Ask Scotty McCreery what he misses most about his hometown of Garner, N.C., and you might think you’re talking to a homesick college freshman: sweet tea from Bojangles, high school football games and — yep — even sitting in English class to take a test. The 17-year-old ‘American Idol’ champion may be wrapping up a country-wide tour, and he may be on the cusp of releasing a sure-to-be successful album, but he’s still just small-town Scotty.
“I’m not trying to fake [it] at all on this album,” McCreery tells Taste of Country. “I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh, he’s 17. He hasn’t lived life. He can’t sing country music!’ I’m not trying to fake being old. I’ve never pretended to be somebody I’m not. I’m 17, and that’s me. This album’s gonna relate to that, and hopefully people like it. I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished these last couple months.”
With the excitement of his country debut (‘Clear as Day,’ in stores on October 4) in mind, McCreery chats with Taste of Country about making fans happy, a special album track that he hopes to hear playing on the Garner football field one day, and fitting in with his musical idols while still holding on to his childhood.
Your new single is ‘The Trouble With Girls.’ What are some of the crazy things your female fans have done to get the chance to meet you?
Oh, they’ve been wild. Outside after the show, they’ve been crazy, waiting behind the barricade. Every now and then there’s that certain someone that’ll climb under the barricades or find an opening. Last night, there was somebody that found an opening over a trash can. So she was waiting for me to come by, and she found a little crevice to kind of peep through. I saw her, so I told her hello and signed something for her, took a picture with her. First time I took a picture with a trash can.
They’re crazy, but they just kinda wanna, you know, talk to me and say hello — and I want to talk to them as well. They’re the reason I’m here! They voted me through, so I’ll spend as much time as I can out there.
Before this whole experience, was there anybody that you idolized that much that you could see yourself going to extreme measures to try to meet?
You know, I could never see myself … I couldn’t see myself doing some of the things that I’ve seen that some of these people do. I’m not a huge crier. I don’t think I’d cry over somebody if I met ‘em. I’d love to meet all these guys [that] I grew up idolizing and listening to their music. I’d do anything to meet ‘em, but I don’t think I’d be, you know, tearing down the barricades or nothing. I always told myself: If you want to meet a celebrity, be chill. When I was little I used to say that.
Will you be shooting a music video for the song any time soon?
I’ve heard rumblings about that. I’m not 100% positive. I haven’t talked to management or anybody about it recently. That’s something I’d probably have an answer for in a week or two, but right now I’m not positive. I mean, I think … I see no reason why not to. We probably will, but I’m not 100% positive yet.
Have you been thinking about any video treatment ideas yourself?
Yeah, this one will probably be more of a story. This one, you know, is ‘The Trouble With Girls’ and especially in the bridge part, it kind of has that storyline. I think it’d be a lot more story-like other than like a performance like we did with ‘I Love You This Big.’ But I mean, I don’t know. We’ll get the treatment soon, and the directors will tell me what they’re thinkin’ and we’ll run with it. But in my eyes, it’ll probably be more of a story.
Can you tell us about a song title we haven’t heard about yet, one that’s especially personal to you or that you relate to a lot?
Yeah! There’s one song called ‘Water Tower Town.’ This was a song that reminds me of my hometown. The water tower in my hometown was right across the train tracks from the baseball field that I grew up playing at when I was younger, so I grew up passing the water tower every day. It talks about Friday night football and sweet tea and fireflies – all things that relate to Garner, North Carolina. When I heard it I was just smiling ear to ear. That’s one of the songs that I’m excited about putting out and seeing the reaction to, and I know my hometown will be all over that song and probably playing it at football games and stuff. That’s definitely one of my favorites on the album.
What was your experience being in a studio for the first time like?
My only experience before this was in a basement studio for a sophomore [year] project. I went to my guitar teacher’s house in a little basement studio … so not too much experience in the studio.
[Going into the studio for this album], it was incredible. The first time I got to work with Mark [Bright] in Nashville, we went over to Starstruck over near Reba’s place and all the studio musicians were there. And those guys are just incredible. They can listen to listen to a song once, make a few pencil marks and play it like they’ve heard it for 20 years. It was cool for me to see that, the newbie. I was watching all these guys and they’re these professionals, and I was taken aback a little bit. And Mark Bright’s great — he’s worked with Carrie [Underwood] and Rascal Flatts and the Lonestar stuff. He’s incredible. He’s just a genius. It was nice working with him and working with somebody who knows what he’s talking about and knows what he’s doing. I’d sing my stuff, and I’d let them do the work [laughs].
The album title is ‘Clear as Day.’ How did you decide on that, and were there other contenders for the album title?
Yeah, there were a couple, but ‘Clear as Day’ is a song on the album that’s got a deep message to it. We had a bunch of songs that we were thinking, we could put that as the album title … I think ‘Clear as Day’ was just very fitting, you know? One, ’cause ‘Clear as Day’ the song is talking about how you remember it like it’s clear as day … and for me, I’m clear as day. What you see it what you get. Hopefully people respond to it. We just kind of figured ‘Clear as Day’ was perfect for it.
Your family has obviously been so supportive of you, and you’ve even encouraged your fans to follow your mom and dad on Twitter. Do you ever worry they’ll tweet something embarrassing about you, like a goofy picture from when you were a kid?
