Paul McDonald: Guys do have advantage, yes I'm dating Nikki Reed
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 04/15/2011
Paul McDonald's American Idol journey ended when he was eliminated during Thursday night's live results show which determined the competition's Top 7 finalists.
The 26-year-old from Huntsville, AL who currently resides in Nashville, TN, became the sixth finalist sent home from American Idol's tenth season after he received the fewest home viewer votes following Wednesday night's performance show -- becoming the first male finalist eliminated from the show's current season after five-straight female finalists were ousted.
During a conference call with reporters on Friday, Reality TV World asked Paul about rumors he's been dating actress Nikki Reed since Idol's cameras caught their first meeting a few weeks ago, his thoughts on the gender-based split that is occurring in Idol's finals, and whether he believes male finalists have an advantage in the early finals rounds.
Reality TV World: A few weeks ago, the show showed footage of you meeting Nikki Reed at The Little Red Riding Hood premiere. It seemed like you two hit it off well and she said you were "amazing" and "was blushing" when she was talking to you. There have been reports that you two have been dating since then, so is that true?
Paul McDonald: Yes. Me and Nikki Reed are dating. It's officially true.
Reality TV World: Could you elaborate on that and how things are going between you two?
Paul McDonald: Yeah, she's super cool. She's super smart and a really cool girl. I'm happy with it. We've been hanging out here and there and we're both pretty busy. But it's been fun so far.
Reality TV World: There has been a lot of controversy about five women going home at the start of the competition, with the theory being that all the young girls are voting for the guys. Are you a believer in the "girls voting for the guys" theory, and do you feel the men have an advantage in the early rounds?
Paul McDonald: Oh, I definitely do. It's funny because the audience is like -- the teenage girls, it feels like to me, are the ones that watch the show at most just because of the fact -- I remember walking out onstage and I would look around.
People in the audience would have their posters and signs and I was like, "Oh man, I think there's one poster that says Paul," and then there's like a thousand 14-year-old screaming girls that have Scotty McCreery posters. (laughs)
I think the guys definitely have an advantage. It's a shame for the girls because they're so talented, but yeah. I have a feeling, I mean, I don't know too many guys that watch the show. I think it's mostly girls. I mean, tons of guys do watch the show, but I think the guys definitely have an advantage.
Also in the call, Paul told reporters his thoughts on American Idol possibly creating an "original material" week, what he wished he had done differently in the competition, why he had initially tried out for the show since he was already an established artist, what was behind his unique style, and whether he felt he lost credibility in the eyes of certain bands and his "Indie music" fans for participating in American Idol.
You probably had a pretty busy career before you even started Idol. Could you talk about your band in Nashville and how long you have been living there? Will you go back to your band now?
Paul McDonald: Well, I've been touring for about five years just doing strictly my own original material, and I've been living in Nashville for about two years. I moved up there trying to make it in the original music biz as an artist. So, we just released an album I guess in November, right before all this TV stuff happened.
So, that's kind of where my heart and soul is. It's my blood, sweat and tears that I've been putting in to that stuff. So, I don't know man. I love those guys, and I'm really proud of the material that we've came out with. Hopefully, I get to work with those guys soon.
Do you believe there should be an "original material" week on American Idol? Why do you think that would be good for the show and were you itching to do one of your own songs?
Paul McDonald: You know, it's one of those things -- I've been touring for over five years with my band The Grand Magnolias -- there's a bunch of singers all around. It's good to have people that are also artists that can write and you can showcase what you do as an individual. It's something that I've always wanted to do because that's my main thing.
I'm actually not very good at singing other people's songs. I've learned that in the past when I started playing my own songs, but it just kind of showcases who you are as an artist more than singing other people's songs. There's only so so much you can do singing other people's songs and get them across, you know?
Viewers got to hear a little bit of your song "American Dreams" during the "singing for your life" segment of American Idol. How exciting was that for you to get some of your own music out there?
