Paul Jolley belted out Heart's "Alone" on Thursday's "American Idol" elimination night, however, it wasn't enough to convince the judges to use their one and only "save." It was a bittersweet evening for the 23 year-old who was sent home from the show, shortly after being presented with a framed certificate that declared March 16 "Paul Jolley Day" in his hometown of Palmersville, Tenn. Jolley's elimination brings the "Idol" clan down to it's final 8 and leaves Burnell Taylor, Devin Velez, and Lazaro Arbos as the only remaining boys in the competition.
Following the show, Billboard caught up with Jolley who revealed his post-"Idol" plans of continuing to pursue a career as a country/pop vocalist (no straight pop!), his thoughts on the judges being so hard on him, and his plans for returning home and eating "anything but a salad."
What was Mariah telling you after you were eliminated tonight?
She was pretty much telling me don't give up and keep pushing forward and she would love for me to do pop. 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. I love Darius Rucker; he's one of my favorites and we'll see what happens.
Did any of the other judges say anything to you?
Yeah. 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.
You didn't get to talk to Nicki tonight did you? She left before…
She didn't come up and speak to me. I don't know why. But I still love her.
What did Keith say to you?
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 ever since you were a little kid. Being on "Idol," I've auditioned before and I never made it through the first round cattle call and the first year, I opened for Billy Dean in a small town and that town called me the next week and said, "Hey. American Idol is coming and we want you to support our town" and I said, "I'll be there." The "Idol" tour bus stopped and it wasn't even announced that Keith Urban was a judge this year and it was meant to be and I'm so thankful for this whole experience from beginning to now. I don't regret anything I've done. I stand behind everything I've done on the show 100%. Everything that they have told me, I have given 100% 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. I give them what they ask for each time but I also feel like I can only do so much as an artist when you're being pulled so many different ways.
What are you going to miss most?
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. We were all raised in different types of homes and I grew very close to them. 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.
Yeah. I'll do that whole Taylor Swift thing. Don't think I wont!
What was going through your head when you were singing for the save? Were you tuning everything out?
I would never tune anything out – that's for sure. It is an emotional thing but I'm just so thankful to be where I'm at. We were given the choice to sing any song that I've sang so far on the show, and the reason I chose that song is because of the lyric that is in that song. Once again, just like last night, I chose that song because of the lyric: "Till now I've always gotten by on my own" but now I have my fans and my troops behind me, 100% backing me. I hope to gain more through this experience.
What did you think about what Jimmy Iovine said about your performance last night?
I respect his opinion 100%. I've always looked up to Jimmy. Before "Idol," I knew who Jimmy was and a lot of people don't know who Jimmy is but I did. I respect everything he said but I still 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.
Was there ever a time that you felt hurt by something the judges said?
For sure. I mean I've been hurt a lot. If you watch the show, you've noticed almost every single night, they have 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 OK 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, that's all I want to do is grow.
It seemed like there was a disconnect with you really wanting to do country and the judges saying go in the pop direction... make a dance record. Do you think it was hard for the American public maybe to decide where to place you?
You know, to each his own. Everybody has his own opinions but, ultimately, me as the artist, I know what I want to do and showcase and be an inspiration to others and I want to stick to my roots. Country is where I was born and raised and the songs that I grew up with – Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty… I grew up on this music and I'm not going to turn away from it and do some pop stuff. I love pop. I love to dance and have a good time in my room by myself 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. If I stepped foot on a stage and I tried to 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 know that 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.
Are you going to take some time off to regroup or are you going to start hitting the ground running right away with your music?
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. 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 from this point on.
Did you have family or friends here or have you spoken to them on the phone since the news?
I did, I had my mom and dad and my cousin and a bunch of friends here and I haven't gotten to see or speak with any of them so far. I told them, because if I made it through, I get to go to dinner with them and spend time with them, so they're probably just wondering what's going on right now. And I'm hungry. I have to be up at 4am, so I might just not eat dinner and lose a few more pounds.