The past year has been nothing short of life changing for blossoming country music superstar Scotty McCreery. It started simply enough as he was just your everyday high school student in his hometown of Garner, North Carolina, working as a bagger in a local grocery store and spending his off-time playing baseball. It didn’t take long for America to fall in love with him in early 2011 when he appeared on “American Idol” and immediately made a name for himself with his undeniably country voice, small-town roots and unwavering conviction. As Season Ten of “American Idol” drew to a close, the people of America spoke! A record-breaking 122.4 million votes were cast for the finale and nearly 39 million people tuned in to see the winner’s name announced. Since he was crowned champion, it has been a whirlwind of recording sessions, traveling, live performances and promotion. With the help of dedicated fans, the young star earned his first gold record for “I Love You This Big,” which sold more than 500,000 singles in four months. McCreery’s recently released debut album, “Clear as Day,” is expected to debut atop the Billboard 200 album charts, making it the best selling album in America amongst all genres when the chart is released on Wednesday. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Scott McCreery to discuss his newfound fame, the making of “Clear as Day,” how he stayed grounded along the way and what it means to sing the U.S. National Anthem at baseball’s biggest stage, the 2011 World Series!
Thanks for taking time out to talk to us today, Scotty. I know it has been a bit of a whirlwind for you lately.
Oh, yes sir! Absolutely!
How are you adjusting to life in the spotlight?
I think that I have been dealing with it pretty well. It has been kind of a big adjustment for me and the family. We have been doing well with it, I think, but it has definitely been a huge, huge change from what life was before.
Has it been a difficult transition or has it been smooth sailing for the most part?
It has been a bit of both. Some days, everything goes right and everything is perfect but then as things get going, we have to make tough decisions. It can get stressful but it is definitely something that has had its ups and downs.
How excited are you to finally have “Clear As Day” out there for music fans to enjoy?
I am extremely excited! We have been working so hard and listening to every nook and cranny of that album for the past several months, so it is great to finally get it out to the public and see what they think and let them hear the music that we have been working so hard on!
Was it difficult for you to find the right mix of songs to bring the album you were envisioning to life?
Initially, I thought that it was really going to be tough with my age and with who I am, I had a select amount of songs that I could sing on my subject. The songs came down prefect. We had a big meeting down in Nashville. The first time I went down there, we talked to publishers and writers about what we were lookin’ for and then some other writers started writing for me. The songs just started coming in, in bucket loads for us! The really tough part was picking the ones that we wanted to use for the album!
I bet it was but that is a good problem to have! You worked with some of the hottest songwriters around for this album. What can you tell us about working with some of the biggest names in the industry?
It was incredible! These are the guys that have written the hits! They are the number one writers and for them to be writing for my album and have songs from them appearing on my album is just incredible for me. I am the newbie in country music! It really means a lot to me!
What did your producer, Mark Bright, bring to the table for your first recording project?
It was incredible having Mark on board because, in my mind, he is a genius! He has worked with the best. He has produced Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts. It was nice having him on board because he has done this many times and he got a lot out of me, ya know? I could have just come in there and sang but he would come in and give me a little pep talk and tell me to keep on going. We would work on different stuff along the way and he brought a lot out of me, as an artist, during the process that I didn’t even really know that I had.
As an artist, what was the biggest challenge in putting this project together from start to finish?
Oh man, I would say that the biggest challenge was th
at the album had to be rushed. The “American Idol” finale was on May 25 and on May 26 we were working on the album! It was tough for me to find time to sit down and be an artist and to be creative since I have been busy, non-stop, since May 25. But we found the time and I think that we definitely found the right mix for this album.
I know you are going to tour with Brad Paisley next year, which is awesome, but before that you have one very cool date we need to talk about. You will be performing at Game One of the 2011 World Series.
Oh, yes sir!
How excited are you about that?
I am so pumped! I am a huge baseball fan and I have been playin’ ball my whole life, all the way up through high school. To be able to sing on baseball’s biggest stage is pretty incredible for me!
What position did you play when you were playing high school ball?
I was a pitcher!
You’ve even got a little baseball history in your family. What can you tell us about that?
Oh yeah! My dad grew up playin’ ball in college, so that was his thing. He kinda raised me to be a pitcher and I loved it. Then there is another little story that we don’t know if it is 100% true or not but she says that “The Catfish” is in her side of the family somewhere, Catfish Hunter. We can’t find the link to that so we aren’t 100% percent sure. My grandma is 100 and she has been to family reunions with his Hunters, so it is kind of a cool story.
