Lock them doors. And never, ever open your door at 2 a.m. for a stranger.
That's just one lesson American Idol winner Scotty McCreery has learned in his first 23 years of life. In his 2016 autobiography, Go Big Or Go Home, he recalled the 2014 incident when he and some friends from NC State University were held up at gunpoint at an apartment in Raleigh while watching Gladiator and having late night Cook Out.
McCreery recalled feeling helpless and afraid. At the time, he hoped the intruders didn't recognize him dressed down in his Wolfpack cap, shorts and a t-shirt. The good news is they didn't. In the end, one of the robbers turned himself in and two others are suspected of being involved.
Now McCreery has carry permit, and he makes sure to lock the deadbolt of every door he enters. But he has never been the kind of person to be victimized by the experiences life throws at him. He stays positive and looks at every decision he's made in life as an opportunity to grow.
"Getting robbed kind of put things in perspective for me pretty quick," McCreery said during our 23-minute CMT.com interview. "It was obviously unexpected, and it still affects me today. I don't leave a door or go inside a house or anything without locking the deadbolt now. We were at the beach house the other day and it was 1 p.m. in the afternoon. Dad was outside, and I accidentally locked him out. It just kind of makes you appreciate life more and appreciate time with your friends and family more. It can all be over in a flash."
That's what McCreery's newest song, "Five More Minutes," is all about. He co-wrote the song with Frank Rogers and Monty Criswell two weeks after his grandfather died.
"I guess I'm at a point in my life when everyone is looking back whether it's on high school or college," McCreery said. "I had just lost my granddaddy and was writing with Frank and Monty. I knew the songs that Monty had written. He's a guy who knows how to talk about feelings and really put pen to paper and get them sounding right. He was the one who kind of had the idea for the song. We ran with it, and it became more about life, my different experiences and wishing we could all have a little bit more time. The day we wrote it, I knew it was special."
CMT.com: Are you writing for a new album?
McCreery: Yes. I've probably got most of the record done. And the second half, we pretty much have the songs ready we just have to go into the studio and cut them. I'm still writing songs but most of them are kind of there.
It's exciting. It's crazy to think I haven't had a dang record out since 2013. I mean, it's just wild, but it's exciting and I'm ready to get back in the saddle.
What stories that you want to be known for?
I just want to be impacting folks lives in a positive way. My main goal in all of this is to be able to do that through music. "Five More Minutes" for me is the first song that's really had some meat and potatoes that folks relate to, and that's the kind of music I want to sing.
You've got to have fluff sometimes and all that, but to have a song that impacts people and makes them think back to a specific moment in their life and it's healing for them, that's amazing. I'm really enjoying having the song out, and this is the kind of music I'd like to keep putting out.
The lessons you discuss in your book would be helpful to any artist interested in pursuing music professionally. But not that many musicians in the spotlight are willing to be that transparent.
I haven't got too much to hide. It's all kind of out there. But I think everybody goes through experiences for a reason. And you can learn from that and show others what you've learned. I had that opportunity in the book to talk about things I've been through -- good and bad. I mean, I went on the biggest show on television, traveled the world with my idols -- Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts -- but there are some tough moments like getting robbed at gunpoint. I'm still young and have a lot to figure out in life, but if you've learned something, share your knowledge and spread that.
How long did it take you to get used to the idea of making mistakes in the spotlight and being comfortable with that?
My whole life, you're going to make mistakes and you've got to learn from them and move on. But being in the limelight kind of made me clam up because I was so scared about, "What if somebody if they saw me doing this?" It's not like I'd be doing crazy stuff. It just made me more conscious of it.
You never want to let people down especially the people you care about most.
Exactly. And American Idol painted me out to be some holier than thou, good kid who's never messed up a day in his life and that's a lot of live up to. But to a lot of folks, that's who they see you as. It's something as simple as drinking a cold beer. I'd hide that from everybody. But that's me. I enjoy it and if grandma Sue is a fan of Idol and doesn't like it, then that's all good. But you can't stray away from who you are. And you've got to be yourself, and you're going to make mistakes and keep on going.
Was your girlfriend Gabi comfortable being written about in your book?
It took her a while before she really got comfortable with all this and she's still not. She'll go to the red carpet with me but she won't do pictures. She'll just kind of watch from a distance. She tries to go to different shows with me. Day by day she gets a little more into all this. She told me the other day, "I can see myself moving to Nashville one day." I said, "I told you you'd love it."
How does keeping a home base in North Carolina help you stay connected to what your fans are going through on a daily basis?
That's kind of been a very grounding thing for me is getting back home, seeing friends, family and folks who knew me before all this. In the nicest way, they truthfully don't care.
They love it, and they enjoy seeing what I'm doing. But when it comes down to it, they like me for me and they like hanging out just like the good times we've always had. And that's been good for me.
As far as the music goes, it's been nice this last year to be in Nashville a lot more and having a place here for the first time ever. That's been a better way to make this record. I feel like it's been a lot more natural and a lot more fun to make it here. But Raleigh and Garner, they've been grounding for me.
What would be some of the top lessons that music has taught you?
Perseverance would be No. 1. and work hard because Lord knows in this business nothing comes to you easy. It's kind of cliché, but it's tough to not to have fun in the music business. I love this and I want to do this every day of my life. I can't tell you a single day of my life I hadn't sang a song or did something in music. Singing is second nature.