Sunday, February 10, 2013

Scoping out Scotty McCreery: 'American Idol' winner talks about first headline tour and second album

February 10, 2013

Scotty McCreeryScotty McCreery was just 17 when he won the 10th season of “American Idol” in 2011. So it’s to be expected his career will develop differently than most other music artists.
                                          Scotty McCreery
For one, McCreery finished his senior year at Garner High School in Garner, N.C., as his debut album, “Clear As Day,” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s albums chart, went platinum and earned him Best New Artists at both the American Country Awards and Academy of Country Music Awards.
Now, on his first tour as a headlining artist, McCreery will play only weekends, so as not to interfere with his studies as a freshman communications major at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
The tour kicks off Feb. 14 at Sands Bethlehem Event Center. In a recent telephone interview from his Raleigh, N.C., home to promote the show, McCreery talked about “Idol,” his career and his upcoming sophomore album.
Here’s a transcript of the call:
SCOTTTY MCCREERY: “Sorry we’re a little late. We’re running a behind.”
“We’re going to be flying back out to Nashville for more recording and stuff.”
You just played the Grand Ole Opry.
“Yes sir!”
Scotty McCreery new 1Pretty cool.
“Yeah, it’s definitely one of my favorite spots to play. It’s a lot of history in that place.”
Have you played there before?
“Yeah, I played there a number of times in the past couple of years and it’s always a great experience.”
The reason we’re talking is because you are going to be launching your first headlining tour at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
“Yes sir, yeah. We’re excited about it. Last year, I had the opportunity to go out with Brad Paisley and The Band Perry and we were out there playing arenas and big amphitheaters. It’s not like I’m out there doing that, but it’s my first chance to get out there and be the guy that’s onstage for an hour and a half, playing my music and really letting the fans know what I’m all about, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Am I correct that you’re going to be going out, basically, on weekend runs?
“Yeah, that’s why we call [the tour] The Weekend Road Trip. I’m actually a college student, as well, so I’m balancing a lot right now. And so Monday through Wednesday, I go to class. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, we’re going to be hitting the road, and getting the touring circuit, and recording, as well. Getting this album straight; album No. 2. So we’re kind doing anything and everything right now, throughout the week.”
NC State? Go Wolfpack!
“Yeah! Wolfpack it is [laughs].”
What are you studying?
“Right now I’m majoring in communication, with focus on media. So I’m kind of seeing the other side of things from a media aspect.”
Scotty McCreery new 2I read that you are going to be playing some new songs on the shows?
“Yeah, we might be. We’re in the process of recording those songs right now and still picking out and writing and all of that stuff. So as those songs come along, as they evolve and we get the recording process done, we’re going to be playing them and just kind of feel them out, see which ones the crowds react to and try and get a good feel on what kind of songs we want to have singles on for the radio.”
Tell me about the album in general. What kind of feel does it have? Is it significantly different from your first album?
“Uh, you know, I figure it’s going to be. You’re going to know it’s my album – but I think for me, since I got started so young, I’m hoping it will mature with me, kind of grow with me. I’m thinking we’re getting a lot of better songs as well for this album. My first one, I’m definitely proud of it, but we kind of rushed it a little bit to make sure to get it out in October.  So we’re taking out time with this one and making sure we get it right and hopefully the end product definitely reflects that.”
You have a release date set yet, or you have any idea?
“No, no release date right now. We’re still kind of feeling it out, figuring out when it will work. You know,  I want to make sure we have the songs right before we put anything out, so that’s my main focus right now.”
Do you write?
“Yeah, I’ve got a couple of songs on this album that are going to be mine and I did a lot of co-writing for this album and, you know, we picked the best songs – whether they were my songs or whether they were somebody else’s songs. Luckily, I think a few of mine are going to make it, so we’re excited about it.”
Great. You say your first album – you certainly can’t find anything wrong with it. I mean, it topped the Billboard 200, goes platinum. I mean, you had a great shot coming out of the gate.
“Yeah, we couldn’t ever have expected the success that it had. We were just focused on putting out a good country record. And seeing it go platinum in 13 weeks and it topping the Billboard charts – that was just mind-blowing to me, and I was ecstatic. But the fans have been great to me. They were there for me on the show, they were there for me on the road last year, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again on this upcoming tour.”
