Scotty McCreery, the reigning champion of American Idol, is an easy guy to talk to. He’s polite, friendly and obviously a talented, crowd-pleasing singer. In other words, he’s going to be just fine as a full-time country star.
In the meantime, he’s enjoying his senior year in high school in Garner, N.C., and definitely looking at colleges — including a few in Nashville.
“It might take me 20 years, but it’s going to happen,” he tells CMT.com.
McCreery, who turns 18 on Sunday (Oct. 9), will release his debut album, Clear as Day, on Tuesday and will sing the national anthem on Oct. 19 at the first game of the World Series.
He recently dropped by CMT to talk about the influences of his family and hometown on his album. And if you’re wondering how he stays so easygoing, he gladly shares the no-nonsense motto he lives by.
CMT: How involved were you in finding the material for the new album?
McCreery: I was 100 percent involved. It was basically my decision toward the very end. I’d get a lot of outside opinions and ask the family how they felt about different stuff. But, ultimately, it had to feel right to me in order to get on the album.
Why was it important to bring your family into that decision?
A lot of the songs on the album are about family and hometowns. I just wanted to make sure it was a family project. I was making sure all sides were happy and I didn’t put something [on it] that would make somebody upset. We’d listen to it together and share our opinions and go with it.
What was your reaction the first time you heard “The Trouble With Girls,” your current single?
Oh, I loved it. It was one of those songs where I stopped what I was doing and listened. The melody and the piano and the words in it — it’s just a sweet song. It struck a chord with me.
Initially, when I heard the title, I thought, “What the heck? I can’t be singing about the trouble with girls!” But once I started hearing the lyrics and the way the lyrics were talking about the girls, it was a cool way of looking at things.
What caught your attention about “Water Tower Town”?
It was a lot like my hometown — and the water tower was right across the railroad tracks from the baseball fields I grew up playing at. It was a big imagery song for me. I was seeing my town when I was listening to it and seeing it when I sing it now. It was one of those songs that was a shoo-in. I didn’t have to have to think twice about it.
Were you able to stretch your vocal range more than you might have expected?
Yeah. You’ll hear a couple of points on the album where I really stretch it. There are even times when I was sitting there in the recording studio, and I had probably done a couple of passes, and I’d say, “Let me try something different really quick.” I’d go up a few more notes and try something a little different, and it ended up on the record. You’ve always got to test yourself. You’ve always got to try to put something new out there and not do the same-old, same-old routine.
You went back to high school this year. Why was that important?
Yes, sir. I had a test yesterday. It was important because it was my senior year. I know it’s going to be 100 percent normal, but I didn’t want to miss all the memories. I went back for homecoming … and I got to catch a football game last week, so it was fun getting back. And it still is. I’ll be going back when all this [promotion] dies down in a month or so.
How many students at your school listen to country music?
Pretty much all of them. We grew up in North Carolina, so you can’t really escape it. A majority of them are country music lovers. It was good for me on the show. They didn’t have to fake it that they liked me. (laughs)
I understand that you auditioned for American Idol in Milwaukee.
Yeah. Actually, we were thinking about doing it in Nashville, but I was at the beach on a youth trip and my dad was out of town. So we made a decision to go ahead and go to Milwaukee. And it worked out well for us. It was really to go get some feedback and to hear what they’d say to me. We didn’t expect much at all. And they kept putting me through, and it was like, “Wow, this is really happening.”
Was that a road trip?
No, we flew. I’m not one for those kind of road trips. I can take a couple of hours, but that would have been insane.
As for your schedule now, you’re on the road a lot. How long did it take you to get into the rhythm of touring?
It took me a good while. At first, everybody gets homesick. I was missing home and missing friends. I think the show knocked some of that out of me because I had to be focused on the show at all hours of the day, every day of the week. The tour thing, it wasn’t too much of a shock. It still takes some getting used to — going to a different city every day and not being home and seeing family and friends — but it was a good experience.
You’re well known for your laidback personality. Is that a common trait in your family?
I don’t know about common. We’ve got a lot of hard workers, and I’m a hard-working dude, but I don’t let stuff get to me. I mean, I don’t do drama. Don’t bring it to me because I’m going to send it back to you. I just take life and run with it. That’s what you’ve got to do.
Was that a conscious decision? Or have you always been that way?
I wouldn’t say conscious. I just never had any use for drama or getting worked up about something I had no control over. The saying we say back home, that we live by, is “SHDC.” — “short hair, don’t care.” So if something comes our way we don’t like, you’ve got to have short hair about it.
What are you looking forward to the most over the next couple of months?
Seeing how the record does. Getting out there and performing the songs live. Meeting the fans face to face. And really getting out there and being a part of this country music community.