For "American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery, the pressure of doing an arena show is nothing compared to the week-in and week-out grind of the reality competition.
"This tour is just about having fun and going out and singing for the fans," says McCreery, who appears Saturday, Aug. 13, as part of the American Idols Live! show at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Joining McCreery are the rest of the Top 11 from the last season of the Fox juggernaut, including runner up Lauren Alaina and top rivals James Durbin, Haley Reinhart and Jacob Lusk.
McCreery, a deep-voiced 17 year old from Garner, N.C., is more the exception than the rule among "Idol" champions:
He's the second youngest performer to take the title, and the first male country winner.
Ahead of making his A.C. debut, McCreery talks about the thrill of winning the crown, his career idol and how he doesn't aim to become the "Country Bieber."
Question: One of the perks of being the "Idol" winner is closing the touring version of the show. Do you have a certain ritual before you go on?
Answer: I get the chance to go out there and hide behind the bleachers and watch the rest of the show. I get dressed real quick, and head out to sing.
Q: How are you handling being in the new "Idol" spotlight?
A: It's definitely been the experience of a lifetime. It was definitely a pressure cooker, but I made memories I'll never forget and friends I'll have for a lifetime. I'm fortunate to be able to experience it.
Q: What surprised you the most about actually being on the show vs. watching it from home?
A: When you watch the show from home, you don't see the seven days a week (part), working all hours of the day. It's definitely a lot of work.
Q: Looking back, can you see a turning point in your favor?
A: It was definitely a week-to-week thing. I just remember, the Top Five, I had just moved into an apartment, and I said I want to sing this thing. I tried to kick it in gear with 'Gone.' From that moment, I was trying to go full steam ahead.
Q: Speaking of next steps, what kind of record are you planning for your Mercury Nashville debut?
A: It's definitely material that relates to me. What you saw on the show is what you get. I'm just Scotty - being a normal kid.
The album will have a lot of songs that will make you cry, and a lot of songs that will make you dance.
Q: Who are your career idols?
A: There's never been a teenage country music singer who's a male. It's going to be a new thing for me - a new formula. There's definitely a lot of people I look up to, that I hope my career would be somewhat like. People talk about me and Josh Turner. I look up to him mainly because of his lifestyle. His career is skyrocketing, but he's a nice, Christian guy, and has good values. Hopefully, I can stick to my guns throughout this whole process.
Q: Some Idols, especially the male winners, have struggled to really get their careers going. What's your long-term strategy?
A: I just want to have a nice career. I'm not looking to be a huge superstar or the next Justin Bieber. I'm looking to make good music, and have a good life out of all of this.