Paul McDonald: Yeah, I mean it was great. That was my whole thing in the show, was to try and branch out and let people know what I do normally. That was a great thing. When they said, "Oh, you could do original material," I was like, "Awesome, this is right up my alley." Because that's what I've been doing for the past five years.
So, I was right at home with that kind of stuff. It made me really happy that they would let me do that, because that was a song that I had written, and original music to me -- it comes off more real because it is real -- it came from a real time in my life. I was just really happy that they let me do that.
You said Thursday night you wished you had done some things differently. What might those things include?
Paul McDonald: It was one of those things where some of the song choices that I did weren't probably the best ones for me. When I first tried out, this whole thing was just kind of for fun and I didn't even expect to get this far in the competition. So when I got up here, I kind of listened to some people... But other than that, it was fun, you know?
I just maybe wish I had stuck to some -- done some more of these obscure artists -- more of the vibe of music that I listen to. It came across onstage that I didn't feel comfortable a whole lot of the time up there, just because I felt like it wasn't me all the time.
Other than that, everything was good. I had a good time and it was an amazing learning experience to do all this on TV and it kind of opened up my brain to doing all these cover songs and trying to recreate all these old songs and do something new. It was fun.
What do you think you will miss the most about the whole experience?
Paul McDonald: I was saying [Thursday night] that I will probably miss the people that I had surrounding me. People don't realize how many people work around the clock to make American Idol stuff happen. Anyone from the people at [19 Recordings], to my day to day people -- security, all the crew -- they're really nice people.
They've always been supportive and just super nice. We've kind of grown into a family and it's going to be weird jumping back out into the real world and not seeing them everyday. The whole American Idol thing has been a very unique and kind of a super tight-knit community. I don't know. It's going to be tough, but I'm sure she'll see each other soon.
Your style is unique. Coming intoAmerican Idol, what were your expectations? What did you think America was going to think about you?
Paul McDonald: In all honesty, I try not to think about that at all. I never watched the show while I was on it. I never went back and read reviews of what people thought. I really was doing exactly what I wanted to do. However, it was tough picking all these different songs and trying to do them, but I was just being me.
I came in there and it was funny because the hair and makeup team would be like, "Man, we don't need to do anything to you today." And I was like, "Okay, cool." And then the stylist was like, "I like your clothes better than the ones we got." So, I kind of just did my own thing and it worked out good enough for eighth place, man! I'm pretty happy about it.
You were not only known for your singing, but for your flashy outfits. Were you able to take your suits home and if not, what will you be wearing now?
Paul McDonald: Yeah, actually, I got those outfits made for me before the show. Everyone keeps telling me, "That's awesome that Idol did this and that," but I had all that stuff previous to all the Idol stuff. Actually, I broke my bank on that first white suit before I came out to Hollywood.
So, yeah. I get to keep all of those. They were custom made for me. My friend back home, Manny, made them for me. Now, I've got both the white and the black ones. So, I'll get to keep them forever. I might wear them for my birthday, for New Years, and all that good stuff.
Many people talk about how white your teeth are. Have you heard about this and are they naturally that way?
Paul McDonald: They are -- well I'll say -- half way natural. I brush them with -- I've never had professional whitening done or anything at the dentist -- but I've always used like Crest toothpaste. I use Advanced Vivid White toothpaste, and I don't drink coffee and I don't drink coke. So, yeah. My teeth have always been white. My sister's are the same. It's weird. We all have white teeth. I guess it's in the genes, man.
Can you talk about what it's like to have so many celebrity fans like Nikki Reed for instance?
Paul McDonald: Yeah, it's cool getting to see people that are in the business and are successful in their own right come up and say they're fans. It's really cool. It kind of blows my mind that I was out doing the exact same thing with my band, playing to a few hundred people a night, and all of a sudden I get on TV and fans and people will think I'm cool now.
