Paul McDonald Wasn’t ‘Comfortable’ Singing Covers On ‘American Idol’

Plus: Latest castoff confirms he's dating 'Twilight' actress Nikki Reed.

Before he was sent packing Thursday night, something seemed a bit off with Paul McDonald. The fire and spark the veteran Nashville singer showed in earlier rounds seemed to have left.

While talking to reporters Friday (April 15) about his ouster, McDonald, 26, explained that there was a very good reason that — despite five years of road work with his band the Grand Magnolias and the release of an album just months before his “Idol” journey began — he only made it to eighth place.

“I’m actually not very good at singing other people’s songs,” said McDonald, who also fessed up to another secret during the call: He is, as rumored, dating “Twilight” star Nikki Reed.

McDonald said he tried out for “Idol” on a lark because he, literally, was in the neighborhood when auditions were going on last summer and that he prefers to sing his own original tunes because there’s “only so, so much you can do singing other people’s songs and get them across.” He also noted that he’s been writing “tons” of material in Los Angeles during his run on the show and that he’s eager to get started on new music.

Typically, after leaving “Idol,” the contestants say they have no regrets about the songs they picked on the show, but, again, McDonald was different than most finalists. “Some of the song choices that I did weren’t probably the best ones for me,” he said, without elaborating on which ones he was uncomfortable with or who suggested he sing them. And though he didn’t even expect to get as far as he did in the competition, McDonald lamented listening to the advice of others when his first inclination was to stick to his guns. “I wish I had done some more of these obscure artists, more of the vibe of music that I’m into … because it came across onstage. … I didn’t feel comfortable a whole lot of the time up there because I felt like it wasn’t me all the time.”

In conversation, McDonald sounds a bit like another reluctant “Idol,” last year’s runner-up, Crystal Bowersox, who was also not that familiar with the show before trying out, had her own career going in advance of joining the cast and sometimes seemed as if she’d rather be elsewhere.

McDonald said he did make the most of it, though, and really enjoyed being on the show and hanging with the rest of the contestants. He joked that the hair and makeup team hardly ever had to do anything for him since he had his own unique style and that they often would just let him wear his own clothes — including his two custom-made floral suits.

“My main goal is just to make music that lasts and people enjoy,” he said, mentioning acts such as Mumford & Sons, the Black Keys and Ray LaMontagne as contemporary bands he’s into.

A number of the women who’ve been booted off so far lamented that it was the big teen and tween girl contingent of voters who were causing the early exits of girl singers. McDonald confirmed that, when he walked out onstage, the audience definitely seemed to be stacked with screaming girls holding up signs, most of which were for Scotty McCreery.

But perhaps the thing reporters wanted to know more than such burning questions as to whether he’s had work done on his brilliantly white teeth — he hasn’t , they’re naturally shiny — is whether the rumors of him dating “Twilight” star Nikki Reed are true. “Me and Nikki Reed are dating, it’s officially true,” McDonald said of Reed, 22. “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. We’re both pretty busy, but it’s been fun so far.”

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