Thursday, July 28, 2011
Scotty McCreery "Stayin In His Boots"
Clean your room, and no TV until your homework is finished: Some things in life are non-negotiable, and even super-stardom won’t change a mom’s mind.
These were some of the house rules for Scotty McCreery of Garner, who last May, at age 17, won the Season 10 American Idol singing title.
Idol’s youngest-ever winner says it’s the lessons he learned at home that help him “stay in his boots” now, as country music’s newest recording artist.
“Garner prepared me beyond words,” Scotty said. “My parents made me responsible, and even as a baseball pitcher (for the Garner Magnet High Trojans), I was center field, so if I messed up it was all eyes on me, just like being on stage.
“I’m not going to change — how could I? I was bagging groceries a few months ago (at the local Lowes Foods.) I’m the same kid, just more people know my name now.”
Indeed, the lives of the McCreery family, including mom Judy, dad Mike and sister Ashley, and their hometown of Garner, have been thrust into the international spotlight via Scotty’s success.
Garner deserves to be celebrated, the McCreerys say.
“People think Mike and I are Ward and June Cleaver, but we’re not,” said Judy. “Scotty is a reflection of this whole community. I can’t say enough about his schools, and our church. My kids saw our values modeled in other homes, too. They’ve had a stability in Garner that’s given them confidence.”
American Idol Scotty McCreery of Garner says it’s the lessons he learned here at home that help him “stay in his boots” as country’s newest recording artist. Top right, Scotty celebrates his win as youngest-ever Idol, onstage in Los Angeles. Prior to that, some 30,000 fans from near and far swarmed Garner to be part of Scotty’s Hometown Hero concert.
Top right image courtesy of Michael Becker/FOX. Top left and bottom left image courtesy of Kristen Brown
Richard Brunson, who once coached a “determined” 7-year-old Scotty on the baseball field, says faith in God has guided the McCreery family.
“He’s so genuine; I think people who don’t even like country music voted for him on Idol because they like him,” Brunson said. “Scotty realizes he’s blessed.”
The Rev. Ron Fowler is minister of students at First Baptist Church in Garner, the McCreerys’ church home. He recollects Scotty and the youth group on a mission trip in New York, preparing sandwiches to serve the homeless.
“He’s willing to do whatever it takes. He’s the kind of guy who’s everybody’s friend, someone they look up to and respect,” Fowler said. “Scotty doesn’t walk on water, but he has character, humility and faith in Christ that says, ‘This is who I am.’”
Scotty, meanwhile, ponders his new opportunities.
“It’s just really humbling,” he said. “I still don’t know why it’s me.”
His go-to Bible verse is Philippians 4:13, which reads, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
“I grew up on that verse. I put it inside my baseball cap when I’m pitching,” Scotty said. “A lot of times it’s hard to decipher God’s plan for your life, and you’ve got to trust him. God’s given me this, and it’s my job to use it to his glory and his benefit, not my own.”
Having the support of his church and community as he travels means a lot, Scotty says. He joins in youth worship via phone or Skype as often as possible.
“The boys back home keep me accountable,” Scotty said. “People pray for me, shoot me texts … it’s really uplifting.”
Judy says Scotty once held off an Idol vocal coach as the show was about to go live, choosing instead to sit in a stairwell singing with the Garner group.
“Praising God is his priority,” she said. “He wants to do good things with the gifts he’s been given. He says, ‘Mom, I’m supposed to be here.’
“I believe God’s using him as a light, showing people that it’s OK to do your school work and go to church,” Judy said. “There’s a lot of pressure on Scotty. I’ve told him, ‘People are watching for you to fall from grace. God’s hand is on you, but you’ve got to be faithful.’ I really think he gets it.”
“The youth group asked Scotty how we can pray for him,” Fowler added. “The first things he said were for humility and strength over temptation.”
The first male country singer to win Idol, Scotty broke chart records with the debut of his single, “I Love You This Big.” He’s now under contract with Mercury Nashville, recording his first album while on the nationwide Idol tour this summer, for a scheduled Black Friday release.
Garner is enjoying international attention as the community that produced the first male country Idol, including interest by tourists and businesses. Growing up on good Garner values, Scotty says, prepared him for this fame. He’s humbled by the support of his community, who came out by the thousands to cheer his springtime visit to local radio stations and stores.
Top image courtesy of Jonathan Fredin. Second image courtesy of Kristen Brown. Bottom left image courtesy of Frank Micelotta/FOX. Bottom right mage courtesy of Frank Micelotta/FOX/PictureGroup.
He’ll also complete his senior year of high school from the road, to earn a Garner High diploma.
Will he relocate to the country music capital?
“I don’t plan on leaving Garner,” he said. “Hopefully I can have an apartment in Nashville, and still live here.
“And I’m definitely going to college. That’s why I went home to take my AP English exam the day after the Idol finale, to get my three college credits!”
Other area towns have also played a part in the start of Scotty’s career. He won the Clayton Idol singing title in 2009, and has performed in Johnston Community College’s Country Music Showcase. Among his local musical mentors are guitar teacher Gary Epperson, and Bud Moffett, who helped Scotty select songs for the Idol stage.
Then there’s Meredith Clayton, choral director at Garner High. At the Idol finale, Scotty presented Clayton with keys to a new car.
“I cannot take credit for his voice; that talent comes from God,” she said. But Clayton coached Scotty during Idol, on using the judges’ criticism to grow as an artist.
“I told him, ‘Be the good boy you are. Let America see that, and they’ll fall in love with you,’” Clayton said. “Now, Scotty has a great opportunity to show Christian faith, a humble attitude, and the importance of education. He can be a role model for teens around the world.”
Clayton, a newcomer to Garner six years ago, said, “I can’t say enough good things about Garner. Parents are involved in students’ education; they’re hard-working families, and it’s the kind of place where everybody goes to the football games on Friday nights.
“Garner’s a wonderful community. All put together, it makes Scotty the complete package.”
“I couldn’t ask for any better upbringing than what I received,” Scotty said from backstage at an Alabama concert arena. “Garner is such a great town to grow up in. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my hometown.”
Kristen Brown and Jonathan Fredin