‘American Idol’ winner McCreery coming to Manistee

By David Yarnell
Special to the News Advocate

MANISTEE — Maybe it’s his deep voice. Or his firm family roots and unwavering Christian faith. It could be the meaningful country songs he has written and performs.

Whatever it is, country music star Scotty McCreery seems a much older soul, way beyond the 24 years he has spent on this planet.

The Scotty McCreery story starts in 2010 when he entered the “American Idol” singing competition the summer before his high school junior year. And not only enter, but after he and his mom pulled up stakes in Garner, N.C. and moved into a Los Angeles apartment for four months for some sense of normalcy, he became the youngest winner in the 10-year history of the show.

“That was definitely a pretty different junior year,” said McCreery, when reached last week in California on the tour that will bring him to the Little River Casino Resort on Aug. 18.

“It was fun, it really was. It was the time of my life, spending the spring semester in Los Angeles to be on the show. But the best part for me was going back to school afterward for my senior year to get reunited with my friends, to play baseball, and to start touring. Until this year, 2012 had been my favorite.”

Scotty McCreery will perform at 8 p.m. on Aug. 18 at Little River Casino Resort in Manistee. (Courtesy photo)

Scotty McCreery will perform at 8 p.m. on Aug. 18 at Little River Casino Resort in Manistee. (Courtesy photo)

McCreery’s family and friends back home weren’t that surprised when he won the competition. After all, this was the kid who had belted out Elvis songs on the elementary school bus.

McCreery said he was born with music deep inside himself.

“I don’t remember music ever not being a part of my life,” he said. “My mom tells me I hummed a nursery rhyme at my one year checkup.”

Of the school bus Elvis performances, he said, “some kids were probably pretty annoyed by it, but I enjoyed it because Elvis was my guy from 5 years old on. I just gravitated toward him for whatever reason. Being that young, singing his songs on the school bus was not what you’d call normal, but Elvis was just my guy.

“I’ve just always enjoyed singing and making music,” he continued. “I’m glad I have the chance to do this for a living. I’m not sure what I’d be doing otherwise.”

For McCreery, a “normal” senior year meant spending Monday through Thursday at school and then flying off on the weekends for concert dates.

“It was important for me to go back for my senior year,” he said. “I had a lot of friends that I had grown up with and I didn’t want to desert them after my pretty awesome opportunity. I wanted to make sure I got back to hang out with them.”

After he finished high school, just to spite the people who said it couldn’t be done, he became a “normal” freshman at his beloved North Carolina State University. He put two and a half years of college under his belt before finally giving in to the demands of writing, recording and performing some of the best country music in America.

So far in his short career, McCreery has album sales approaching 3 million. His four albums all debuted No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

He co-wrote all 11 songs on his recent album, “Seasons Change,” including “Five More Minutes,” a tribute to his recently deceased grandfather, and “This Is It,” the story of his marriage proposal to his fiance.

“I love the writing,” he said. “It’s one of my most favorite things to do – go to Nashville, meet up with some friends, and just write songs.

“There’s something to be said for just starting with a blank sheet of paper and then a few hours later you have a piece of art. I love the creative process – it’s something I really didn’t know too much about when I started, but it’s something I’ve learned to love over the past few years.”

McCreery’s first singles released in 2011 – “I Love You This Big” and “The Trouble with Girls” both reached platinum status after selling nearly 1 million copies each.

In 2012 he released the single “Water Tower Town,” a tribute to small towns like his own, which peaked at No. 32. In 2013, the single “See You Tonight” reached No. 14 on the charts and achieved platinum status.

“Feelin’ It” reached No. 27 in 2014 and achieved gold status. Recently “Five More Minutes” reached No. 1 on country airplay charts and “This Is It” No. 7.

The book he wrote in 2016 with Travis Thrasher, “Go Big or Go Home,” tells of his efforts to win “American Idol” and the first several years of his career.

It’s an amazing story, starting with the fact that his family, church and school have always been the most important parts of his life. So much so that in the summer of 2010, when it was suggested he enter the “American Idol” competition in Nashville, he begged off when he found out that the date conflicted with the church camp he planned to attend.

