It ain’t easy being Chikezie. The four-time American Idol auditioner got the ax last night after singing a song (Brenda Russell’s ”If Only for One Night”) he says was ”in my heart,” but got a cold shoulder from voters. Before resting up for the Idol tour this summer, Chikezie called EW to tell us about the other song he considered, why he dropped his last name, and what everyone around Idol is calling that cute little David Archuleta.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You sound really depressed. Are you okay?
CHIKEZIE: Yeah. I’m just tired. I’ve been up since 3 a.m.
Were you up all night thinking you should have sung a different song?
Nope. I love what I did. I’d spoken to the vocal coaches and [bandleader] Rickey Minor and they counseled me that if I’m going to do something, I have to do what’s in my heart.
Was any other song in your heart, or was that it?
I’d run through a couple of different songs that would have been what people would have expected. You know, something active that had me moving around. But there was no reason for it. It would have been that kind of song just for the sake of doing it. I don’t do things for no reason. When I’m performing, it’s with the intention of lifting up people’s spirits and entertaining them.
Well, you could say the reason would be because people liked to hear you doing up-tempo songs. What was the second choice?
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ”Look at Little Sister.” It’s a great song. I’m not going to say it’s a bad song. But I’m no Stevie Ray Vaughan. I can’t pick up the guitar and jam out to it. I’d be stuck just singing the lyrics.
You could have backed yourself up with the harmonica?
I did want to try the harmonica again. I was looking for a song where I could play it.
The judges and fans really liked it a couple of weeks ago when you did ”She’s a Woman.” Did you think maybe you should have done another song like that?
The thought had run through my head, honestly. I’m not going to lie and say it hadn’t. I just gotta be me, though. That’s the only way I can be happy about going home. If I had done something I felt wasn’t right and had gone on and on and made it to the top five and then went home, I would feel 10 times more horrible than I do right now.
Let’s talk about your mother. I love her. Does she know that Idol fans love her?
Yeah, I have no complaints there. She got the Best Mother award a long time ago. She knows she’s a celebrity.
NEXT PAGE: Why he dropped Eze from his name, and the big plans Chikezie had for Dolly Parton week
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’m curious why you dropped the ”Eze” from your name and went for the one-word name. I love how Chikezie Eze sounds.
CHIKEZIE: For that reason exactly.
I don’t follow.
It’s not [pronounced like] easy. It’s eh-zeh.
Oh, so you cut off your last name for ignorant people like me?
Okay then. What were you going to sing for Dolly Parton week?
”9 to 5.” I was pretty excited because…well, there’s no point in saying it now, but I was going to do something a little different. I was going to change up the arrangement like crazy and turn it into some rock/soul thing. It would have been insane.
Like David Cook’s ”Billie Jean”?
Not quite. It would have been more like if Gnarls Barkley did it.
How does that work when one of you rearranges a classic song? Do you do the arrangement or does Rickey Minor?
In most cases you give the idea to Ricky. He’s a genius and he can figure out what’s going on. With ”She’s a Woman” I said I needed a banjo and a fiddler, not a violinist. I gained a lot of inspiration from the fact that when Paul McCartney sang it, he said he was trying to channel Little Richard, but it ended up sounding like bluegrass to me.
Of all the contestants, who did you bond with the most?
My boy, David Hernandez. We started this off together. We met in line in San Diego and we’ve been together throughout this whole thing.
That must have been rough when he got voted off.
It was rough for the simple fact that I really wanted him to make the tour. I never worried about him though because he’s one of the strongest individuals I know. I have a lot of boys, though. Archie…
Archie? That’s what you call David Archuleta?
Yeah, Archie. Well, we’ve got like 50,000 Davids!
What do you call David Cook?
Did you get a nickname?
There was no need.