GARNER — After last year's "American Idol" competition brought a serious case of Scotty-mania to the Triangle, this year's Tar Heel-free Final 13 might seem like a letdown.
But the popular TV singing competition will have a bit of North Carolina each week when one of those finalists is eliminated.
"Idol" producers announced Wednesday that Scotty McCreery, the Garner High School student who won the "Idol" title last year, has recorded a new song that will be played each Thursday over the farewell video montage of a departing contestant.
This year's 13 finalists performed live Wednesday night. The one receiving the fewest viewer votes will be ejected on tonight's live show, which starts at 8 p.m. on Fox. That's when Scotty's "goodbye" song - a version of Tim McGraw's hit "Please Remember Me" - will debut.
"It's always a sad time whenever this song is played, but it's definitely a really big part of the show," Scotty, 18, said in a statement.
The song will be available as a single on iTunes starting today.
Last season, former "Idol" winner David Cook did the official goodbye song, a version of Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget about Me)." North Carolina "Idol" finalist Chris Daughtry had a hit with the exit song from Season 6, "Home."
Though North Carolina had several contestants featured in the early stages of this season of "Idol" - including Charlotte Bobcats cheerleader Brittany Kerr and Fayetteville teenagers David Leathers Jr. and Ariel Sprague - only one person from the Tar Heel state, Chelsea Sorrell of Stokesdale, made it into the Top 24. She was eliminated last week after her first performance.
Scotty continues to enjoy musical success while finishing his senior year at Garner High. His first CD, "Clear as Day," has gone platinum, and his first two singles - "I Love You This Big" and "The Trouble with Girls" - have achieved gold-record status. He won the "New Artist" award last year at the American Country Awards, and he's a nominee for the Academy of Country Music's "New Artist of the Year" Award, to be presented April 1. Fans can vote for him for that award starting March 19 at www.acmcountry.com.
Scotty also will continue to be the opening act at many Brad Paisley concerts through October. (Details at www.bradpaisley.com.) Ironically, Scotty is not scheduled to appear with Paisley when the tour stops in Raleigh on Aug. 24.