Idoloonies: Paul McDonald on 'Blackbird,' Crazy Dancing, and...Adam Lambert Comparisons?

When Paul McDonald decided to try out for American Idol, he never really thought about taking home the top prize. But at age 26, the lead singer for the well-regarded southeastern rock band the Grand Magnolias still found himself playing frat parties to pay the bills, and decided a stint on the nation’s most popular talent competition might help change his lot in life.

In his freewheeling Idoloonies interview, Paul breaks down the highlights of his Idol run: How he and fellow semifinalist Kendra Chantelle cooked up their memorable duet of “Blackbird” in Vegas (and their subsequent recording of the duet “Like You Loved Me Then“); why his preparations for “Rocket Man” turned into “a big cluster of craziness”; and which of the songs he performed in the competition he’d once played at Bonnaroo. He also dishes the sinking feeling of discovering one of his Idol song choices had been previously covered by season 8’s Adam Lambert, the reason he stopped watching the show once he reached the Top 13, and a theory about why his dancing on the Idol stage might have looked a little weird.

Press play below to watch McDonald’s full Idoloonies video, and for all my reality news, recaps, and video, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

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  1. Erinn says:

    What a cool dude! I hope good things come to him.

    • Love Him says:

      I agree! He is so cool. I’m so excited to hear what he does for the summer tour.

      • Tarc says:

        Rather, I’d hope he has enough cash flow to get and stay in voice lessons to keep his voice strong enough so that he’s never forced to whisper the end of a song because his voice gave out. :D Idol was just never the right forum for Paul, though I hope it ends up giving him the boost that he needed to continue doing his own thing. Like Casey, they are exceptional at what they bring to music.

        • n says:

          I read a blog at the website AL that said he was struggling with nodules on his vocal cords on the show. He did amazing for having that sickness. I have been saying prayers for him. I hope he is feeling better.

          • Life says:

            I can’t wait to see what he does for the American Idol tour!

          • Tour says:

            I can’t wait for the tour. I wonder what songs he will choose for tour. He made it clear in interviews that the band Mumford And Sons, and Ryan Adams are two of his favorites.

          • ns says:

            Me too! Can’t wait for tour. He will rock so much at tour.

          • S says:

            I like how he said it depends where everything takes him. I hope he gets that very special solo career opportunity. His personality seems too independent to be with a band. He deserves to be happy. If he was solo he could do his own thing and put 100% of his own creativity into his work. He said he was struggling to pay the bills…his independent personality and creativity could make him successful and give him a great blast of a career. He needs to do what makes him happy…he is the one that worked his butt off on American Idol, not his band.

          • Janet says:

            Great interview. I am excited for when he gets his music that he has been writing out.

          • m says:

            I wish him the best of luck!

          • Vicky says:

            He still was a excellent performer even though he had the nodules.

    • Fun says:

      He was NEVER boring. He always picked awesome songs. His voice was awesome. I thought he was the most FUN contestant. I have all his American Idol studio itunes songs. Good luck Paul.

    • agrimesy says:

      I still think Paul’s exit number with Maggie May was the best Idol good-bye ever! (I didn’t like Casey’s kissfest last week.) Paul sang well, and he seemed genuinely happy to have made it as far as he did. I think he was perhaps the most well-liked contestant among the contestants themselves. I mean, I think all his competitors liked him personally. Looking back on that clip again, I noticed how upset Lauren was. I could imagine her crushing on Paul even though he’s ten years her senior . . . nothing gross, just cute. Casey tried hard to explain that he and Haley had only a musical relationship on some morning TV show, but they kept pushing it otherwise. The media also commented on how torn up James was about Stefano leaving. I wish Idol didn’t force false stories on the audience when it’s pretty obvious the friendships are happening naturally, honestly. This summer tour may be a fun one.

    • Selbs says:

      Funny thing about Paul McDonald, I loved him through the audition phase, and really thought he was the ONE, but something happened for me when the competition began, and I couldn’t believe this was the same singer! And if those jerky judges, and I use that term ever so loosely, would have given him any kind of critique that made sense (except commenting on his smile and what he was wearing) he might have had a chance to go farther. This year’s idol started out with promise, but it sure has gone down the toilet in a big way!

  2. jazzy says:

    Paul is coolness. Crazy dancing, raspy voice, grovvin’ with the music, don’t let anyone homogenize your style.

    But please oh please don’t whisper the final notes of a song, ever ever ever.

