By CHRIS TALBOTT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — As it turns out, Scotty McCreery can have it all.
The platinum-selling teen and former "American Idol" champ began his freshman year at North Carolina State University recently and he's managed to work out a schedule that allows him to balance his college education with his country music education.
"I made a 98 on my first math test," McCreery said. "I was pumped about that because math is not one of my best things."
It's not the first test McCreery has passed on his quick rise to fame, first winning Season 10 of "Idol," then becoming the youngest male to enter the Billboard 200 at No. 1. While the siren call of celebrity has had a strong pull, McCreery has said all along he also wants to maintain the normal life he'd been planning before he was swept away by "Idol."
That's why he chose N.C. State over a school closer to Nashville. He lives in an off-campus apartment in Raleigh with lifelong friends, just 15 or 20 minutes from his home in Garner and only an hour from Music City by plane. He goes to class on Mondays and Wednesdays, where he's mostly been left alone to study by courteous fellow students. Then he either joins the Brad Paisley tour on the road or works with producer Mark Bright on writing and assembling songs for his next album.
He's even managed to slip in intramural football on Tuesdays. Well, most Tuesdays.
"Going to State, it gives me a chance to have a little bit of a home base, to have a little bit of normalcy — whatever normal is," McCreery said. "I think it's good for me as a person. I'm still figuring out what my normal is."
What isn't normal is the interest in McCreery by fans. His popularity is off the charts in the country music world where the average male star is usually in his 30s. McCreery doesn't turn 19 till later this month and there are signs everywhere that his popularity continues to grow. Billboard and Variety both just named him one of music's top young stars. And even his Christmas album, "Christmas with Scotty McCreery," due out next week, shows signs of unusually strong fan interest. It's Universal Music Group's top pre-order this year, outselling even Lady Gaga and Kanye West.
The goal now, McCreery says, is to lock in those fans, which requires him to seek a well-rounded education. Monday through Wednesday he's working on 12 credit hours toward his communications degree. Thursday through Sunday, it's all about learning the secrets of longevity in the country world.
About the only accolade McCreery doesn't have is a top 10 song at country radio, something he knows he'll need if he wants to be doing this at 40.
"We're still looking for songs because that's what the second album is about for me," McCreery said. "I'm going to be picking and choosing. Country music is about the songs. This last year I've had sold-out shows, I've won awards and stuff, but I haven't had that huge monster hit yet. That's a song I really need to have."