Progress finds fame, fortune on Nigerian Idol stage

When Progress Chukwuyem was announced the winner of the Nigerian Idol Season 7, last weekend, everyone expected the sporadic tears, the screams, the excitement! It was a dream come true for him and for the multitude of Nigerians supporting him.

After several weeks of battling 11 other top-tier singers, the Warri-bred musician emerged champion, walking home with over N30 million naira, a brand new Sports Utility Vehicle, a year’s supply of Bigi fizzy drinks, a Travel Beta all-expense covered weekend getaway, as well as a record deal for an EP, with six music videos. For anyone in Progress’ shoes, this is an invaluable springboard to stardom and an entry to the easy life.

From the audition stages to the grand finale, Progress is one artiste that has lived true to his name. His musical strength shone all through the show, in his stellar vocal range and stagecraft. Now, with a massive fanbase, a unique singing ability and a determination to succeed, Progress trails another adventure in his life, breaking out within the music industry.

Devoid of any fears of his future exploits, the young singer sits with Guardian Music, narrating his ordeals during the show, backstories as an artiste, as well as his plans to become the next breakout act in the music industry.

Congratulations to you both. How does it feel?
For me personally, it feels good. It feels good to be the winner; it’s like a dream come true for me personally. But yeah, I know that it is also a lot of work. It’s not the end, because coming for the show; I already told myself that it is not a means to an end.

You understand? It’s not the end; it’s just the beginning. So, I know that there are bigger things waiting for me to do, right. So yeah, that’s the energy for me.

Did you see yourself emerging as a winner?
Yeah, for me, winning has never been the number one thing. Though I am the winner and I am super happy, I am so happy and I feel fulfilled and satisfied. But then, there are other things that brought me to the show, because where I come from there are not so many opportunities like the way it is here in Lagos in terms of entertainment and how effective the industry is in entertainment.

So, getting here and getting into the live show was a big achievement for me and for where I come from, you understand me? So before emerging as the winner, I had already been checking all the achievements I have had on the show, you get me? So, yeah.

How did you get into music?
First of all, I am born into a music family- my mum (before she died), my dad, my sisters; all of us are into choir. But it was different for me because I took music more seriously than the others. They all sing, but I chose to, I don’t know, I feel like it came from the inside. My love for music supersedes every other person in the house.

I joined the choir at an early age. Music was like my go-to if I am down; if I am happy, it was because of music. I don’t know if you get what I am saying; I’ve been doing and singing music. The first time I ever sang a special number in the church, I think I was like 10 and the reaction of everyone in church was mind-blowing.

So, I knew that okay, this is something I really want to do, because I was really doing it from my heart and I loved it. So, I decided that music is something I want to follow when I competed in a competition back at Warri in 2015 and 2016. So yeah, I knew that I was going to take it seriously as a career.

Were you already recording music before the competition?
Yeah, I have recorded a couple of songs, but no one is out on the digital platform yet, but yeah, I thank God for this.

It is one thing to win a music contest and it is another thing to break into the music industry. How do you feel about it?
I am excited; because it’s something I have always wanted. Like I said, where I come from, there are not so many opportunities in terms of the entertainment industry. So, coming for the show and having this exposure it’s like a springboard into the music industry, because if I was doing music back at Warri, it might be slow before getting into the industry.

So, coming for the show was like a bridge into the industry. I know that I am still an upcoming artiste, but then it has brought me closer to what I want. So, I feel excited about it and I know that when I put in the work and keep pushing, it will get better.

What was your most challenging period during the show?
I think it varies. During theatre week, I would say the most challenging was the one that took us to the top 12, which was when I sang Justin Bieber’s Yummy. It was crazy because I had just one day. See, during theatre week, they give you the song, so whatever song you get, it’s your concern. If you like, do it and if you like, don’t do it, that’s your problem.

So, when I got Yummy, I didn’t have any choice but to do it, because that was my song- so that’s for theatre week. For the live shows, I would say it was Show Stopper and it became my best performance. It was challenging trying to like it because for Show Stopper, I had to take a different route.