  3. Maj says:

    Thanks for the interview Michael!
    As much as I didn’t enjoy Paul on Idol (as in I could see he was better than what sometimes came outta his mouth) I really like The Grand Magnolias album which I bought probaly at the time of Top 24 Maggie May. He’s a great songwriter, I was really surprised by the quality of his own songs. So I think and hope that he won’t end up playing frat parties till he dies. He deserves a proper career, ideally w/ his band.
    Cool dude in a loose mood is quite fitting description of Paul (thanks Steven!) – again, watching this interview, I could feel the coolness seeping thru my comp screen. :o)
    Thanks to both of you guys! x

  4. glitzy chic says:

    great interview. You seem like a very hard worker and nice guy Paul, hope you go far. I’ll be looking for you. I’ll probably see you on the Idol tour in Cleveland.

    • Leslie says:

      Idol tour isn’t coming to Cleveland this year, unless they added it on. They were only gonna hit Columbus. ;-(

  5. Karrie says:

    I have to say that he does better than what he did on the big stage; Idol was not for him! He and Kendra are so awesome together; she should have been picked rather than Naima or Ashton!! I’m actually from the same town as Bonnaroo and have never heard of him nor his band.

  6. Leslie says:

    Man, I miss Paul—he is a cool dude! I love how he sings!

  7. MD says:

    Paul was the only singer on Season 10 I had any warmth for. It seemed he was the only one with any personality.

    As for Tracks of My Tears…his version was great. Didn’t even remember Adam Lambert singing it.

    I hope someone signs Paul. He’ll make it if they do.

    • kerry says:

      I absolutely LOVED Adam’s version of TOMT and thought I would hate Pauls version because of that. However I LOVED Paul’s version, too! They were both very different arrangements, but both arrangements worked perfectly for them as individuals! I was sad to see Paul go, but am looking forward to seeing/hearing from him on a grander scale in the future. :)

  8. Amalia says:

    I think he did great considering his “what he has”. Congratulations!

  9. Raksha says:

    I absolutely adore him. He is wonderfully weird!!

  10. Rhama says:

    Great guy, terrible singer.

    • Tarc says:

      He’s not a ‘terrible singer’… he’s just not to your taste. Personally, all of rap and most of country could evaporate overnight and leave the world a better place. But I’m certainly not going to suggest that all rappers or country singers are ‘terrible’.

    • Sam S. says:

      I agree with you. He really isn’t that great of a singer… He would be great in like a Rod Steward cover band, but that is about it…

  11. Zoey says:

    Favorite guy on season 10, fantastic interview, and I sincerely hope he and the Grand Magnolias are signed – they should never have to play a frat party again!

    • Suzy says:

      Paul is the best. he was different and I love his voice, This is coming from an obsessed Adam Lambert fan. Paul was the only reason I watched since Adam was on.

  12. ladyhelix says:

    Thanks Michael – what an unexpected treat!

  13. agrimesy says:

    I thought Paul was mocking the show when he was there, I don’t believe that anymore. Idol was not his environment, that’s all. He auditioned for the same reason Adam Lambert did, exposure. Being “famous” in one area of the nation does not mean you can make a living at it. I hope Paul was on the show long enough to give his career the jumpstart it needed. He sounds a lot like other guitarists on the radio, but I don’t begrudge him that. If he brings Kendra along for the ride even for just one song, then I will praise him heartily. I wish him well.
    I wonder if his voice will hold out for 50+ shows on the Idols Summer Tour? I didn’t follow the tour last year, but for season 8, everybody got sick. Kris Allen was the only one who cancelled a performance in CT. Adam Lambert had to close the show. I remember Adam saying he also had to lower his range as the tour progressed due to vocal fatigue. Pack lots of tea, Paul! :-)

    • LS says:

      I followed the season 7 & 9 tours and yes, they were plagued by illness too. Hope Paul takes care of himself! Atleast he has a bit of time to give his voice a rest before then.

  14. LS says:

    I didn’t truely appreciate Paul’s talent until I heard him sing with his band, The Grand Magnolias. They’re fantastic! Paul’s a great songwriter too. Hope he gets signed… I wanna see him on tour with his band!

  15. slow videos says:

    please use another format for the videos – they take FOREVER to load. come on…

    • carrie says:

      They actually load pretty quickly. At least to me.

    • agrimesy says:

      I click the play arrow then click the pause button to let the video buffer out. Then I go read my email or hang out on Twitter for a few minutes. When I get back to it, I hit the arrow again, and it plays right through. It’s a pain, but I have to do the same thing on Youtube vids too. It’s just one of those things I’ve learned to work around.

