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Reality TV Interview

Paul McDonald ('American Idol')

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Paul McDonald from American Idol

© Fox / Michael Becker

With his unconventional voice and quirky fashion sense, Paul McDonald seemed to many to be an odd choice for American Idol's Top 12. However, it was those same traits - along with his extensive musical background - that helped him gain fans and made him one of the strongest competitors on the show. Unfortunately, his performance on Wednesday of Bob Seger's classic 'Old Time Rock and Roll' failed to strike a chord with voters and he was eliminated during last night's live results show. Here's what the 26-year-old Alabama native told reporters about his experience...

Why do you think America didn't connect with you?
"It's a tough thing to say. My music is kind of roots rock 'n' roll, indie or whatever. It's hard to say what America is into these days. You never know. I was just doing my own thing. I never planned on winning and I'm super pumped up to have gotten this far. Maybe it was my over-the-top suits, I don't know!"

You've previously expressed desire to perform more original material on the show. Why was that so important?
"I've been touring for years with my band The Grand Magnolias and it's one of those things where there's a bunch of singers all around but it's also good to have artists who can write and showcase what they do. I'm not very good at singing other people's songs, which is why I started writing my own. You showcase who you are by performing your own songs. There's only so much you can do with what others wrote."

How big of a thrill was it to get at least a little of your own music (part of his song 'American Dreams') out there?
"That was really my whole thing with the show, to try to branch out and let people know what I do normally. It was a great thing when they told us that we could do our own material. It's right up my alley 'cos it's what I've been doing for the last five years and I was right at home. It made me really happy because it was a song that I'd written. Original music comes off as more real to me because it is more real - it came from very real things in my life."

Do you wish you had done anything differently?
"It was one of those things where some of the song choices I did probably weren't the best. When I first started off this whole thing it was just for fun and I didn't even expect to get this far in the competition. When I got here, I kind of listened to some people when I probably should have stuck to my guns. Other than that, it was fun. I just wish I would have done some more of the obscure artists, more of the vibe that I was into. I didn't feel comfortable a whole lot of the time because it felt like it wasn't me all the time, but other than that it was good. It was an amazing learning experience and it kind of opened up my brain to doing these old cover songs and recreating them."

You were part of a band in Nashville previous to Idol. Is that something you plan to return to?
"I've been touring for about five years doing strictly my own original material and I've been living in Nashville for two years. I've been trying to make it in the music business - we just released an album in November just before this TV stuff happened, and that's sort of where my heart and soul is. That's where my blood, sweat and tears are. I don't know, I really love those guys and I hope I get to work with them soon."

Were you concerned what viewers would think of your more eccentric style going into the competition?
"In all honesty, I tried not to think about that at all! I never watched the show while I was on it or read reviews of what people thought. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do coming in, though it was tough picking all these new songs and trying to do it. It was funny, though, I'd come in and the hair and make-up people usually had nothing to do with me because they liked my clothes better than the ones they had. I think it worked out pretty well for me coming in eighth place!"

Are there any other artists you're currently inspired by?
"I strive to be like a whole lot of artists. Right now I'm listening to a group called Mumford and Sons and it's a group I've been digging hard. The Black Keys are really cool. That whole kind of scene is what I'm into. Our band played Bonaroo and stuff and what's going on at Coachella is my kind of vibe as well, with the whole festival circuit. My goal is to make music that lasts and that people enjoy. The reason I make music is to let loose my feelings and write about real stuff. I do like Mumford and Sons, though. They're my new favourite band."

What is it like to have so much support from big name celebrities?
"It's cool getting to see people who are successful in their own right come up and say that they're fans. It kind of blows my mind that I was out doing the exact same thing with my band playing for a few hundred people a night and all of a sudden I get on TV and people think I'm cool now! It's super humbling to have people that think my art is good. I walked into a hotel the other day and [NFL player] Kurt Warner was there and said he was a fan. It doesn't seem real but it's pretty cool!"

There have been a lot of rumours that you've begun dating Nikki Reed since meeting her at the Red Riding Hood premiere. Is there any truth to that?
"Yes, me and Nikki Reed are dating. It's officially true. She's super cool, super smart, a really cool girl, so I'm happy. We've been hanging out here and there but we're both pretty busy. It's been fun so far, though."

Do you subscribe to the idea that men have an advantage on Idol because most of the voters are teenage girls?
"Oh, I definitely do. It's funny because the teenage girls are the ones who watch the show the most. People in the audience had their posters and signs made and there was one that said Paul and then about 1,000 screaming girls with Scotty McCreery posters. I think the guys definitely have an advantage. It's a shame for the girls because they're all really talented but I don't know too many guys who watch the show."

What will you miss most about the experience?
"The people that surrounded me! People don't realise how many people work around the clock to make American Idol stuff happen. Everyone from 19 Entertainment, my day-to-day people, security, the crew. They're all really nice people and are super supportive and we've grown into a family. It's going to be weird going back into the real world and not seeing them every day. American Idol is a super tight-knit community. I don't know, it's going to be tough but I'm sure we'll see each other soon."

American Idol airs Wednesdays and Thursdays on Fox

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