Paul McDonald 

The Olympic, Sept. 13

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Jason Myers

As musicians like Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry attest, you don’t have to actually win American Idol to eke out a successful career from the show’s launchpad. Paul McDonald, who placed eighth in the 2011 competition, is a case in point, but since Idol propelled his band The Grand Magnolias to near the top of the Billboard charts, a lot has changed for the Americana rocker. When his band and marriage to Twilight actress Nikki Reed broke up in the same year, McDonald embarked on what in hindsight looks like the classic redemption narrative: Striking out alone, he headed to Nashville to turn his dark night of the soul into a debut solo album.

The product of those years is Modern Hearts (Paul McDonald Music, 2018), a collection of 14 songs that plays like a soundtrack to heartbreak. Tracks with names like "Stay Home," "Once You Were Mine," "Always on My Mind" and "I Ain't Good" feature wounded lyrics polished to a high gloss, which mix the country twang of McDonald's Alabama roots with the peppy pop beats of his later music career.

The album's title track is a digital-age eulogy for lost love, hitting home with lines like "You keep pulling me in from the computer screen," and, "No such thing as goodbye on the internet feed."

“I had to take my life back and figure out who I was again,” McDonald wrote on Soundcloud. “It took me a few years and a few hundred songs to get to that point.”

Head to The Olympic on Thursday, Sept. 13, to hear the best of that deluge live when McDonald and locals The Trees The Trees open for California singer-songwriter RIVVRS.

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