But it's super humbling to have people like that think that my art is good. We were at a hotel the other day and I walk in and Kurt Warner was in there and I was like, "Oh my gosh! What's up man!?" And he was like, "Oh, I'm a fan. You do great." And I was like, "You know who I am?" So, it's kind of crazy. I'm starting to -- it doesn't seem real -- but yeah, it's pretty cool.
Have you had any condolences from any famous fans like Reed, who comes to the shows?
Paul McDonald: Well yeah, I'm pretty sure Nikki's a pretty big fan. Yeah, she's super cool, so. I don't know. I mean everyone -- I'm kind of getting a bunch of stuff all over the place right now -- we'll see. A few people have been hitting me up, which is kind of cool.
I haven't really had time to look and check my phone. I looked at my phone and I had 276 text messages today. I was like, "Oh man! I'll check that out later!" I don't really have time to thank people or read any news or any kind of stuff. I've just kind of been doing -- working.
You seemed to have a lot going for you on Idol, so what was it that you think America didn't get or what was it that they didn't connect with while you were on the show?
Paul McDonald: It's a tough thing to say. My music is kind of roots rock and roll. It's kind of Indie kind of stuff. We're doing the festival scene and it's hard to say what America's into these days. There's jazz and rock and all kind of stuff. So, you never know.
I was just doing my thing and I really wasn't planning on winning or anything. I was just doing my thing and I'm super pumped that I made it this far. I don't know. Maybe it was my over-the-top suits...
Next week I was planning on [doing something different] because I was getting tired of these songs that I wasn't comfortable with. I was like, "Man, I'm just going to stick with my guns and do something that I dig, but then I got the boot." (Laughs)
Do you feel like you were able to do something on the show that pushed the ball forward in terms of bringing out your Indie vibe?
Paul McDonald: It's tough to say. I honestly felt like I didn't do too, too much -- nothing like over-the-top special on the show -- just because. I hope people got the vibe of the Indie stuff though, I just don't know. So, it's funny because I'm sitting in here and I just popped up on the TV. They're laughing at me so I kind of got confused on that question, sorry.
There were a couple times your voice sounded tired. Was that just your normal raspiness or was it such a grueling schedule that it took its toll on your voice?
Paul McDonald: Man, it is a grueling schedule. My voice has kind of been out of it most of the competition. I've been touring for so long and I've got issues with my voice. But sometimes I can get away with it. It gives it that raspy, kind of off-key vibe, but yeah.
It was tough. We don't get too much sleep and for me, I need sleep for my voice. That's an issue. Sometimes it was good and sometimes it was in full force, but much of the time, you could definitely tell it was not 100% percent.
You maintained a composed positive attitude following your elimination on Thursday night's results show. How did you keep so optimistic in the face of that news?
Paul McDonald: It's one of those things that when I came into the whole Idol thing, I had no expectations whatsoever. Like I said, I never thought about winning or anything. I really just came in and was doing my thing and if I got kicked off months ago, I would have just gone back to doing what I do normally. It just surprised me how far along I got.
I was like, "What else can be said. This was a huge thing." I'm an artist and this has been a great opportunity. This is a killer platform for me to get out and do my original music, which is what I'm better at anyways. I was just happy to be there.
It was a good thing and a bunch of the kids and the contestants, they've been watching Idol forever and have been wanting to win this thing. It's one of their hugest dreams, so I was like, "Go get it, guys!" Whereas I'm okay. I'm a 26-year-old man. (Laughs)
Did you feel a gap at all between yourself and the ages of all the other contestants? You were at a different stage of your career than many of them.
Paul McDonald: Yeah, yeah. For sure, you know? It was one of those things where me and some of the kids -- we were 10 years apart -- me and Lauren Alaina. It was really cool because I haven't hung out with 16-year-olds kids in like 10 years. So, it was fun. Yeah, so it was good. It was fun getting to hang out.
