Scotty McCreery, winner of this year's 10th season of 'American Idol,' and Lauren Alaina, who came in second, had both been in Nashville before, but they agree that last week was much more exciting than they thought possible.
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"I've been here once before, two years ago with a church group," Scotty told The Boot, while Lauren admitted to coming several times. "I used to come here often, and I'd go in the little bars when they would let kids could come in, and I'd ask if I could sing," she remembered. "People didn't really know I was there but I thought it was cool."
Lauren, 16, and Scott, 17, shared another special experience when they debuted on the Grand Ole Opry on June 10. They are among the youngest performers to sing on the Opry stage, but Lauren says it's something she's looked forward to since she started performing.
"My daddy grew up playing banjo, and he always wanted to be on the Grand Ole Opry but he never got the chance," she explained. "When I started singing he wanted me to be the one to do that. So I was raised wanting to be on the Opry.
"My dad was at the Opry when I played there and we both cried. It's tough to see your dad cry because men don't really cry. Women cry all the time. I was really excited."
The two were also in town listening to songs for their upcoming albums. Each has individual contracts, although both have expressed an interest in one day recording together after they have established their individual careers. The two became fast friends while going through the 'American Idol' experience together.
"It's been super cool," said Scotty, who hails from Garner, N.C., of the time he has spent looking for songs to record. "Everyone has been nice and we're just honored to be here."
Lauren, from Russellville, Ga., agreed that it has been fun listening to new songs. "It is a lot easier to do covers (as when performing on the television show) that people already like. It's kind of scary to think about coming out with songs you've never heard and see how people react to them.
"My album will definitely be country. I like a good tearjerker, and I like uptempo," she continued. "I haven't decided on any song for sure yet. I'm trying to make the best decisions I know how. I have a great team helping me so I'm excited about it."
The 'American Idol' winner admitted it was nice to be back in the south and where he has been able to find sweet tea, an oddity in California where he's been since joining the other 'Idol' participants. Lauren said she's just glad she's back in a part of the country where people speak with the same accent as she does!
Both were also excited to attend the CMA Music Fest, where they met many of their fans face-to-face. "I can say our careers were given a chance because of our fans. They voted for us and allowed us to do what we really love, and we love any chance we can get face to face with them," Lauren said.
Scotty agreed, saying, "It's so wonderful to finally get to meet them. We are double, triple thankful to them for voting for us and giving us this opportunity."
While Lauren made it clear that she and Scotty are friends, and not dating, she said it has been great for them to go through the 'Idol' and Nashville experience together. "Just having someone who understands where you are now, I'm really glad I got to go through this with Scotty. We went to school every day, we understand exactly what our lives have been like for almost a year now. It's good to have someone I can call and know he will understand. That's a friendship we'll have forever."