Scotty McCreery, the Garner native who was just 17 when he found reality TV stardom as an “American Idol” contestant, turns 21 Thursday.
But don’t expect his move into adulthood to bring the kind of tabloid behavior associated with a Kardashian, Bieber or other reality or music star.
“I don’t think much will change after 21 – no Bieber, no Miley Cyrus, none of that stuff,” McCreery said in a recent interview after a round of golf on a Raleigh course. “There’s plenty of folks out there like me, you just don’t hear about us in the news as much.”
His birthday plans include a trip to his beach house on the North Carolina coast, followed by golf in Pinehurst with his “boys” – friends he grew up with in Garner who are now fellow students at N.C. State University.
McCreery reflected on how much things have changed for him in the past year. He’s on the road performing more, and his classes are now online rather than in a Wolfpack classroom. And he’s more conscious of security since he and friends were robbed in a Raleigh apartment in June.
This is the first October in four years that McCreery hasn’t released a new CD. His first album after winning “Idol,” 2011’s “Clear As Day,” went platinum and broke several Billboard country records. The next October brought “Christmas with Scotty McCreery,” which went gold, followed by “See You Tonight” last October.
With about 251,000 copies sold, “See You Tonight” hasn’t approached the success of “Clear As Day,” but McCreery said that was expected.
He said country music is really all about singles today, and he’s still trying to get radio airplay from some stations that didn’t initially embrace him because of his reality show past. That’s why he said he’s spent more than 200 days on the road promoting his music this year.
“Go shake some hands. Go meet some folks. Country music’s a big personal relationship kind of industry,” he said. “I think we’ve broke down a lot of those barriers.”
The “See You Tonight” album did bring McCreery’s first Top 10 country single, also called “See You Tonight,” which he co-wrote. And he has hopes that second single “Feelin’ It,” now flirting with the country Top 20, will continue to rise.
He’s unclear whether there will be a third single released from the album or whether his record label will want a single from a new album that would likely come out next fall.
McCreery has long said he likes the “traditional” country music sound of Conway Twitty and Merle Haggard, but he recognizes that much of what’s played on country radio now is the partying “bro-country” of acts like Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan.
‘Not all parties’
Though he had his own songs in that vein on “See You Tonight,” he hopes the country tent is big enough for other kinds of tunes, too. He noted that former “Idol” winner Carrie Underwood’s new song, “Something in the Water,” is Christian-themed.
“It’s not all parties and drinking and bars and stuff,” he said. “There’s still plenty of room out there for the good old country music. I’m trying to straddle that line of keeping it like I like it ... and keeping it current and contemporary.”
Most of McCreery’s performances this year have been headlining gigs in clubs that hold anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 people. Because of all the travel, McCreery – classified as an N.C. State sophomore – has cut back to two online classes for now and none in-person.
“It’s definitely not the four-year plan,” he said of how long it’s likely to take him to get his degree in media communications.
He lives in an off-campus house with four friends. He has a girlfriend who values her privacy. He attends Wolfpack sporting events when he can – though likely will make it to only two football games this fall.
“Basketball season I’m going to schedule better than I did for football. I won’t be missing Carolina and Duke,” he said.
‘Higher level of alert’
After the robbery, he got an enhanced security system at his house and developed a “higher level of alert,” in general. He said he’s not particularly worried about security when he’s on the tour bus with his crew.
“My bus would not be the bus to rob,” he said, laughing. “I’ve got guys that are always equipped to make stuff happen. And one of the guys is like a black belt in every martial arts you can think of.”
Looking back on the journey of the past 3 1/2 McCreery said he remains amazed that he’s getting to have a career in music.
“My dream was to be Elvis Presley when I was younger,” he said. “I’m by no means Elvis, but it’s been cool to be on stage and do what I love ... to have all these opportunities through music.”