In two short years, Scotty McCreery became one of country’s hottest new stars, with album sales topping 1.6 million, including a platinum-selling debut album that made Billboard history and helped him win several new artist awards. During this whirlwind career explosion, he performed for President Obama, sung the national anthem at the World Series, performed in the Macy’s Day Parade and put on shows from coast to coast.
In 2010, American fell in love at first sight with McCreery, then a shy 17-year-old boy with a wide smile, preternaturally deep voice and a love of faith, family and his hometown of Garner, N.C.. But that boyish image is merely a fond memory now that he’s turning 20. While the core of who he is and what he stands for remains the same, his strong voice has deepened as he has grown into a seasoned, confident performer who is in full control of every aspect of his career. His impressive evolution is immediately evident on his second studio album, See You Tonight, which artfully captures who he is now, both as an artist and a man.
“I really want this to be an album that people can listen to and say, ‘Oh, that is Scotty,’ and it really be me,” he says. “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. We’ve got some cool songs, some fun songs, some make-you-think songs. It’s really true to who I am.”
One reason that this Frank Rogers-produced album so accurately depicts McCreery’s personality is that he had a hand in writing five songs, including “See You Tonight,” the title track and debut single, as well as “Can You Feel It,” “I Don’t Want to Be Your Friend,” “Something More” and “Now.” “It’s cool to hear one of those songs and think, ‘That came from my heart and from what I was thinking,’” he says. “It’s making it more me. I had a good idea of what I wanted the record to say and sound like.
“I’m definitely more mature on this album. My music is always going to grow with me. 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. I don’t think I ever sounded like a kid because my voice matured early, but I do feel like it’s a more mature sound, and I’m proud of that.”
With See You Tonight, as well as his previous work, his bass voice and an irresistible sound create the perfect blend of contemporary and traditional country. With more than 150 live shows under his belt across the U.S., Canada and the Philippines, McCreery has become a favorite of all ages because of the universal appeal of his music, warmth, and all-American values. His first headlining tour has been so successful—with numerous sell-outs and additional shows added to meet demand--that a fall 2013 run has been announced.
Five months after winning Season Ten of American Idol, he released his debut album, Clear As Day, which became the best-selling solo album released by a country artist in 2011. Indeed, he became the youngest man in history to have his first album debut atop the all-genre Billboard Top 200 albums chart.
Clear As Day was certified platinum for sales of one million in just thirteen weeks, and the first two singles from that album were each certified gold. In 2012, his Christmas album, Christmas with Scotty McCreery, was also certified gold. He was named Top New Artist by Billboard and won best new artist awards at the Academy of Country Music Awards, the American Country Awards, and the CMT Awards.
“I don’t think any good artist can be satisfied with what they’ve done,” he says. “My first album was good, but I definitely want to top it and set my bar even higher. That was a goal of mine going into this—to make it a better album—and I think we’ve done that.”
The album was shaped by a fateful songwriting session he booked with Zach Crowell and Ashley Gorley that produced “See You Tonight” and “Can You Feel It.” “We were in one of those writing sessions where we didn’t go in there with a specific thought in mind,” he says. “We got lucky that day. ‘Can You Feel It’ is a swampy-sounding song that reminds me of the outdoors, nature, and it even talks about that in the song.”
Of “See You Tonight, he says, “We were hashing around ideas and we started playing a loop on the guitar. We said, ‘What does this make you think of?’ We talked about how that loop made you think about wanting to go see a girl. We started writing it, and before you know it, we thought, ‘Wow, this is a pretty good one!’ We finished the day and we were pretty excited with what we wrote.”
“Something More” describe his yearning for more substance in his country music than is often found in today’s songs. “I grew up with the older-style country, so you hear the more heartfelt things, whether it was somebody hurting or dying. These are songs that had a deep meaning to them and are more than just riding around in a truck and falling in love with a hot girl. I enjoy listening to something that has a deep meaning to it.”
But that’s not to say that the North Carolina State sophomore doesn’t let his fun side show on his sophomore project. He co-wrote “Now,” which is a rocking country song that says, “We don’t care where it is or when it is,” he says. “Let’s get the party started right now. We had fun recording that one.”
Two of the album’s songs have titles that can be misleading at first glance. The McCreery-penned “I Don’t Want to Be Your Friend,” isn’t about distancing himself from a young woman, but instead getting closer. “It’s a guy talking about, ‘You’ve got your girls to hang out with and do girly things like paint your nails and I’ve got my guys to watch football with. So we’ve got that covered and I don’t want to do that with you. I want to be more than that: I want to be somebody who has a relationship with you.’”
“Feel Good Summer Song” is the antithesis of a carefree summer anthem. It describes a heartbroken man who desperately wants to heal his pain and move on with his life. “But every time he turns on the radio station, he just hears another feel-good country song,” he says. “He says, ‘How can I get over you when every station is playing a feel-good country song?’”
That song, as well as “Forget to Forget You,” address heartache, which is something new on a McCreery album. Clear as Day predominantly featured happy-go-lucky songs, and while See You Tonight offers a full menu of party and good-time, good-feelin’ selections, McCreery wanted to tackle new themes this time around. “I’ve had these feelings before,” he says. “Anybody who is a teenager has been there before. People relate to it and it’s one of those emotions that you can’t put on the back burner. It’s real and it hurts. There’s something about country music. Even if the song is about heartbreak, you can listen to it and try to feel better about the situation you are in.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise that McCreery’s favorite song on his new album is “Carolina Moon,” a traditional country song that he knew he wanted to record as soon as he heard the first verse and chorus. “It hits home with me, growing up in North Carolina. The song talks about being on the road touring and missing home.” He was honored that Alison Krauss, one of the best singers in any genre, agreed to record the song with him. “That took the song over the top,” he says. “She is wonderful and has such an iconic and beautiful voice.”
While “Carolina Moon” is McCreery’s favorite, some of his closest friends prefer another song. “With me being in college, I live with three buddies, so I bounced ideas and songs off of them,” he says. “So far, they are partial to ‘Feeling It,’ so we’ll see how that one does. My roommates say that one is going to be my biggest song yet!”