I’m sure it’ll probably happen eventually! But that’s just, you know, to show fans who I was and who I am. I won’t be too upset. I might get a little embarrassed, but it’ll be all good. I’m not too worried.
Is your mom on the road with you right now?
Yeah, she’s been right by my side since day one of this tour. And my dad’s come out to some shows, and he’s helped out, especially up in the northeast because that’s where he’s from around, so he was just with us for the last week or so and traveling with us around Maine and New Hampshire and Massachusetts. It’s a lot of fun having my family out here. I don’t know how the other kids do it without their parents, you know. They’ve been right by my side taking care of some of the business stuff. You know, I just want to sing, that’s all I want to do — but there’s a lot of business that goes with this too.
And you’ve said you’re heading back to Garner High.
Yeah, I’ll probably be there 50/50 for the year, but yeah, we’re lookin’ to get back pretty soon actually. We’ve got some days off coming up here, so I’m not gonna not go to school! I’m gonna be there, and be normal. I’m not gonna be walking around school with an ‘American Idol’ T-shirt. I’m gonna try to blend in and try to just be a normal kid — something I haven’t been doing for the last couple months. I talk to my friends back at school all the time, every day. For the most part they treat me the exact same as when I left.
Will you be there for the first day back, or has that already passed?
No, they started school August 25. We knew we were gonna miss that, but I’ll be there … next time I have a day off, or we’re not on tour or not promoting the album, or any day I’m in Garner on a weekday, I’ll be at school.
Do you think you’ll be around for the big senior year stuff, like Prom?
I should be around for Homecoming and stuff. I’ll find out about Prom later on. It just depends on tour dates and promotion dates and stuff. There are things we’re trying to work around. There are some important days … I mean, I’m a high school football fan! I’m not ashamed to say it! So if I wanna go to a game, I’ll say, “Look, can we do this on Thursday or Saturday and not miss Friday?” We’re trying to work around me being a kid, you know. I know I have certain obligations. I know I have places I need to be and sing and show up, but I’m gonna try to be as normal of a kid as possible. I’m not trying to just throw away my childhood.
What do you miss the most about the times when you can’t be home?
I just miss my friends, you know? I miss going to Snoopy’s to get a hot dog or going to Bojangles to get a sweet tea, just doing normal stuff. Kids, they get all bent out of shape and don’t wanna go to school, but I’ll tell ya: Wow, what I’d give to take one more English test or something! Just sit at a desk, pick up a pencil. I don’t think I’d be falling asleep in class anymore!
You’re obviously pretty grounded, but you’ve also probably met a lot of celebrities by this point. Is there anyone who told you they watched ‘American Idol’ that really surprised you?
Yeah! I really didn’t expect any of the country music singers out there in Nashville to know me. They’re busy, and they’re on the road … I wouldn’t think they’d have much time to watch a TV show. Even when I met Keith Urban in the bathroom, he looked at me and said, “Oh, hey Scotty!” I was kinda taken aback that he even knew my name. It’s still wild for me to know these people actually watch the show, and they know who we are. It’s humbling, you know? These people that I’ve grown up idolizing and loving their music and listening to it every day. It’s cool to see they know who I am [laughs].
And then you snagged a song from Keith for your record, right? Did he personally call you up and offer you that song?
He sent it to my label — he sent a message to me through the label, told me about the song and stuff, but it’s just a great song. I’m glad he sent it my way. Even if it wasn’t a Keith song, it’s just a great song and I’d put it on there anyways. The fact that it’s from Keith just adds a huge star by it, a huge bonus, and he’s a great guy. Every time I’ve gotten the chance the talk to him he’s been really cool and down to earth and really nice to me.
Has he given you any words of wisdom?
Not so much Keith, but I’ve talked to some other guys or, you know, Carrie Underwood – she’s given me some advice. I haven’t had the chance to really sit down and talk to many country music people, other than Tim McGraw ‘cause I got to sing with him on the show and Josh Turner — he’s been really supportive of me and helped me out and stuff. He even stopped by, Josh did, on the very first day of recording in Nashville when we were laying down the first five tracks, just to say hello. It’s been cool to see these people that I’ve grown up with stop by.
You brought up Tim McGraw, who’s not only a successful country singer, but he’s also acted in
several movies. Would you ever consider getting into acting?
I went to a movie last night, and I saw a preview for him, and I was like, “Oh, look at Tim!”
Who knows. I mean, I did a play back in high school — I did ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ — and that was fun. But for the most part, I’ll probably stick to singing. But you know, if it comes down the pipeline and it looks good and it looks funny, who’s to say it wouldn’t happen. You never know. You never know with stuff like that. I mean, Tim’s kinda opened the door … he’s done amazing with those movies. All his movies are great: ‘Friday Night Lights’ and ‘The Blind Side.’
Who did you play in ‘Bye Bye Birdie’?
I was Birdie … it was kinda like Elvis. I was in a dilemma [laughs]! My [baseball] coach was like, “Scotty, you’re missing practice for Birdie?” I was like, “Coach! Just give me another week or two!” It all worked out.
It sounds like you were pretty busy even before this whole music business thing worked out for you.
I was! I was a busy guy at the high school. Now I’m just an extra busy guy. I was the busiest high school student in North Carolina.