For country singer Scotty McCreery, 2011 was most definitely his year.
In those 12 months, the then 18-year-old won “American Idol,” sold 170,000 copies of his first single in one week, signed a record contract, and made music business history as the youngest man to open at the top of the chart with a debut release.
While his “American Idol” win positioned him for success, it’s really McCreery’s dedication to his kind of music that’s kept this upstart in it for the long haul.
MAPPING HIS CAREER
McCreery’s long-term goal has always been to be near the Grand Ole Opry.
“I knew I wanted to finish high school, go to college, and then move to Nashville and try to make it as a country music singer,” he said. “That was always the plan and the dream. I just decided to take a chance in Milwaukee [at the “Idol” tryouts] and see if I could possibly make the dream happen a little faster.
“It worked.” Battling through 17 “American Idol” rounds of competition, McCreery showed off his singing abilities, always with one boot firmly in the country music camp. His takes on tunes by Travis Tritt, Garth Brooks, Josh Turner, Lonestar, and George Strait endeared him to “Idol” fans, even though the music biz machine often tried to get him to steer down a different path.
“I would say the biggest challenge was convincing everyone I was going to stay country, no matter what they wanted to try and make me sing,” he said. “I was going to stay true to my roots as a country artist.”
Once McCreery won “Idol,” he took all of the opportunities the show afforded him and started cruising at top speed. His debut album “Clear As Day” was quickly followed by a Christmas album in 2012, and his latest set, “See You Tonight,” was just released last October.
“I wanted this to be an album that people can listen to and say, ‘Oh, that is Scotty,’ and it really is me,” he said. “I am proud of the first record, and crazy thankful for it, but we didn’t have a lot of time to make it. For this record, we took our time and wanted to make it as much ‘me’ as possible. It’s really true to who I am.”
Recorded in McCreery’s dream town of Nashville, the singer co-wrote five of the songs on “See You Tonight,” which he said is a big part of what identifies the album more clearly as his own.
“I had a good idea of what I wanted the record to say and sound like,” he said. “I’m not ever going to sing about me getting drunk at a bar, because that’s not me, but the subject matter and sounds of the songs are more mature.”
All the better to match McCreery’s voice, with its deep, resonant tones that are most reminiscent of George Jones or Randy Travis.
“I don’t think I ever sounded like a kid, because my voice matured early,” McCreery said, “but I’m proud of my sound.”
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
McCreery – bags packed and cowboy boots firmly in tow – is now on the road with his new album, “See You Tonight Tour,” which has already kept him on the road for much of this year.
“We just got back from a 21-day run, which is one of the longest runs I have done so far,” he said. “It was tiring, but great to see the response from the fans each night.”
Included in that run was a sold-out show at the 2,300-seat Ryman Auditorium – also known as the former home of the Grand Ole Opry. While “Idol” may have been a roundabout trail back to his Nashville goal, the point is that McCreery did it, as that sold-out crowd can attest.
“That was a feeling I will never forget,” he said.
Scotty McCreery will be in concert at the Little River Casino Resort in Manistee on Sat., April 19. For tickets and more, visit lrcr.com, and for more on the artist, visit scottymccreery.com.