A couple of other things that happened to you: Academy of Country Music New Artist of the Year. In 2011 you get to sing the national anthem at the World Series. Pretty crazy stuff there, too.
“Yeah, we got to do so many cool things. The World Series was definitely a highlight for me, ‘cause I played baseball my whole life as I was growing up and to combine baseball and singing at the World Series, that was like a dream come true. But we got to do a lot of cool things, especially that first year out of the gate and now the mission is just to make sure we keep that momentum going and make sure we have the right songs so we can keep the train rolling, you know?”
Talk a little bit about what it was like finishing high school while all of that was going on. How did you manage that?
“Uh, I think high school, that wasn’t a huge challenge like college is right now. High school was easier for me. I knew a lot of people there and I’d been there for three years – that was my senior year when everything was going on. So finishing high school wasn’t the biggest problem in the world. I enjoyed it; I got to go back and play baseball, spend time with some friends and do things that, going out to the show in L.A., people pretty much told me that part of my life was over. And so, we kind of proved them wrong and got to go back and do those things. But it wasn’t a huge, monumental task, I don’t think.”
I really have to salute you. It seems like you’re a guy who really has his head on straight to be able to do that; to understand how important that is in life and to be able to go back and do that while all of that other stuff is going on. I think you really impressed a lot of people when you did that.
“Oh, thank you. You know, I’m only this age once – I want to make sure I have those experiences as well as my education. Education’s important. If you have the chance, the opportunity, I think you should capitalize on it. So while I can, I’m doing it.
“And I’m still putting 110 percent into my music. I feel like some people might think, ‘Oh, he’s doing school, how can he focus on music as well?’ In my eyes, I’m having to work harder because of the demand to balance things at the same time. I want to make sure people understand that; that I’m not putting music on the back burner.”
 How did you decide to put out a Christmas album?
“That was something that we talked about really early on, probably a year in advance from when we actually did it. And for me, that was one of the things as we were growing up, we all listen to Elvis’s Christmas album and the classics, and a lot of country artists in particular, they wait years into their career before they ever do one. But we had brought up the idea to the label and their response was kind of like, ‘Eh, I don’t know.’ But then we brought it up again later on, they were like, ‘Yeah, let’s go for it.’ It winded up being a big thing. It went gold for us and we had a lot of fun doing it. Since I did it so early in my career, too, I’m thinking down the road maybe we can do Volume 2 or Volume 3, you know?”
[Laughs] Yeah, good idea. Hey, I saw you were back on “American Idol” on Jan. 23. Talk about how that came about. How did you end up going back to the auditions?
“Yeah, well, we actually did that during the summer. We were playing a show down in Florida that day and that night, and so me and my tour manager flew up to Charlotte for the auditions there that morning and we filmed a bunch of stuff and talked with the contestants who were trying out. And then we flew back out right afterward and went back to Florida and played the shows. So it was a long day, but it was a fun day. Just to get back to that first day, ‘cause that’s where it really started for me.”
Do you stay in contact with any of the people you met on “Idol”?
“Yeah, a lot of them. Me and the contestants, we’ll send out texts every now and then and see how everybody’s doing and we still see people, especially like at award shows with TV stuff around it. Yeah, we try and stay in contact.”
I can’t let you go without asking this: So many of the recent “Idol” winners and top finishers are no longer even under record contracts. Lee DeWyze and Kris Allen and David Cook and I don’t think even Adam Lambert even has a American contract anymore. Does that concern you? That ‘Idol’ doesn’t carry that huge, superstar guarantee anymore?
“Uh, I don’t think it was ever a guarantee. You know, I think ‘Idol’ really got going with Kelly Clarkson and that kind of set the tone, so I think people automatically just assumed that everybody coming off the show would just be a superstar. And it just doesn’t always work like that. I don’t know the magic formula; I don’t think anybody really does. It’s just a lot of work and a little bit of luck and a lot about the fans, you know? The fans, I can’t talk about just how incredible they’ve been to me.
“So I’m not worried about it. I’m just going to continue to work hard and put out my best music and see where it takes me. As far as being on the radar or not, being on a record contract or not, I don’t get to thinking of that stuff too much.”

SCOTTY MCCREERY, 8 p.m. Feb. 14, Sands Bethlehem Event Center, Sands Casino Resort, 77 Sands Blvd., Bethlehem. Tickets: $39.50-$45.800-745-3000,
ALSO, 8 p.m. April 20, F.M. Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre. $49-$99 (VIP, with meet-and-greet), 570-826-1100