Now that the American Idol frenzy has subsided, the ever-popular show can officially claim two more success stories in country music. Just five weeks after the season finale, champion Scotty McCreery and runner-up Lauren Alaina are still gaining ground at radio.
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McCreery's "I Love You This Big" sits at No. 17 on Billboard's country airplay chart while Alaina's "Like My Mother Does" is at No. 45. Both tracks are listed with a "bullet," meaning their airplay is continuing to increase.
Both artists expect to release their debut albums in the fall. In the meantime, they'll travel across the U.S. with the American Idols Live tour, which begins July 6 near Salt Lake City.
Prior to their performance at the CMA Music Festival earlier this month, CMT Insider correspondent Allison DeMarcus chatted with both singers about their upcoming projects -- and not surprisingly, they're staying true to country.
"Hopefully I can bring that old flavor with a contemporary twist," McCreery said. "That's what I like to say because I grew up with Conway Twitty, Hank Williams and Merle Haggard, so I don't want to lose that part of country. I want to keep around that flavor."
Meanwhile, Alaina noted, "It's definitely going to be country because that's where my heart is. I'm going to try to keep it fast and slow, so there are not too many fast songs or too many slow songs."
Because of their high visibility on Idol, fans mobbed both singers at CMA Music Festival.
"It was insane," McCreery said. "It's really cool to see the fans embrace us, though I wasn't sure how they'd embrace the Idol kids not doing the honky-tonks and everything. But apparently it was a madhouse trying to get tickets to come see us. People were getting trampled. Someone had a sign saying they waited 17 hours and slept on the sidewalk just to meet [us]."
In response to detractors who claim that McCreery and Alaina are too young to begin a career in the entertainment industry, Alaina replied, "I disagree. I think that I'm used to going to school every day and learning new things, so what better time to learn something than when I'm used to learning, you know?"
Carrie Underwood, who launched her career after winning American Idol in 2005, is perhaps their biggest booster. She introduced them to the Grand Ole Opry audience leading up to CMA Music Festival and encouraged both of them to keep in touch with her.
"She's given us a lot of advice and a lot of support," McCreery said. "She gave Lauren and me her number so we can text her if anything comes up and if we have a question. She's been really great and really supportive of us both."
Asked what it means to have Underwood's endorsement, Alaina replied, "You know, I get asked that all the time, and I can't ever find the right words to explain it because I look up to her so much. Then I got to meet her, and she's just as beautiful in person as I thought she was. Sometimes you meet people and they're not who you'd think they would be, but she is. She's just incredible."