Paul McDonald’s conference call with reporters on Friday morning:

On his busy pre-Idol career:

He’s been touring for 5 yrs performing “strictly my own orginal material.” He’s been living in Nashville for 2 years.

“We’ve been up there trying to make it in the original music biz as artists.” His band released an album in November. “That’s where my heart and soul is…my blood sweat and tears.” He’s proud of the work he’s done with his band. “Hopefully I get to work with those guys soon.”

He really wanted an “original songs” week,

“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…that was something I always wanted to do because I’m actually not very good at singing other peoples’ songs. I learned that in the past. That’s why I started playing my own songs. There’s only so much you can do singing other people’s songs.”

What was it like singing his own song, “American Dreams” on Idol,

“That was my whole thing on the show–to try to branch out and let people know what I do normally. I was right at home with that kind of stuff, It made me really happy that they let me do that. Original music to me, comes off more real, because it is real That stuff came from real times in my life.”

On his duet with Kendra Chantelle,

“Kendra’s great. I wrote that song awhile back, after me and Kendra got up and did the “Blackbird” thing, I was like ‘man you should come over and test this one out with me.’ It turned out really cool. As soon as I get back to Nashville I’m sure we’ll hang out and work on some stuff. I’ve been writing tons of material while I’m out here, which I probably shouldn’t have been doing…that’s why I got kicked off already…she’s a great writer and she has a ridiculous voice.”

Does he have any regrets?

“Some of the song choices that I did were probably not the best ones for me. When I first tried out, this whole thing was just kind of for fun. I didn’t expect to get this far. When I got up here, I listened to some people when I probably should have stuck with my gut. Other than that, it was fun. I maybe just wish I had done some more of these obscure artists–more of the vibe of music I was into. It came across on stage–I didn’t feel comfortable a whole lot of the time…it felt like it wasn’t me all of the time. Other than that, everything was good. I had a good time. It was an amazing learning experience doing all this TV. It opened up my brain to doing all these cover songs and trying to recreate these old songs into something new.”

What will he miss most about the experience?

“I’ll probably miss the people around me…anyone from people at 19, my day to day people, the security, the crew–they are really nice people and they’ve always been supportive. We’ve kind of grown into a family. It’s going to be weird jumping back out into the real world and not seeing them every day. The whole American Idol experience has been a very unique and super tight-knit community.”

What were his expectations of American Idol?

“I never watched the show while I was on it, I never went back and read reviews of what people thought. I literally was doing exactly what I wanted to do coming in there. Although, it was tough picking all these different songs. I was just being me. It was funny–the hair and makeup team would be like ‘man, we don’t need to do anything to you today’ The stylist [would say] ‘I like your clothes better than the one’s we’ve got.’ I kinda did my own thing and it worked out good enough for 8th place. I’m pretty happy about it.

Favorite artists,

“I strive to be like a whole lot of artists. Right now, I’m listening to Mumford and Sons–it’s music that moves you. The Black Keys–my band played Bonarro and all this kind of stuff beforehand. The festival circuit–the kind of stuff that’s going on at Coachella right now–that’s my vibe. I listen to all kinds of music. My main goal is to make music that lasts and that people enjoy. Whenever I first started playing music it wasn’t to try to make old sounds sound new again…is to let loose my feelings and write about real stuff.”

On his flashy outfits, “I got those outfits made for me before the show. I broke my bank on that first white suit before I came out to Hollywood. They were custom made for me. My friend back home, Manny, made them for me. I might wear them for my birthday and for New Years and all that kind of stuff (laughs).

On his white, white teeth,

“I’ve never had a professional whitening done, I’ve always used Crest toothpaste–advanced vivid white toothpaste. I don’t drink coffee, I don’t drink coke. My sister’s are the same. We all have white teeth. I guess it’s in the genes, man. (laughs)”

About meeting famous actresses:

“It’s cool getting to see people that have been in the business and are successful in their own right and say they are fans. It’s really cool. It kind of blows my mind. I was out doing the exact same thing with my band playing to a few hundred people a night, all of a sudden I get on TV and sing a handful of covers and people think I’m cool now. It’s super humbling to have people like that think that my art is good.”

On meeting Kurt Warner,

“‘I’m a fan, you do great’ he said. I was like, ‘You know who I am?’ It’s kind of crazy. It doesn’t seem real, but it’s pretty cool.”

Any condolences from famous people?

He hasn’t had time to check.

“I got like 270 test messages today! I haven’t had time to think or read any news.”

On the female controversy. Does he think girls vote only for guys? Do men have the advantage in the early rounds?

“I definitely do. It funny…the teenaged girls feels like to me are the ones that watch the show the most. I remember walking out on stage–people out in the audience have their posters and signs. There’s like one poster that says ‘Paul” then there’s like a thousand screaming 14 year old girls that have Scotty McCreery posters. I think the guys definitely have an advantage. It’s a shame for the girls because they are so talented.”

Is he dating Nikki Reed?

