'American Idol' Exit Interview: Chikezie

Darn it, America. By voting Chikezie off of American Idol on Wednesday (March 26) night, you cost us all the chance to hear the excitable Inglewood native cover "9-to-5" on next week's Dolly Parton mentored performance night. Well, I know I'm disappointed.

One person who isn't disappointed? Chikezie. Well, he may be disappointed. But he isn't surprised.

"I knew I'd be in the Bottom Three and I knew I was going home and that was OK with me," says Chikezie, talking to the press the day after his booting.

Indeed, Chikezie was the first Idol singer sent to the Bottom Three on Wednesday's show and his reaction was no more than an understanding nod. Chikezie had almost the exact same reaction the night before when the judges criticized his rendition of "If Only For One Night." In fact, he'd told the camera beforehand that he knew the judges had recommended he not sing ballads, but he preferred to go his own way.

"It's kind of like running on a diving board," Chikezie says. "You know that the diving board is eventually going to end, so you run even faster. You know? That's the way I looked at it. The judges, I knew that 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."

He adds, "If I'd gotten another chance to do it, I'd do it the exact same way, because that's the only way I could have gone home happy, is by following my heart, because 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."

It's been a multi-year journey for Chikezie, who had auditioned before on several occasions, making it to the final cuts of Hollywood Week last season.

"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 'OK, there's something missing, I know there is. What is it?'" he recalls. "And I just went home and studied, studied, studied. I studied music styles. I studied artists. I would videotape myself performing and I would say, 'What's missing? Why aren't people connecting? Why aren't I connecting?'"

The way Chikezie puts it, all of that studying made it much easier when he made it into the Top 24 this season.

"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," he clarifies. "I thought 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 going. I'm like 'Oh my goodness, this train is still moving.'"

Other highlights from Chikezie's exit interview:

On his 10-year-plan: 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 career, 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. Acting? Who knows? Why not. Why not try everything? I'm the type of person, I like to see what I can do. I like to know what my boundaries are. I'm always testing myself to see what I can accomplish.

On the sort of music he'd like to make: Basically, I love the idea of fusion. I love the idea of bringing together several different styles to make something new, make something fresh, make some people have never heard before. I really respect artists like Gnarls 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.

On learning his performance style even though he's never attended a concert: I didn't know that it was a skill to be had, you basically just do whatever you feel is right whenever you're on stage. You basically do all of that stuff that you say 'Oh, that would be cool if I could do that' and all of the stuff that you do when you think nobody's watching, just all the crazy stuff, if it comes to mind, why not? Just go for it.