There were 176 nights between Scotty McCreery’s last live show and his recent one.
That’s a lot of nights to not be able to do the things you were seemingly born to do: sing country music and connect with fans in real life.
And I recently had the chance to ask McCreery what it was like to take the stage again on Sept. 4 at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium after not playing for a live audience since his show on March 12 in Greensboro, NC. All because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing quarantine and live music shutdown.
But first, there are things you need to know about McCreery’s Live at the Ryman show. The venue took safety very seriously, and followed the rules and regulations of the Nashville Public Health Department and Vanderbilt Health. Only 125 people were allowed into the theater that usually seats around 2,300 people, which was a five percent capacity audience. And seating was done in pods of up to six people, masks were mandatory for guests and staff, and there was no food or beverage service.
CMT.com: What did it even feel like? Were you nervous? Did it all come back to you?
McCreery: It was different for sure. I’d been looking forward to it, but right before we walked on stage, me and the band were like, “We’re not nervous, but we’re just slightly uncomfortable.” Just not knowing what to expect. But seeing those faces in the crowd again was so great. You couldn’t see them smiling — because they were all in masks — but you could tell in their eyes that they were. It was good to be back together with the band and playing for people, not for a computer screen.
When was the last time you’d played for a live audience?
You mean, other than sitting around a campfire? It would’ve been in North Carolina on March 12. It was right when things were starting to get shut down, and only about 20 percent of the people actually showed up because people were starting to get scared.
So then after 176 days, you walk back out on stage in front of a real live audience. How amazing was that?
As soon as we got on stage, it was such a joy to be playing live music again. And at the historic Mother Church of country music. All that energy: from the fans, from the amps on the stage and from feeling the beat of the drums on your chest. In a way it felt like it had been 20 years since my last show, but in another sense it felt like me and the band were doing our thing like it was just yesterday when we’d played a show. And the band was tight, especially after not playing together for six months. I don’t think I even missed any words. I thought for sure I’d be messing up words left and right. It felt like we were only on stage for 10 minutes because it kind of flew by, but we actually played for about 90 minutes.
Did it feel different with a smaller crowd in front of you?
It was unique, for sure. Because normally when you’re playing for a real big crowd, you can’t pick out people individually when you’re singing. But this time, you could very much see the people in their individual groups. You could make eye contact. So it was definitely a lot different than a packed, full-house show. But you could tell they were happy to be out of the house and happy we were on stage. And I think that gives us all hope that we’ll be doing more of that in the future.
And you felt like everyone was in good hands with the Ryman?
The way the Ryman did everything is such a great blueprint for live music now. It allowed for live music and safety at the same time.
McCreery’s next scheduled tour stop isn’t until next year, when he plays the Riverwind Casino in Norman, OK on Jan. 22.