But then his biggest fans, his parents, suggested that they use their frequent flyer miles to go to the “Idol” competition in Milwaukee. After making it through three levels that summer, they were invited to return for more competition in Milwaukee in October.

Making his way through several more rounds, McCreery moved to the next level in Las Vegas; and after that, on to Hollywood for a week when he was named to the top 24. Starting in January 2011 the show was live each week from Los Angeles.

That’s when he and his mother got an apartment near the studio.

“Mom was awesome,” McCreery said. “She had to sacrifice her career – she gave up everything and moved to Los Angeles with me. She’s still so supportive – mom, dad, my sister Ashley. They come to shows when they can and offer support and advice. We also have our group texts every day. They are really nice to have in my corner.”

McCreery continually thanks the many people who helped make him successful. One of his best moments in the “Idol” competition was when he gave the keys to a new car to his most influential teacher, classical choral director Meredith Clayton.

“That was a great surprise,” McCreery said. “Ms. Clayton was awesome. She did a lot more than teach me about singing. She instilled a lot of great lessons about work ethic, being persistent and not settling for average.

“She made sure we worked our tails off,” he said of the members of the choral group. “When we were in school we traveled around the country and won a lot of competitions because of her and her demand for excellence. I still carry a lot of what I learned from her back then yet today.”

McCreery finds that his wild ride was just beginning when he won the “Idol” competition in late May. When he was on his way home from the airport after the competition, his first single, “I Love You This Big,” played on the radio.

During the summer he performed in 49 shows on the Idols Live Tour of the U.S., Canada and Philippines. He was also busy hiring a manager and a band and booking tour dates and appearances on talk shows.

His song “The Trouble With Girls” is the story of his early courtship of his life-long friend Gabi Dugal. It took him four months to respond to a text message Dugal sent the night he won the “Idol” competition. When she finished as runner up in the Homecoming queen competition, he texted, “It’s bogus that you didn’t win tonight. If it’d been my choice, you’d have won.”

“I know it was kind of cheesy. But we’ve talked every day since that text.”

McCreery wrote the song “This Is It” just weeks before his proposal to Dugal.

“Our wedding is coming up very soon,” McCreery said. “We’re just a few weeks out at this point. It’s exciting. I’ve known her my whole life. She’s definitely the one. I knew that early on.”

McCreery is proud that his latest songs, “Five More Minutes” and “This Is It,” are very personal.

“I just like being personal with my songs and I love to sing songs that only I could sing. I’m finding that everyone is a lot more alike than we are different, so even though I’m being personal, it still has a universal appeal to all the folks listening to them.”

McCreery said he is OK with the way the internet plays a major role in today’s music world.

“I love how it is now,” he said. “We are reaching a lot more people than we could have back years ago. There is something to be said about discovering a song through the radio and then buying the record, but that’s kind of left us.

“I think it’s cool to be able to reach millions of people with the technology we have. I wouldn’t trade that to go back to the way it used to be.”

“Water Tower Town” was a special song for McCreery because of his love for his hometown.

“I think nowadays Garner is even more special for me than when I was growing up because I’m not able to get there as often as I would like,” he said. “I’m living in Raleigh, which is right up the street, but with the hustle and bustle of how busy I am, I find it more special than ever when I get the chance to go back and just enjoy family and friends.”

McCreery’s faith also remains strong.

“It’s huge. I don’t think I’ve been given this platform just to have fun for myself and keep everything for myself. Giving back is important – helping folks who can’t help themselves.

“It’s one of those things that at a young age I was blessed with – the idea of trying to be a good steward of what I was given. Personally, it wouldn’t be as fun for me to keep everything for myself. I want to help where I can.”

Tickets for McCreery’s performance at the Little River Casino resort go on sale Friday at the casino box office, by calling Star Tickets at 800-585-3737 and also at www.lrcr.com. The event takes place at 8 p.m. on Aug. 18.

 

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