Did you expect this?
Paul Jolley: Well, I woke up this morning. And I’ve been telling everyone this, ’cause it really did happen, I’m not just saying this. But I woke up and I had my moment with God and I realized, “I’m going home today.” I knew it, in my heart, 100 percent. And I was prepared for it, because deep down inside, I gave it my all and in the end, God has the bigger plan and that’s all that matters.
How do you feel about the criticism you received from the judges?
Paul Jolley: If you watch the show, you’ve noticed almost every single time they have put me down and put me down and put me down. But I’ve pushed through every single time. I feel like that’s what’s gotten me to where I am today, because people noticed that I push through no matter how many times they’ve put down. Everybody else got mostly positive feedback, and I didn’t and I’m okay with that. Because honestly, I want to take what they say and I want to grow with it. I don’t want to get just the positive feedback constantly, because if I set that bar, there is no room for growth. And with what I want to do with my career, all I want to do is grow.
Would you change anything about your performance choices?
Paul Jolley: I don’t regret anything I’ve done. I stand behind everything I’ve done on the show 100 percent. I would not take anything back. Everything that they have told me, I have given 100 percent on. Every critique that they’ve given me, I feel like I took that and I learned from it and I give it my all each time.
What do you think about how Jimmy Iovine said you had made a big mistake in choosing your Beatles song?
Paul Jolley: I respect his opinion 100 percent. I’ve always looked up to Jimmy… I respect everything he said, but I still stand by and stand behind everything that I’ve done to this point. And I might have made a bad decision once or twice, but I don’t regret it because it’s a stepping stone, and I’ve learned from it if I did mess up.
Do you think there was a disconnect between the judges wanting you to do more pop or make a dance record while you wanted to stick to country?
Paul Jolley: Everybody has his own opinions but ultimately me as the artist, I ultimately know what I want to do and showcase… And I wanna stick to my roots. Country is where I was born and raised and the songs that I grew up with — Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, you name all of these people. I grew up on this music, and I’m not gonna turn away from it and do some pop stuff. I love pop. I love to dance and have a good time.
But you know, I’m gonna stick to country pop, because that’s where my heart is and that’s where I think I fit in the industry the best. Because if I stepped foot on a stage and I tried to be, you know, the country guy that’s out there right now — you know, “Let’s go have a beer and sing about our trucks and our back roads” — it’s not me. You can look at me instantly and known that’s not something I would sing about. I want to sing about something that’s meaningful and that’s an inspiration to me and connection.
That’s what the judges have been preaching to me all along, is my connection. And I had the connection. If they didn’t feel it, I’m sorry. But I connected with it.
What did the judges say to you after the elimination?
Paul Jolley: [Mariah Carey] was pretty much telling me don’t give up and keep pushing forward and she would love for me to do pop. And I respect her opinion of that, and I love her dearly. She’s so sweet, but ultimately I’m going to stick to doing my country-pop thing, because that’s ultimately what I want to do and stick to. I mean, I might pull a Darius Rucker here and start pop and then go back to country next week.
Keith Urban was the first one to literally sprint out of his chair and get up there and give me a hug, and that meant a lot to me. Ever since I’ve been a little kid, he’s always been my idol, and I’ve always looked up to him.
[He said] just not to give up and keep pushing through, because I’m very talented. That means a lot — coming from somebody you’ve always idolized since you were a little kid.
Are you planning to take some time off now, or will you keep going right away?
Paul Jolley: Time off? I do not know what that means. No, I’m going to go full-force. If I let up now, I would be forgotten. And I’m definitely not going to be forgotten, because this is my platform and I’ve made a stamp on it. And after “Idol,” many years later, I’m going to be remembered no matter what.
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get home?
Paul Jolley: Sleep. And eat, ’cause I’ve lost so much weight throughout this experience, because I don’t eat salad… I do not eat these wraps and all these other things. I’m used to my cheeseburger and French fries and everything else. I’m serious — I should show everyone a “before” and “after” picture of when Hollywood Week started until now.
What will you miss most about “American Idol”?
Paul Jolley: I’m going to miss all the other contestants. We’ve become so close and such a family. Everyone is special in their own way.
I grew very close to them, and they mean a lot to me, so they better keep in touch with me, because I’m emotionally attached now. And they’ll regret it if they don’t, because my career is going to go somewhere! [laughs]
You could just write sad songs about them if they don’t keep in touch with you…
Paul Jolley: Yeah. I’ll do that whole Taylor Swift thing. Don’t think I won’t!