Onward and upward from American Idol
April 4, 2019
When you win American Idol at the age of 17, youâve got plenty of time to evolve and still be at the beginning of your career. Thatâs the situation that Scotty McCreery finds himself in eight years after he became the champion of Idolâs tenth season.
Now heâs got a new album thatâs more representative of what he wants to do with his career than any of his other albums, and heâs hitting heights that he never reached even at the pinnacle of his Idol exposure.
Not that the Idol win wasnât a very big deal. McCreery was still in high school in North Carolina when he auditioned for the show, and while he was competing, the producers required that his mother stay with him in Los Angeles. His faceoff in the finale against 16-year-old Lauren Alaina was the youngest final round in the showâs history.
The wave of Idol success generated a record deal with Mercury Nashville and two albums, 2011âs Clear As Day and 2012âs Christmas with Scotty McCreery. See You Tonight followed on Motown Records in 2013.
Clear As Day made an impressive splash. It sold almost 200,000 copies in its first week and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. It was the first debut album by a country artist to bow at number one and the youngest number-one debut by a male artist. It was also the first Idol debut album to hit number one since Ruben Stoddard did it in 2003.
But major record labels are notoriously fickle, and when See You Tonight didnât perform up to the first albumâs stratospheric standards, McCreeryâs record label dropped him. He was 22 years old when it happened, and he wasnât ready to quit just yet.
Instead, in the midst of legal battles over the future of his career, he got to work writing his own songs, something he hadnât been encouraged to do by his label. Heâd been singing and recording other peopleâs music, but he knew he had some things of his own to say.
In Search of the Songs
âAt first, it actually started pretty simple,â he said of the process. âWe were just looking for the best songs. But then as my life got more complicated, I knew I wanted to make a record that was a lot more personal, and I felt that writing more myself would help capture that.â
He looked for collaborators, music-industry veterans who could help him craft his ideas into songs for a new album.
âI wanted to write with everybody,â he said. âI was just trying to be a sponge and soak up all I could. It really set me up to where I could write every song on the record, and not feel like I was compromising the quality of what I was singing.â
The very first song he wrote was âSeasons Change,â and it felt like a pivotal moment.
âThat was my first time diving back into music after dealing with lawyers for a year, and I felt rejuvenated,â he said. âI decided that very day that it was going to be on the record.â
But there was no record yet. McCreery was still without a label and had no prospects for releasing a new album even if he had more than enough songs to make one.
That changed when he wrote âFive More Minutes,â an emotional song that came to him after his grandfather died.
âI knew it was a special song,â he said. âI tweeted that day that we just wrote my favorite song Iâd ever written.â
He made the decision to release the song as a single even without the backing of a record label. It was a bold move, and it was far from the standard way of doing things.
âMost sane people would have said to wait,â he said, âbut my management and I really believed in it, and at the core of country music, it still comes down to the song. And we were willing to bet on that. We knew it might take a while, but we felt like we could do it and build something one step at a time.â
Hitting No. 1
It didnât take a while, though. The song rocketed up the charts, eventually becoming the first number-one single of McCreeryâs career.
âSometimes you feel like youâve really got to sell something,â McCreery said, âbut this one, from the first time people heard it, everybody started telling me their own stories, and I enjoyed that more than anything else.â
The result was a record deal with a new label and the release of Seasons Change in March 2018. The second single from the album, âThis Is It,â became McCreeryâs second number-one hit just a couple of months later. That song was a marker for another huge change in McCreeryâs life, his marriage to his childhood sweetheart.
âSheâs a huge part of this record, the inspiration for all the love songs,â he said. âWe met in kindergarten. Her kindergarten diary has âMrs. McCreeryâ written in it with hearts around it. We started dating senior year of high school, and became best friends in the last few years.â
McCreery put together a tour for Seasons Change, a triumphant return to the road for a career thatâs both resurgent and brand new at the same time. Heâs learned from his TV-born success how to play in the big leagues, and now heâs learning how to do it on his own terms.
When McCreery comes to the Honeywell Center, heâll be joined by another rising country star with a TV background. Emily Ann Roberts, 20, was a finalist on season nine of The Voice in 2015, and now sheâs working hard to build a career.
Perhaps she can find inspiration in McCreery, whose very early start puts him in the position for a career renaissance while heâs still a very young man.
âIâve lived a lot of life since my last record,â said Scotty McCreery. âI really wanted this album to show who Scotty is at 24, whatâs going on in my life, and I think we accomplished that.â
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