Industry Talks: Steven Achikor on creating music, singing in a choir, and staying positive during…

“Each time I have the opportunity to sing, I sing like it’s my last time. Like there’s no tomorrow. This is my philosophy. If I have the opportunity to sing today, I will sing as if it’s my last day. It’s been like this for me since the beginning. I give the same energy every single time. Life is too short… and so I give everything I have. As long as I make people happy, I’m good.” — Steven

Today we are talking to singer and X factor Bulgaria finalist Steven Achikor. Born and raised in Delta State, Nigeria, his life there included singing in a gospel choir and studying Computer Science, before he decided to make a big change and move to Bulgaria. Initially, with the intention to study a master’s degree in Business Administration, he then found himself becoming a musical sensation while participating in the famous television competition.

1. The current situation has had a detrimental effect on the entertainment and events industry. What is it like being an artist in the midst of Covid-19?

It’s a difficult moment for all artists. It can get depressing. As an artist, you get a big chunk of your income from gigs. I’ve been performing at company parties, weddings, concerts, birthdays, all sorts of events… I’m actually very good at these things, I can make anybody dance and have fun. [laughs] And now all of this is restricted. Everybody is struggling.

To be honest with you, I was going a little crazy when this whole thing started. I’m used to spending a lot of time outside the house… meeting people, going places. I need to see things and observe. So this period of isolation was difficult. Human beings are not created to be alone.

When lockdown started in March, I knew what I had to do! I built a music studio at home, so I can pour out everything I have in my head. But the good part is that I finally have more free time, and I can do my thing. Like with everything in life, there is a good part and a bad part.

I’ve been focusing on creating my own songs. I’ve been doing cover songs for people, but I feel like, during this period, I need to be creating my own art. The only thing I need now is sponsorships for my music videos.

“I believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel… but you have to find it yourself. Nobody is going to do that for you.”

2. Steven sent us one of his new, still unreleased songs. I found it very catchy and romantic… It’s giving me Ne-Yo 2000’s vibes. What’s the story behind this tune?

There’s actually a real story that inspired me to write this song. A few months ago I met a girl who was separated from her ex-boyfriend, but she still wanted him back. Things seemed very complicated and it looked like it’s impossible for them to work it out. So I decided to make a song about this… It’s a song I made with the intention to encourage people. I want to tell everybody that things are going to be okay. With heartbreak, with the pandemic, with everything…

When it comes to writing songs, this is what I usually do — I go out and just sit in a place, sometimes I’m not even doing anything. I like to watch people and look for characters. I think I’m a very good observer. I put on my headphones, I listen to some music and just observe. Often I find something interesting. I find a story or a person who inspires me. I take it from there.

3. I know most people ask you this, but we have to mention it! How did you find yourself in Bulgaria? What was moving here like?

Back in the day, I didn’t really have plans to come to Bulgaria at first. I had a Nigerian friend living here and he introduced me to the possibility of coming here to study. I already had my bachelor’s in Computer Science, so I decided to come here for a master’s degree. The same year I came here, he actually left for the States, and he lives there with his family now.

When I first came in 2015, I came here alone, and I didn’t know anything. I didn’t even know what “не разбирам” (I don’t understand) means. [laughs] It was very difficult and tedious. But as humans, we are good at adapting, so that’s what I did. I started seeing everything as an opportunity and that made me feel grateful.

Sometimes you have to make big decisions like that. You just have to tell yourself, “If it’s gonna work, it’s gonna work. And that’s it.”

4. And what about X factor where you reached the finals? What was that experience for you like?

I was in Bulgaria for less than 6 months before joining X factor. How everything started with the show was… I met a friend in Varna, and he told me I could sing. I was like, “Oh, okay!” [laughs]

Growing up in Nigeria, I was singing in a church choir. So I was kind of singing from much earlier on, but I wasn’t really pursuing it as a career path or anything. It’s something everybody does back home.

Later, this friend told me about the show, I went to auditions, and they liked me… One thing led to another, and I became what I became. Being a part of X factor was a very inspiring experience for me. It taught me everything I know today about being a professional in the industry.

When I’m singing, I shut myself from the world, and I just sing. But what I learned about performing, from being on the show, is that you need to look at people’s eyes. You need to interact with your audience. It’s good to express all these strong feelings you get while singing, but you also need to build a relationship with the audience.

Learning this skill really helped me with my confidence. Now I can stand in front of 10,000 people, and it’s no problem. I’ve performed at the Coca-Cola Happy Energy Tour, I’ve done big concerts, I’ve gone to many cities. I’m having fun with it.

5. Tell us a bit more about singing in a choir when you were growing up in Nigeria. How old were you when you first started? What was that like?

I can’t remember how old I was when I joined the choir, but I was very young. I had passion, even though I didn’t know anything yet.

Even before joining, I was already listening to a lot of music… When I started singing in the choir, I realized there were quite a few things I knew (about music and singing) without even knowing. [laughs]

In the choir, everybody has a role. But it’s not the kind of place where people tend to show their talent. They do it out of a free will and it’s for God. With our service, we are singing praise and worshipping God. We open up our hearts and just give. When you do that, you can see a lot of things happening. I’ve experienced it… not once, not twice, but many times.

But sometimes people don’t really understand what choir is about. They think you can go and show others you can sing. There is a difference… If I’m singing in the club, I know I’m singing in the club. Church is a whole other story — it’s a sacred place. We need to pay respect to this spiritual environment. Just by being there, and raising your hands, and worshipping God, you can gain a lot of energy. It’s amazing.

6. As one of our early Evedo adopters, you are listed as an entertainer on our B2B platform. What is your motivation to be there?

I’ve decided to use the platform because it’s going to help promoters, event organizers, and venue owners to find me and contact me for potential gigs and collaborations. I also have been focusing, especially before Covid, to explore more opportunities in different parts of Europe, so Evedo with its international reach will be useful for that too.

Steven by Mariana Dicheva

7. What are some of your plans for the future? I know it’s very hard to plan practically anything at the moment, but how do you envision the next couple of months?

My plans for the near future? I am going to be getting more songs done. So the plan is to stay home and create.

I listen to a lot of music too… If you checked my playlists, 99% is gospel music. I like it so much, and not only because of religion. I like it because it encourages you and gives you a positive perspective. It says “Hey, look. Everything is going to be alright.” Words are very powerful, they give you meaning.

When I’m feeling down, there are certain songs that I listen to. After just 10 or 20 minutes, I feel like I’m back to myself again. It’s songs that are about God, life, and… hope. These three things.

You can find Steven here: Youtube, Spotify & Instagram.

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