'American Idol' Scotty McCreery balancing music and education
Feb 10, 2013 (The Morning Call (Allentown - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Scotty McCreery was just 17 when he won the 10th season of "American Idol" in 2011. So it's to be expected his career will develop differently than most other music artists.
For one, McCreery finished his senior year at Garner High School in Garner, N.C., as his debut album, "Clear As Day," hit No. 1 on Billboard's albums chart, went platinum and earned him Best New Artists at both the American Country Awards and Academy of Country Music Awards.
Now, on his first tour as a headlining artist, McCreery will play only weekends, so as not to interfere with his studies as a freshman communications major at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
The tour kicks off Feb. 14 at Sands Bethlehem Event Center.
"That's why we call it The Weekend Road Trip," McCreery says in a phone call from his home in Raleigh. "I'm balancing a lot right now, so Monday through Wednesday, I'll go to class. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, we're going to be hitting the road, getting on the touring circuit.
"You know, I'm only this age once -- I want to make sure I have those experiences as well as my education. Education's important. If you have the chance, the opportunity, I think you should capitalize on it. So while I can, I'm doing it."
McCreery says he's "still putting 110 percent into my music." He's also been stealing time to work on a proper sophomore album -- "we're going to be flying back out to Nashville for more recording and stuff" -- after a holiday disc, "Christmas With Scotty McCreery," released in October, also went gold.
"I feel like some people might think, 'Oh, he's doing school, how can he focus on music as well '" McCreery says. "In my eyes, I'm having to work harder because of the demand to balance things [but] I want to make sure people understand that; that I'm not putting music on the back burner."
Part of that maturing process is not rushing to get out a new album before it's ready, McCreery says. He says his debut disc, while successful, was hurried to meet "Idol's" release date.
The new disc has no release date set because "We're still kind of feeling it out, figuring out when it will work. I want to make sure we have the songs right before we put anything out, so that's my main focus right now."
He says he'll likely try out a few of the songs on his tour to "just kind of feel them out, see which ones the crowds react to and try and get a good feel on what kind of songs we want to have singles on for the radio."
"We're in the process of recording those songs right now and still picking out and writing and all of that stuff," he says. "So as those songs come along, as they evolve and we get the recording process done, we're going to be playing them."
He says fans can expect the new songs to sound more mature, simply because that's what he's experiencing.
"You're going to know it's my album," he says. "But I think for me, since I got started so young, I'm hoping it will mature with me, kind of grow with me. I'm thinking we're getting a lot of better songs, as well, for this album. We're taking out time with this one and making sure we get it right and hopefully the end product definitely reflects that."
He says he expects a couple of songs he wrote to make the album's final cut. "I did a lot of co-writing for this album and we picked the best songs, whether they were my songs or whether they were somebody else's songs. Luckily, I think a few of mine are going to make it, so we're excited about it."
McCreery admits he was surprised by the wave of success he experienced after winning "Idol" over fellow country singer Lauren Alaina, especially making history as the first country act to have a first studio album debut at No. 1, as well as the youngest man to start at the top of the chart with his debut.
"We couldn't ever have expected the success that it had," he says. "We were just focused on putting out a good country record, and seeing it go platinum in 13 weeks and it topping the Billboard charts -- that was just mind-blowing to me, and I was ecstatic.
"The fans have been great to me. They were there for me on the show, they were there for me on the road last year, and I'm looking forward to seeing them again on this upcoming tour."
Add to that a tour supporting his musical hero, Brad Paisley, and The Band Perry last summer, and his McCreery's favorite honor, singing the national anthem at Game 1 of the 2011 World Series.
"The World Series was definitely a highlight for me, because I played baseball my whole life as I was growing up. And to combine baseball and singing at the World Series, that was like a dream come true."
McCreery played his senior season of high school baseball after finishing "Idol."
"High school was easier for me," he says. "I knew a lot of people there and I'd been there for three years. So finishing wasn't the biggest problem in the world. I enjoyed it; I got to go back and play baseball, spend time with some friends and do things that, going out to the show in L.A., people pretty much told me that part of my life was over.
"And so we kind of proved them wrong and got to go back and do those things. But it wasn't a huge, monumental task, I don't think."
He returned to "Idol" auditions in Charlotte, N.C., last summer, flying with his tour manager from a show in Florida. His return to the show aired Jan. 23.
"We filmed a bunch of stuff and talked with the contestants who were trying out. It was a fun day, just to get back to that first day, because that's where it really started for me." He says he stays in touch with "a lot of" the former "Idol" contestants, "sending out texts every now and then and see how everybody's doing" and running into them at award shows and other television events.
College, on the other hand, is a "huge challenge," he says. But "now the mission is just to make sure we keep that momentum going and make sure we have the right songs so we can keep the train rolling."
McCreery says he understands winning "Idol" is no guarantee of success, after his predecessors David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze and Taylor Hicks all have lost their recording contracts.
"I don't think it was ever a guarantee," he says. "I think 'Idol' really got going with [Season 1 winner] Kelly Clarkson and that kind of set the tone, so I think people automatically just assumed that everybody coming off the show would just be a superstar. And it just doesn't always work like that.
"I don't know the magic formula; I don't think anybody really does. It's just a lot of work and a little bit of luck and a lot about the fans, you know I'm not worried about it. I'm just going to continue to work hard and put out my best music and see where it takes me."
-- When: 8 p.m. Feb. 14
-- Where: Sands Bethlehem Event Center, Sands Casino Resort, 77 Sands Blvd.
-- How much: $39.50-$45
Set list: Hits from his platinum debut album "Clear As Day," including "The Trouble With Girls," "Water Tower Town" and "I Love You This Big," as well as a few classic covers and a sneak peek at new music from his sophomore album to be released this year.
Info: 800-745-3000, http://www.sandseventcenter.com
Also: 8 p.m. April 20, F.M. Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre. $49-$99 (VIP, with meet-and-greet), 570-826-1100 http://www.kirbycenter.org.
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