You are a Red Sox fan, right?
Yes, I am. My Dad grew up about 45 minutes north of Boston.
I am a Baltimore Orioles fan and I am sorry we dashed your playoff hopes this year! That is really about all we did!
It’s OK! It’s OK! [laughs] I actually went to Camden Yards this year on tour. It is a great stadium.
I imagine in the crazy times you experienced over the past year or so, baseball has been a great escape?
Yeah, it has been like a cool little getaway for me. Even on the “American Idol” tour, I didn’t go on until 9:15, so I would go watch six innings of a game down the street, if I could! So, it has been really nice to have that! Whenever I was home, dad and I would go out and throw a little bit in the yard. It helped me get back to some type of normalcy and to have that there for us has been nice.
Who are your favorite MLB players?
I am a Josh fan. Josh Hamilton and Josh Beckett are my two favorite players right now.
Here is a tough one for ya, Scotty. If you were a professional baseball player, what would you choose as your entrance music as you come up to bat?
Oh, my goodness! This is tough! [laughs] This is THE question! In high school, we would always have the same kinda songs and we would debate all summer long on what song we should pick! Man! If I had to pick one song, maybe, hmm … I would pick “Swingin’” by John Anderson! I sang it on the show and that might be a fun one!
That is a really great pick!
Yeah, it works! [laughs]
Well, singing the National Anthem is never an easy task. Have you already started figuring out your treatment for it?
Ya know, I have been singing it in the shower a few times! [laughs] I have been working out some stuff but I think that I am just going to stay true to the song. It is The Nation’s song and I don’t want to change it up too much and get too fancy with it. So, to be honest, I will probably just sing it the way that it is supposed to be sung.
While your new album is terrific, the live performance is how we all came to know you. What do you want people to come away with after catching one of your live performances?
More than anything, I just want the audience to go away having fun and to have had fun with me! That is what it is all about! When you go to a live show, you hope to connect with the performer and they are hoping to connect with the audience. Hopefully, that is what I will continue to do on tour! With the “American Idol” tour, it was really great to see the fans face to face for the first time because we had been lookin’ at them through a lens for the last couple months of the show! Live performances are always fun because you never know what is going to happen! This upcoming tour is going to be a good one! Every night is fresh and every night is a new crowd, so you have to keep the performance fresh. For me, I will put my earphones on and listen to some pump up music before I go on stage or start punchin’ at the air, like a little “Rocky” montage or something! [laughs]
Do you feel there are any misconceptions about yourself at this point in your career?
Ya know, I really don’t think so. I think that through the show, I don’t see how there could be because my life was an open book! People really got to see the ins and outs of it. For me, it is all about being true to myself and I think that the public has seen that. So, hopefully, there aren’t any!
Seeing as you took an incredible journey over the past year, what is the best piece of advice you can pass along to those considering making a career in the music industry?
I’d tell ‘em to stick to their guns! There are some times where you have to please somebody or do something that you might not have expected but if there is something that means a lot to you and you don’t want to change it up, I’d tell them to stick to their guns. That is what I had to do when I was on the show, ya know? People were trying to change me and telling me that I had to sing something other than country and I just said, “That’s not me!” It’s that simple.
In your opinion, what does the future hold for Scotty McCreery musically?
Musically, I hope that I am around for 20 or 30 more years. I don’t want to be one of those guys that is here for two or three years and then is gone. I want to be singing for the rest of my life! But we will see! I have to work hard for that though!
Definitely! And you are off to a great start! Is there anything you want to tell your fans before I let you go? I know they are who got you here, so I wanted to let you say your piece!
Yeah, just a BIG thank you to the fans! As you said, they are the ones that, literally, put me here! It means more to me than any other artist because they voted me here! Without them, I would still be at home playin’ ball, bagging groceries and being a normal kid! So I owe a huge thanks to them! Hopefully, they can keep following me and I can keep putting out the music that they want to hear! It’s going to be a lot of fun!
Do you have anything on the horizon in the short term we all should be on the lookout for?
I have a few different radio events but for me, once this promotional thing dies down, I am going to be heading back to school, so you can watch out for me in North Carolina!
Alright, Scotty! Thank you for your time and it has been a pleasure!
Thank you! Have a good one!
For all the latest information on Scotty McCreery, visit his official website at www.scottymccreery-official.com!