“There’s a whole ’nother world out there – a huge business that I’m still learning about,” said McCreery, an 18-year-old Garner resident. “So I told him, just go out there looking to learn and looking for people who can help you out.” “Looking to learn” has been something of a mantra for McCreery since his “Idol” win last year. It’s why the country singer with the deep-beyond-his-years voice has reached out to others in Nashville for guidance and is now touring with one of his idols, country singer Brad Paisley. It’s why he returned for his senior year at Garner High School last fall, even though he could have picked up the few credits he needed to graduate from a private tutor.
And it’s why McCreery – at a time when others in his position might put career above all else – will enroll as a freshman at N.C. State University in a few weeks. He’s looking for a major – maybe communications or public relations – that will help make him a more well-rounded performer.
“I love what I do,” McCreery said. “As long as that’s the case and as long as I’m having a good ole time, I’ll keep on doing it, keep on trying to balance this life.”
‘A jam-packed year’
Winning “American Idol” brings instant fame and a rush of offers, but that celebrity can die down just as quickly as it arises. Sure, some previous winners – particularly Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson – have gone on to become music superstars. But some other past “Idol” champs are hardly household names these days. Lee DeWyze, who won Season 9, had minimal music success and did not appear on the live show the night McCreery succeeded him. McCreery – the show’s first male country winner – won bigger acclaim out of the gate than other recent winners. His first album, “Clear As Day,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart in October. It has since gone platinum, with sales of more than 1 million, and spawned two gold singles – “I Love You This Big” and “The Trouble With Girls.” Lisa McKay, station manager of Raleigh’s WQDR, said the country radio station has seen a “phenomenal” response to McCreery’s music that transcends just local pride.
“I think America’s speaking pretty clearly, and Scotty’s a winner,” McKay said. McCreery has been named best new artist at three different country music award shows in the past six months, has appeared on most every TV talk show, has performed atop a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “We’ve had a jam-packed year,” McCreery said. McCreery, who pitched for his high school baseball team this year, particularly recalled his performance of the national anthem before Game 1 of last year’s World Series. “Me being a baseball nut, that was big for me.” At least one family member – mother Judy, father Mike or sister Ashley – is usually with McCreery on the road; sometimes all three when they can make it work. At awards shows, they rotate who gets to sit beside him on camera when he’s nominated. (Ashley, a college student, had the choice spot last month when her brother was honored at the CMT Music Awards.) Each member of the family has seen collateral fame, too. They all have Twitter accounts with thousands of followers. Some rabid young fans worldwide even want to know about the comings and goings of the family dogs, Becky and Junior.
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