Exclusive Interview: Paul Jolley
If you know the name Paul Jolley, chances are you were introduced to him by a little show named American Idol. If you don’t know the name Paul Jolley yet, it’s time we change that for you.
Upon chatting with Paul, he’s astonishingly humble, earnest and grateful for each opportunity that this crazy journey has afforded him. Although he’s already accomplished much, he’s got big dreams and even bigger talent.
Growing up in Tennessee, Paul was the kind of kid who always had a microphone in his hand. From organizing bedroom performances for his parents to appearing as a special guest performer during his school’s choir concerts in Kindergarten (he was too young to actually join the choir), it was immediately evident that he was bound for big things. As soon as he was able, he joined the choir, competed in talent shows and performed anywhere people would listen.
These performances included opening gigs for some legendary country artists, including Aaron Tippin, Billy Dean, Chely Wright and Lorrie Morgan. It was one of these opening gigs with Billy Dean that would change his life, as shortly after opening for the legend, he received a call from a radio station in Bowling Green, Kentucky, inviting him to come audition for American Idol.
Initially, Paul was hesitant, admitting that he auditioned three times previously and never made it past the first round. “I said I’d audition if I was off work,” Paul recalls. “It ended up that I was off work that day, which was weird because I never got off. I guess it was all just part of God’s plan getting me off work that day.”
From there, he made it through round after round, ultimately landing in the top ten. One highlight, he recalls wasn’t well-known, but a very proud moment. “During the Top 40 rounds, in Vegas, I sang “Just a Fool” by Blake Shelton and Christina Aguilera…and the song jumped 27 spots on iTunes. I was really proud of that because it wasn’t really known at all…that’s kind of crazy for a song to already go up and down the charts, and I performed it and it jumped back up 27 spots. That’s crazy. I need a thank you from Blake and Christina,” He laughs.
Unlike many others, Paul admits that as much as he would’ve liked to win American Idol, that wasn’t his ultimate goal. “Making the top 10 on Idol was a huge thing. My goal wasn’t to win the show and be #1, it was never my goal. My main goal was to make the top 10 and go out on tour and meet the fans and get to know people on a face to face basis.”
Although he finished ninth on Idol, he achieved his goal and was able to meet with tons of fans on the road. “It was so exciting because when I got off the airplane, I had some fans actually waiting for me at the airport when I got off the plane. I never would’ve expected that in a million years.” He also admits that the biggest pinch me moment of his career thus far came when he stepped foot on-stage during the Idol tour. “On the tour when I first walked out to perform in one of the biggest stadiums, that was like my most surreal moment…That’s always been a dream of mine.” He recalls, “The moment just gives me goose bumps and chills all over…It was so surreal and I tried to take it all in.”
Paul admits that he still watches Idol whenever he has time to do so, but that his burgeoning career is keeping him very busy, and that’s just how he likes it. He recently released his uplifting first single, “Healed” and is currently writing and recording more for an EP. Additionally, he hopes to obtain a publishing deal and write for other artists. “I don’t want to just write for myself, I want to write because I love it and because it’s my passion.”
His passion is evident in “Healed,” which he co-wrote with Mark Irwin (“Highway Don’t Care,” “Redneck Crazy,” etc.) and Adam Wood. Paul tells us that the song happened by accident. “We were just talking about situations that you go through in life, and we were like ‘healed’ and we were like ‘that’s it!’ It turned into what it is now.” He says, “I am so proud of it, so excited. As soon as we got into the studio and started recording it, it was like magic.”
“Healed” is a pretty solid indication of the direction Paul hopes to go on his EP, that he’s working on with Nashville-based Century Music Group. He describes his sound as pop/country and likens himself to a male version of Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood. “There’s not really a guy out there that’s doing what I want to do music-wise,” He says, “I’m hoping to fill that void in country music.”
In addition to considering himself the male version of Taylor, Paul lists her as one of his dream collaborators. “I’d love to write with Taylor, she’s such a good writer. I can’t get over that she writes most of her stuff by herself, it blows me away.”
As far as his bucket list is concerned, Paul has another goal he hopes to achieve: the Grand Ole Opry. “One thing that I’ve been really hoping and praying for and working hard for, even on Idol, I always mentioned, one of my biggest goals is to perform at and be a member one day, of the Grand Ole Opry…I’ve just always looked up to that because that’s what started out country music. ” He admits that the Opry has been one of his biggest goals growing up and he’s inspired by the fact that his Idol peers, Kree Harrison and Janelle Arthur, have been performing there regularly. “‘I’m like ‘Come on guys, please invite me.'” He laughs. “I’m trying to pitch it to them, hoping they get on board eventually.”
Until the Opry comes a-callin’, Paul continues to hones his craft and hopes to head out on a tour and visit the fans he didn’t meet on the Idol tour. Additionally, he’s writing and extremely grateful for the opportunities he’s been afforded. “I’m really proud to be working with such great people here in Nashville because it’s very rare that people want to write with you and give you the chance.”
Aside from the Nashville community’s acceptance, Paul is extremely thankful to his loyal fan base, who call themselves “Troopers.” To them, he says, “Thank you so much for all of the support and everything. All of their uplifting words – Every day, the moment I wake up, I get a ‘good morning Paul, I hope you have a wonderful day.’ All of those daily encouragements just mean the world to me and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
As for the new “Troopers,” Paul encourages you to follow him and be prepared for the ride. “It’s going to be a fun journey and I want everyone to be a part of that.”
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