  16. Steph says:

    Thanks for this, Michael! I was wondering if you were going to interview him LoL While I loved him on Idol, I love him with The Grand Magnolias even more. I listen their album all the time. I can’t get enough of it. I can’t wait to hear what he does in the future. After watching this interview, I feel a little better about him getting kicked off so early. He seems perfectly fine with it and was never worried about whether or not he would actually win.

  17. B.Rich says:

    A genuinely great guy, I could tell his voice was going during the competition.

    I really hope that isn’t starting to happen to Haley.

  18. Kathy says:

    It is funny to see these interviews and realize that all the things we are imagining the performers are thinking are just not true! He never watched his performances back so was not responding to what he had seen from the last week on the next show. To hear how accidentally he came to perform Blackbird and then the duet on the step is to understand how casually some of the most important events in our lives can occur. Those were probably two of the best performances I’ve seen this year!

  19. cremes says:

    thank you for asking some interesting questions and sharing your great conversation with paul. and, jeez, he’s a nice guy. i just love that he’s so genuinely sweet.

    unique voice. quirky personality. pure energy on the stage. talented singer-songwriter.

    can’t wait to see what he does next….

    • idolafternoon says:

      Yes, thank you Slezak for the great interview and for not once mentioning anything about “Twilight” or his dating life. I love your intelligent focus on the music and these artists’ goals for their music career in the real world. I just wish we saw more of this kind of info on the show itself. America can handle it!

  20. carrie says:

    what a nice guy!!
    I didn’t think he was very good by the end of the show, but I liked his style, and even though I didn’t like most of his performances, he’s the only contestant that I was 100% sure I would love&buy his album.

    You guys are right, AI is not for everyone. At least we got to know him, and hopefully it’ll give him the means to release his songs.

    Also, I wish we could’ve known he had problems with his voice. In the show they made it look like he was just getting worse, but not because of throat problems.

    • Volcfom says:

      Yeah, people who knew about his vocal issues heard it through the grapevine, but the second Lauren had the sniffles they announced it to the world! Another example of how they push favorites…

  21. Michele says:

    He’s a terrific songwriter. His teeth don’t look WHITE either – weird.

  22. Amy says:

    I really like Paul though I do not think he translated well on the Idol stage (which is not a negative thing). I hope he records an EP or album and that Kendra shows up on it. I would definitely buy it.

  23. DLynne says:

    Paul’s audition of Maggie May got my attention but his album with The Grand Magnolias made me a fan. I also love him with Kendra. (She was robbed, btw.) Here’s a link to Like You Loved Me Then if you haven’t heard the whole thing.

    Paul and his band’s music has a distinctive and unique sound. I really hope they are signed soon. I know I’m a fan for life.

  24. lking says:

    I think Paul will be a real highlight of the Idol tour. He’s confident in himself and his music. He is also fun to watch. You can tell he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

  25. Amelia says:

    I can’t see or play the video – it just says:
    Refreshing the page isn’t working. This hasn’t happened to me before.

  26. James says:

    Good Vid…glad you got to interview him…was my favorite male of the bunch…but now I have hop on the James Durbin Express…go Paul though!

  27. Alex says:

    Cool interview, Paul seems like a very fun guy, and is obviously super talented. Though I think I like him more as a duo with Kendra than alone…but anyhow, wish him all the best, and can’t wait to hear what new music he comes out with. I bought his band’s album on iTunes, and very much enjoy it.

  28. SajiNoKami says:

    Paul was the deal breaker wether we were going to this tour [because i was not watching at the time and was not a fan of james yet] and once he was on it, the email came: Get us tickets! My ma adores this guy. I enjoy him as well… oh this reminds me, need to grab the itunes songs before they disappear.

  29. Just Jules says:

    Paul seems like a pretty cool cat. I think he might have been WAY too cool for American Idol..

  30. Georgia says:

    Great interview! Paul really is a very intelligent and mature guy, and that didn’t come across (to me, anyway) during his run on Idol. The duets with Kendra were gorgeous, but I was so put off by the costumes, song choices, and crazy dancing, I never gave him a chance in the competition. I’ll go check out some of his band videos.

  31. Meghan says:

    Really enjoyed the interview. It is clear Paul is a consummate musician and professional and I loved his responses to the questions you asked, Michael. Hoping from some great stuff from him in the future.

  32. Daniel says:

    Paul begs an interesting question, how do we feel about contestants who don’t really seem to want to win the contest. It is not people like Bo Bice for example who to quote the moronic one ‘was in it to win it’ from the word go. It is contestants like Blake Lewis, who was the first i really felt this way about and it seems to keep coming up with one or two contestants each season. These are people who are there for exposure for what they are doing now, not what the Idol universe will bring them to. Is that a legitimate use of the platform or should they be voted off because they aren’t what the show is about.

