Sunday, January 8, 2012

No idle moments for Scotty McCreery

Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
Updated: January 7, 2012 - 10:43 PM

"American Idol" champ Scotty McCreery is balancing high school and country music, including a tour with Brad Paisley that brings him to the Twin Cities Saturday.
Scotty McCreery had just come home from school with an assignment: write essays for college applications.
Wait a minute. Isn't he the reigning American Idol? Isn't he about to go on tour with Brad Paisley?
The high school senior plans to be on campus in the fall. Last month, he was putting the finishing touches on applications for four or five schools. He's committed to his career but determined to go to college part-time, too.
"College is important to me. Education is important to me. You never know how far your job can take you," said McCreery, who plans to study marketing or communications -- something that will help in his profession.
At the same time, he has been more aggressive about launching his career than other recent "Idol" champs. The previous two winners, Lee DeWyze and Kris Allen, waited until after the next Idol was crowned before making their first solo appearance in the Twin Cities. By the time Season 11 begins Jan. 18, McCreery will have performed twice here -- two months ago at Mystic Lake Casino and this Saturday with Paisley at Xcel Energy Center.
"Being aggressive is something that needs to happen," McCreery said from his family home in Garner, N.C., just south of Raleigh. "Even when I was on the show, I remember talking to the producers saying that I want my album to come out quickly because I don't want the people forgetting about me. I'm going to work my tail off.
"One of my sayings from my baseball days is 'Go big or go home.' We want to go big. Right now, we're just trying to get out there and make sure people know we're still around."
Album sets two records
The people have certainly responded. McCreery's album, "Clear as Day," established two records: the first country newcomer and the youngest male to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
"That was something different," McCreery said in his typically modest, aw-shucks way. "I was extremely humbled by it, but we were ecstatic. When I heard the news, I was running all around the house."
Tastemakers in the music biz are warming to another "Idol" finalist jumping into country music.
"He's a hard kid not to pull for," said Gregg Swedberg, program director of K102, Minnesota's top country radio station, which hosted McCreery in November as part of its Class of 2011 showcase. "He's smarter than people think he is. It starts with the parents. They're 'parent' parents, not show-business parents. When he was doing radio appearances here, he had to get home to do his honors English test."
Neither of McCreery's singles -- "I Love You This Big" and "The Trouble With Girls" -- has set country radio on fire, but he's selling albums like a big-name star. In fact, he's outselling the latest by "Idol" hitmakers Kelly Clarkson and Chris Daughtry.
"It's a fairly safe first record," Swedberg said of McCreery's collection of radio-ready ballads and medium-tempo ditties. "His fans like it. It's a good start," but "not as crazy nuts" as when Carrie Underwood exploded from 2004 "Idol" champ to a superstar with the fastest-selling country debut ever.
Of course, not everybody has warmed to the languid Southern crooner with the strikingly deep voice, Mad-magazine face and goofy eyebrow-raising gestures. Entertainment Weekly magazine named "Clear as Day" one of the five worst albums of 2011.
"Is that so?" McCreery said the day after the magazine came out. "There you go. You can't win 'em all. Maybe they're R&B fans or something. You can't please everybody."
He let the high-profile cheap shot roll off him like NFL quarterback Drew Brees dodging would-be sackers. He's heard the cracks about looking like Mad mascot Alfred E. Neuman since he was a kid. It's no big deal.
Never mind his ears, what really stands out about McCreery is his poise, his maturity. On "American Idol," he exhibited the confidence and charisma of someone twice his age. He credits baseball.
"My dad pitched in college and he raised me on the pitcher's mound," McCreery reflected. "If you're the pitcher, all eyes are on you -- everybody in the stands and the team is depending on you. Being onstage and having all eyes on me, it's kind of a transition from baseball to the stage for me."
Age-appropriate songs
Although he's writing songs, McCreery didn't contribute any material to "Clear as Day." Working with producer Mark Bright (Underwood, Luke Bryan, Reba McEntire), he picked pieces by such Nashville stalwarts as Craig Wiseman, Rhett Akins and Chris Tompkins.
There's nothing about drinking or cheating, though. McCreery, who turned 18 in October, stuck with age-appropriate material -- singing about writing a girl's number on his hand, living in a small town and appreciating the demands on his mom.
"Going into the song-picking process, we all thought it was going to be a bigger challenge than it really was," he said. "They had to be songs I could relate to. I don't think there was one song on there that when I recorded it, I had to fake it or make something up in my mind to really believe it. All the songs speak to my life.
"I've only had one serious girlfriend," he said matter-of-factly. "And it was a 13-year-old serious relationship, so it wasn't too much. I've kind of been flying solo for the last few years. But heartbreak is heartbreak, whether you're 18 or whether you're 40."
Soft-spoken but thoughtful, McCreery is intent on enjoying his senior year at Garner Magnet High School. "My friends don't treat me any different," he said. And he made sure that this leg of the Paisley tour would be done before baseball begins.
He'll pitch if the North Carolina High School Athletic Association approves of his regimen of attending some classes and being tutored by his mother, a certified high school teacher, on the road.
If he had his choice of being the American Idol or the winning pitcher in the final game of the World Series, McCreery would opt for vocal champ.
"Baseball is something I've enjoyed doing but singing has been a passion for me since I was little," said McCreery, who sang the national anthem at the first game of the 2011 World Series. "This is what I want to do, be out there with the music and the guitar, making art."
However, there was no grand plan. He went to Milwaukee for the "American Idol" audition on a whim. And now he's taking it all in stride.
"I'm going to have to go out there and work hard and show them that I deserve to be here," he said.
K102 programmer Swedberg, who has met McCreery and his parents a few times, thinks the youngster is well grounded. He's the kind of eager-to-learn rookie who stood at the side of the stage during concerts in Raleigh, N.C., studying how Taylor Swift and Paisley perform. Similarly, he watched from the wings at the K102 Class of 2011 event in November, observing the more experienced but lesser known acts on the bill.
"It's kind of like watching the film for game day," he said, using a sports analogy.
The night that McCreery performed at Mystic Lake, Swedberg overheard his parents debating when to get their famous son an iPhone.
Said a dumbfounded Swedberg: "My daughter is not the 'American Idol' [she's a high school freshman] and she has an iPhone. But his mom said, 'No, let's wait until Christmas.' They understand that this could go away tomorrow."
That's why this American Idol is going to college.


