The showy rhinestone suit that Paul McDonald wore for American Idol’s top 24, and again on Thursday night when he was put through to the top 13, cost the once struggling musician a whopping $4,500! “It broke my bank,” he tells THR’s Idol Worship. “But it was an investment, like a guitar.”
Inspired by an original Nudie suit worn by country-rock troubadour Gram Parsons in 1969, when after a stint with the Byrds, he joined the Flying Burrito Bros. (future influencers of Wilco, Ryan Adams and the entire alt-country genre), McDonald’s homage was created by Manuel Cuevas Jr., whose father, Manuel Cuevas, apprenticed under Nudie Cohn, who designed similar pieces for the likes of Elvis Presley and George Jones.
“I brought Manuel a few different designs — from Elvis, Elton John, Gram Parsons — and he hooked it up,” says McDonald. “It took him a few months to do, but right as I got it, I ended up getting on [American Idol] and I was, like, ‘I’ll bust it out on TV!'”
As for the hefty price tag, McDonald says he paid for it the old fashioned way: He saved. Of course, now that he’s on Idol, he can afford such extravagances without feeling so guilty. Not only does he pocket as much as $2800 a week in fees just for performing on network television, but the album he recorded with his former band The Grand Magnolias, recently shot up to No. 3 on the iTunes rock chart.
“It’s crazy, I can tour and bust my butt for five years and sell 1,000 CDs, then I go on TV, sing a Rod Stewart cover, and have a No. 3 record. I was like, what is going on here?”
The power of Idol, that’s what. So how did his bandmates feel about their singer making it onto one of music’s biggest stages? “At first they hated me for it,” he says. “They were, like, ‘We’re working so hard, what are you trying to get a solo Idol thing for?’ But now that the album is doing well and they can pay their rent, they’re happy for me and proud. That’s been my family for the past five years. They know it’s good things ahead for all of us.”
Check out the suit in action in the video below.