    • DLynne says:

      I don’t have a problem with it.

      In Paul’s case, if he could win being true to himself without changing to please the producers or the judges, then he would have been happy to win. Paul wasn’t going to be someone he’s not just to win. He was just happy to be on the show for as long as possible, to gain as much exposure as possible, and a win would have been icing on the cake. I, for one, would not have heard about him otherwise. So, I say go for it.

  33. dctoronto says:

    Loved the interview. His comments on how he and Kendra were able to nail Blackbird in two practices demonstrates the huge chasm between those who have experience in arranging and performing and those who don’t. This possibly explains why Scotty and Lauren’s duets (and to a lesser degree tghier individual performances)have been so lackluster.

  34. Olive says:

    Wow, Paul is suddenly ten times cooler to me.
    Haha I just think this guy is great. And, while I wasn’t a huge fan of his music on the show, his music with The Grand Magnolias is amazing. Seriously. He is very talented.

    Love this guy!

  35. rosie's mom says:

    great interview. Can you explain the creepy blonde backup twins that keep popping up on Idol? they are freaking me out!

  36. rosie's mom says:

    Great interview – adorable guy. One burning question for you Michael: Who are the creepy blonde back up twins who keep appearing on idol. They are freaking me out. Very “The Shining”. xo

  37. Davey says:

    Paul didn’t really get to show his full talent on Idol and it’s too bad his voice was giving out.

    I think his recordings with The Grand Magnolias and Hightide Blues are very good and I look forward to hearing his new material if it’s on par with the lovely duet he did with Kendra.

  38. Renee says:

    Stopped watching AI after Paul left, and don’t feel like I am missing anything. He was the only engaging person on the show. Looking forward to his future material.

  39. darcy's evil twin says:

    Thanks for that treat of an interview, Michael.

    Paul is a great guy and I wish him all the success in the world. I’m going to check out his Grand Magnolias stuff. And he and Kendra should record duets!

  40. Sabrina says:

    My daughter (who is 19) loved Paul from day one. She watched the Grand Magnolias videos on YouTube and raved about how great his band was. She also commented week after week that his dancing was very, very normal for an independent band singer – especially one playing small venues. And she would know! I bought her the Grand Magnolias CD for her birthday last week and it is really good, we enjoy listening to it. One other note about his future plans, someone I know spoke directly to a top 24 contestant and they sign an agreement that gives the AI people 70% of their earnings from gigs and recordings for a year. That could seriously impact this guy’s band depending on how they interpret the earnings. I would imagine we would not see anything substantial outside of the tour and solo work until that contract is up. And that is a very, very high percentage, it is no wonder that J-Hud and others waited so long to release their albums.

  41. Andrew says:

    Still love the guy. I hope we get tons of stuff from him (with Kendra, with the band, solo) – I’ll buy it all. I agree with others who said Idol wasn’t the best format for him, but people know his name now and hopefully he can use that to his advantage. He seems like an awesome guy who knows what’s going on musically.

  42. MNCyn says:

    My favorite but he was so totally the most Un-Idol contestant of the season!! Thanks AI for the introduction though. I have the Grand Magnolia album and Paul’s songs from the show and look forward to seeing him in concert! To be honest, I’ll be glad when the tour is over and he’s on his own again!.

  43. Karen O says:

    I like Paul a lot more after this interview. It’s fascinating that Paul is NOT an Idoloonie, or at least he wasn’t while he was on the show. It takes a peculiar sort of person to be in front of 20 million people every week and not look up previous successes and failures.

    I hope he pulls a Daughtry and finds a label and writes some kick ass music with his band. And jumps around the stage as much as he wants on their inevitable tour. =)

  44. karen says:

    the tour…..PAY to see Jacob? I think not

  45. rock star says:

    Paul rocks!

  46. Tyra says:

    Paul.Marry me!

  47. catie says:

    i absolutely love him. i loved him from the very first time i saw him and the whole time he was on idol. but, this interview made me love him even more. he seems like such an awesome person, very easy going, and very nice. i really hope things work out for him. i would buy a cd from him or go to one of his shows. love ya paul!

  48. Glamouse says:

    VERY good news that Paul might release the Like You Loved Me Then duet he did with Kendra on an EP. It is an awesome song and they sound beautiful together. Also I want MORE from him and The Grand Magnolias. So glad he tried out for Idol!

  49. Josh says:

    horny colored rooster with chicken thin voice, flashy decorated private parts and scandalous ovedose sexual behavor- Adam Lambert.