  1. wow this is a really good article - thanks for sharing it with us - Love scotty and his parents and come to this website daily. Thank you to all of you. Scotty and his family are fantastic role models for all of us. Scotty and family: May Yehovah bless you, keep you and make His Face to shine upon you and give you shalom.

  2. CAD is probably one of the BEST 5 albums of 2011, lyrically and musically! For a debut artist and debut album it is really a good one!

  3. To 10:43AM, even for a non-debut artist or album, CAD is still one of the best 5 in 2011. I love every songs in the album and I'm not even a big country fan. Scotty is great in everything he does.

  4. CAD is THE best album of 2011. Of course I'm a bit biased LOL (IMO EW's best album list, with 1 or 2 exceptions, totally sucks).

    Enjoyed reading the above article, especially the comments from a PD's pov. Gregg Swedberg's offerings seemed realistic, yet positive and encouraging. Also loved his glowing comments about Scotty (and his parents). Good to know that, despite the distractors, there are folks in the country music community pulling for Scotty's continuous success.

  5. I loved this artical about Scotty, very nice. But of course I love Scotty, having watched him from Idol promo and voting for him for three hrs, I feel like I know him, I never knew what it was like to be a real fan, but now I do, and it too me 75yrs, I've enjoyed every minute of seeing Scotty sing and look forward to seeing him be another Brad Paisley!!!

  6. Twitters, please cast your votes at THE SHORTY AWARD. Get Scotty's votes number one. It is BIG for him to win this. It is told, it is the OSCARS of Twitters and it is only in its 3rd year but a lot of celebrties vie for this honor. Check it out and vote.

    Carrollton, TX

  7. I would also like to say, I love the above write-up. It is so honest and simply laid out. It shows clearly the Scotty that made him his fans' "SOUL AND INSPIRATION."

    Carrollton, TX

  8. If I was a betting person, I would put my money on Scotty. I know, as far as teenagers go, hearing songs on the radio is what it is all about. I personally feel the unreleased songs on CAD are the best for we will see if they get more play. Personally, I prefer to play CD's than listen to the DJ's idle pratter, but I am "older". I just might travel to my home state of WA to go to the Tour when it hits the Tacoma Dome.....just thinkin'.

  9. I think Scotty is a really talented singer and my friend and i love him <3


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