By Tanner Stransky
Updated April 15, 2011 at 02:03 PM EDT

Back during Top 12 week, American Idol judge Steven Tyler memorably called Paul McDonald “a cool dude in a loose mood,” after he sang Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.” And that description couldn’t have been more apt for the 26-year-old Alabama native last night after he got the news that he had been eliminated from the singing competition. “I think it was about my time to cruise out!” the easy-breezy McDonald told EW in an exclusive backstage interview about an hour after the show ended. “Even and those guys were like, ‘Dude, I know you’re a real artist. It’s killing you to do these covers.'” McDonald even said that he woke up Thursday morning with a premonition that it might be the end of the road for him. “It was weird, man, I had a feeling about it,” he continued. “When I got up there, I was completely at peace. It was good, man, you know, because I looked over, and I saw these kids, man, that they’ve dreamed of winning American Idol forever. So I’m like, ‘Go get it, win this thing!'”

McDonald also revealed much more in his chat with EW: which artists he was toying with performing for next week’s show (note: not James Blunt, despite the suggestions!); which Idol contestant he’s going to miss the most (she is of the opposite sex!); and which of the songs he sang on the show was his favorite (it’s not what you might guess!). For all those details and more, check out the full interview below:

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