He confirms: He is dating Nikki Reed from the Twilight movies. He met her at the Little Red Riding Hood premiere a few weeks ago.

“Yep. Me and Nikki Reed are dating. It’s officially true. She’s super cool. She’s super smart, really cool girl. I’m happy with it. We’ve been hanging out here and there. We’re both pretty busy. It’s been fun so far.”

Why didn’t America connect with what he was trying to do on the show?

“It’s a tough thing to say. My music is kind of roots rock and roll. It’s kind of indie, we’re doing the festival scene. It’s hard to say what America is into these days. I was just doing my thing and literally wasn’t planning on winning or anything. I’m super pumped up to even get this far. Maybe it was my over-the-top suits. (laughs). This week I had planned on doing either a Zac Brown, a Mumford and Sons or a Ray LaMontagne tune because I was getting tired of trying to do these songs I wasn’t comfortable with. But then I got the boot, so…”

On his voice troubles,

“It is a grueling schedule and my voice has been kind of out of it most of the competition. I’ve been touring for so long, and I’ve got issues with my voice. Sometimes I can get away with it–gives it that raspy kind of 0ff-key vibe (laughs) We don’t get too much sleep, and for me I need sleep for my voice. Sometimes it was in full force, but much of the time you could definitely tell it was not 100 percent. “

On his easy going attitude about being eliminated,

“When I came into the whole Idol thing, I had no expectations whatsoever. I never thought about winning–I literally came in and was doing my thing. If I got kicked off months ago I would have just gone back to doing what I do normally. “It just kept surprising me how far along I got. Let’s not be sad. 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 my original music. That’s what I’m better at anyways. A bunch of the kids and the contestants they’ve been watching Idol forever and wanting to win this thing–one of their hugest dreams, and I was like ‘go get it guys I’m OK I’m a 26 year old man.’” (laughs)

Did he feel a generation gap between himself and the youngsters?

“Me and some of the kids were 10 years apart. It was really cool because I haven’t hung out with 16 year old kids in like 10 years. It was fun. It made me feel like I was in high school again. They’re 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. I was trying to be an older mentor to them, even though I got kicked off way before those guys (laughs). I was trying to teach them how to play piano and write songs and not just sing songs–kind of just step them outside the box a little bit. They’re good kids. There are some superstars in this group.”

Will Idol hurt his credability?

“That was one of my main concerns. Is it worth the credibility? That’s the one thing I’ve always wanted in my career–no matter how rich or poor is to have respect in the community. All these legit bands in the music business are calling me up–’oh dude, I can’t believe you’re doing this show’. They’re happy for me now, ‘I think you’ve dropped out right at the best point. Now let’s cut some real records and get back to doing our thing.’ I think I can bridge that gap. I’m going to try to cut a great album. If I do that, that’s the main thing. If I cut a good record, I’ll have the respect of the music community. American Idol is great, it’s done nothing but help me.”

Was this his first try at Idol?

“Yeah. I never even really got into it besides back when Ruben Studdard was on it. It was one of those things I fell into. I happened to be in town and it was 5 minutes down the street. My friend convinced me to walk down there and do it. I had no expectations of anything. That’s why I’m so happy to make it this far. There was no goals really set in stone. I was just doing it for fun. It never had been my dream to win American Idol. I was in it to have a good time. It was a once in a lifetime deal. I didn’t expect to get this far. Once I got down to the Top 10, I was thinking ‘Wow, I’m getting close, maybe I could do well in this thing.” You don’t realize it until it’s narrowed down. I was just taking it one day at a time. After Pia got kicked off, I was like ‘dude what’s going on here’ because she has an amazing voice. I knew it was anybody’s game. I was just happy to be there with that group of talented folks.”

Best professional advice,

“Be and do my thing. I showed them my old albums, and they were like ‘man that’s what you need to be doing. Stay true to yourself.’ The whole Idol experience has helped me so much–getting to meet these professionals, these producers–it would take years and years of touring and all kinds of stuff to get a chance to meet these guys. I’ve already one in that aspect. Now I’ve got these producers calling me up, ‘lets cut some real albums.’ It’s been amazing and super humbling to have these super pros on my side.”

Why did he try out in the first place?

“We just cut an album and spent all of our money on it. We were tossing it around to different labels. We had a manager at the time…playing frat parties to pay the bills. Every once in awhile we’d do a cool festival, or open up on a cool little tour. We were thinking–even if we were to get picked up by one of these labels, it could still be a small artist development deal, we’d be doing these small tours and playing the bottom level of the scene. The business is tough. Might as well try this out. Our guitar player’s girlfriend at the time was on SYTYCD and she was ‘go do this’ because she’s friends with a bunch of people from American Idol. I didn’t expect anything out of it. It was just one of those things. I was more concerned with my new album. It ended up working out great. This American Idol thing 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 is just to showcase my originality and my original music. That’s really what I do. It worked out good, man. I’m happy.”

Closing comments:

“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. Hopefully you guys dig my original stuff, because that’s what I’m best at.”