From the beginning of the live shows, I was very intentional about all the songs I was picking- songs that I knew I would be able to do and perform very well, songs that I knew I would be able to relate with and be able to communicate the song very well. So, for the Show Stopper week, I told myself I want to go- like took a risk of going into something I have never gone to before. It was really challenging for me and I held myself on the neck like I have to do it. So yeah, it was the best performance for me.

How did the competition influence you as a musician?
What are the ways that the competition influenced me? It is to always never feel limited because you never can tell the things that you can’t do. As individuals, we have so many potentials, but sometimes, we just stereotype ourselves and feel like, ‘okay, let me be this and let me stick with that. However, in the competition, I understood what growth was and what letting yourself free and just allowing yourself to do the things that you are meant to do and you would be just surprised about the achievements that you can get from it.

Who had the most impact amongst the judges on you?
The judges influenced me in several ways. Like Obi was a straightforward man; if he sees something that is nice, he can spot it, like you are actually amazing in this particular field, right. Then, for Simi, she is a unique singer. She has her own sound and I was really influenced by that- staying true to yourself and your sound.

And then for Dbanj, he might not be a vocalist, but then he is a great performer and he always sees that for Zadok. When he sees that ability for you to carry the crowd and entertain and be able to communicate the song that you are singing not just vocally, but with your expression and everything- he comments on that.

So, I love the judges, this season’s judges were just super; well selected because they had their different roles to play as judges. And yeah, I felt I would not pick one, I will just pick all of them because they are very good at their own thing.

Was there any time in the house when you felt like giving up?
Like I said, coming for the show is like a means to an end and I was ready for anything. Getting on the first, I was super excited, like performing anything on the first day, like people watching you and all that. I was happy, but I would say when the competition became really challenging for me, I was like, ‘oh my God.”

It started getting into me when we became top 4. When they announced the top 4, I was almost giving up, because the tension at that point was at its peak for me. And I was like, ‘I can’t wait,’ because it was already too much for me. Mentally, you will be thinking, ‘okay, what’s next, what’s for me to do?’ That state where you are like ‘mehn, this is getting tougher,’ and you don’t know how you can handle it.

At that point, you know we were just four and eyes are already on you; people are expecting so much for you to do your best. You have already built your fan base and sometimes you would get messages and people telling you don’t fall into our hands o. No pressure, but sometimes it gets to you and you are like you don’t want to let people down, you understand what I am saying.

So, when we got to the top 4, I was in that state, but then, I told myself that I have been doing it until this point and it is almost over. So, I was just like step up and keep doing it, you are as better as others so try and do better; that was it for me.

Was your family supportive when you started music?
I have never had a conflict when it comes to music worth my family. Since childbirth, I told you that we are all singers in my family but I am the one that has keyed into music professionally. So, they already know that this is what I love and they have been supporting me throughout. This is not my first competition, but this is my first major and a bigger competition than the last two competitions I have been in.

What did you study in school?
I’m not in school yet.

What are you studying?
Before coming for the show though, I tried and I wrote my JAMB and post-UTME. I made those, but I didn’t get the admission. There is this thing with UNIBEN; they always don’t want to give people admission, but I tried. I didn’t get the admission and that was before I now applied for the show. I don’t know what the future holds, but I will eventually go to school.

Moving forward, do you have a sense of the type of music you want to make?
Like I said on the show, I have learned to ‘stay true to yourself and own your sound. As long as it’s right, you will always have a niche for yourself and that was somewhat what I did on the show. I was very intentional about the songs that I chose for the show because I was trying to sell myself.

Moving forward, outside the show, those kinds of music are the kind of music I will put out. So, anytime I was choosing something, I was very intentional about what I was chosen because these are the songs that… it’s like testing the waters. Like, ‘okay, let me see if I can do this if I can do that- if I am able to do this,’ meaning, ‘yes, I can do this.’

If you noticed in the show, I was doing the horseplay inspirational, love song; I sang the Johnny Drille song, love song. I did the inspirational song. Wizkid’s Joy, I don’t know if you get me? So, after this show, I would do contemporary gospel and inspirational music.(The Guardian)

•PHOTO: Progress Chukwuyem