.
The mosh pit in the front of the stage Ė this is a new thing obviously for this year and all the swaying of arms Ė at least on TV it doesnít look like itís really with the music. So is it distracting to you guys or what do you think about all that?
Chikezie: No, itís exciting. I mean Iíve 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 oneís business.
So yes, you guys love it. I mean even if theyíre clapping along with slow songs, itís just energizing?
Chikezie: Itís funny. Even if itís like what are they doing? Itís still funny.
So now what about the group numbers. I mean when you guys are rehearsing those and theyíre kind of going over the choreography, whatís that like? Are you guys laughing?
Chikezie: Oh, yes. Itís just oh my goodness. Itís like okay here we go again. Itís like does anyone actually enjoy these?
It seems like last night at least a couple of the guys were really hamming it up.
Chikezie: Yes. I canít wait to watch the tape.
Thank you to FOX for allowing us to participate in this media call.