It made me feel like I was in high school again hanging out with all those other kids. They were really cool, and it blows my mind how professional they were. When I was that age, I wasn't thinking anything about this kind of stuff. It was fun working with them and I was trying to be kind of an older mentor to them even though I got kicked off way before these guys.
Outside of that, I would teach them how to play piano and write songs and kind of mold them into artists, not just sing songs like, I kind of had them step outside of the box a little bit. They're good kids. There are superstars in this group.
Do you think American Idol hurt your credibility as a possible sort of Indie artist, and do you think it hut your credibility amongst the fans who support that kind of music and those bands or can you overcome that stigma?
Paul McDonald: That was one of my main concerns whenever I tried out for this show. It was like, "Is it worth the credibility?" That's one thing that I've always wanted in my career, no matter how rich or poor, it's to have some respect in the music community. I think it's good.
I mean, a bunch of my friends -- we've toured with two big acts in the past -- it's funny to them because all these legit bands in the music biz are calling me up and being like, "Oh dude, I can't believe you're doing this show!" They're watching it and stuff and they're happy for me now. They're like, "I think you dropped out right at the best point. Now let's cut some real records and get back to doing our thing."
I think it's good. I think it's a tough call to say that, but I think I can bridge that gap. I'm going to try to cut a great album and if I do that, that's the main thing. If I put out a good record, I think that I'll have that respect from the music community. ButAmerican Idol is great. It's been nothing but helpful.
Paul McDonald: Yeah, yeah. This is the first time. I never even really got into it besides back when Ruben Studdard won like years ago. So, it was kind of one of those things that I fell into. I happened to be in town and it was like five minutes down the street. My friends convinced me to walk down there and do it, so I had no expectations from anything. I'm so happy to make it this far.
You said you basically just did it for fun and you really didn't expect to win. Did you have any goals going in? Did you want to make the Top 10? Was that the ultimate goal for you?
Paul McDonald: I literally had no goals set in stone because it was something that I was just doing for fun. It was never my dream to win American Idol or anything like that. I just needed to have a good time and it was a once in a lifetime deal, but I didn't expect to get this far.
Once I got down to the Top 10 or something like that, I was like, "Wow. It's getting close. Maybe I could do well in this thing." You don't really start realizing it until it narrows down, but I was just taking it one day at a time.
I was doing my thing and there's some super talented kids. After [Pia Toscano] got kicked off, I was like, "Dude. What's going on here?" She has an amazing voice, and I knew it was anybody's game, so I was just happy to be there with that group of talented folks.
What made you try out in the first place. What made you look atAmerican Idol as an established artist and say, "I should try out for this."
Paul McDonald: It was one of those things where we just cut an album and spent like all of our money on it. We were tossing it around to different labels and stuff and trying to figure it out. We had a manager at the time that had us playing at frat parties to pay our bills, and every once in awhile, we'd do a cool festival or open up on a cool little tour.
We were thinking, "Even if we get picked up by one of these labels, it could still be a small artist development deal and we'd be doing these small tours and playing at the bottom level of the scene." It's tough, man. The business is so tough, and I was like, "You know what? I might as well try this out."
It was also a last minute thing. Our guitar player's girlfriend at the time was on So You Think You Can Dance and she was like, "Go do this man." Because she's friends with a bunch of the people from American Idol. I was like, "Alright, I'll do it."
So, I didn't expect anything out of it. It was just one of those things where I was more concerned with my new album, trying to get out there and this and that. It ended up working out great because this American Idolthing is about the biggest platform you can have right now.
You can't pay for press that gives you 30 million people watching you every night. It's helped out a bunch, because my main goal was just to showcase my originality and my original music, because that's really what I do. It worked out good, man! I'm happy!
Any closing thoughts?
It's been a good ride. I'm super thankful for everyone that voted for me and supported me over the past few months. I can't wait to put out some new material and hopefully you guys dig my original stuff, because that's what I'm best at.