Exclusive: Scotty McCreery Starts His Second Chapter

Scotty McCreery

Scotty McCreery claimed the crown of American Idol in May 2011, winning him a record deal and instant recognition among country fans. Five years later, with a memoir titled Go Big Or Go Home: The Journey Toward the Dream, he’s looking back on that time in his life – but also keeping an eye on the future.

“It’s a blessing just to wake up every morning,” he tells MusicRow. “I get to do what I love every day, which is make music and sing music. I’ve got no complaints. Things may not always go your way but that’s life and you’ve got to go with the flow and get after it.”

At the time of the interview, McCreery was without a label deal and management. Although he’s still represented by BMI, he owns his publishing. To use a baseball term, he’s a free agent.

“We’re really excited about the future,” he insists. “It’s been a different start to 2016 than I would have thought but the opportunities in front of us are looking bright.”

During a visit to MusicRow, McCreery accepted a No. 1 Challenge Coin for “See You Tonight,” then stuck around to discuss his writing process, a promise from Priscilla Presley, and the business meetings he’s taking for his new music.

Pictured (L-R): Sherod Robertson, Owner/Publisher, MusicRow; Scotty McCreery, Troy Stephenson, Chart Director, MusicRow; Craig Shelburne, GM, MusicRow. Photo: Molly Hannula

Pictured (L-R): Sherod Robertson, Owner/Publisher, MusicRow; Scotty McCreery, Troy Stephenson, Chart Director, MusicRow; Craig Shelburne, GM, MusicRow. Photo: Molly Hannula

MusicRow: Reading your book, it struck me how well you handled yourself because you were just 17 when American Idol happened. What was your frame of mind when you started putting those memories down on paper?

McCreery: I enjoyed it. I mean, it was the first time in five or six years that I had to sit down and reflect on everything that’s gone on. So it took some time. It took about a year to go start to finish with that book. It was a good experience and a different process than a typical project I’d work on.

How did you do it? Did you just sit down and start remembering?

Pretty much. Travis Thrasher (the book’s co-author) came out on the road with me and we just talked and he’d ask me questions about things I hadn’t thought about in years. I was laughing about certain things I hadn’t thought about in years. It was a lot of conversation and then putting the conversation to paper.

Did you have to Google yourself to check on a few things?

(laughs) No, I didn’t have to Google anything. This is all as best recounted from my memory. We went back and found some old journals that I had written in elementary school and one that I had written in high school. We found old things like that, but no, no Googling.

Did you look at old videos of yourself on YouTube?

Yeah, sometimes, if I was trying to remember a performance or something like that. And it’s always fun to do that because you’re looking back at yourself when you’re going through awkward teenage years in front of millions of people. I was kinda cringing watching some of those videos, like, ‘Oh, what are you doing there, man?’

It seemed like you have a good sense of humor when you talked about things like lip-synching on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float – and getting caught.

That’s one of those things you have to laugh at. I didn’t have a choice. They don’t let you sing live. I think they told me when I was there, in all the years of the Macy’s parade, only two people sang live and it went awful. So now they don’t let anyone have the choice.

Scotty McCreery bookReading the book, it’s clear that you are close with your road band. That’s a big component of your story. How important is it that an artist surrounds himself with the right people?

It’s huge. It’s one of the most important things I’ve found in my career. With me starting out so young, I realized early on I don’t know everything and I still don’t. I’m still learning so it’s great to have people around you that can help steer you in the right direction.

For me, the road life is just the same. I’ve been on tour with folks who have had more turnover with their band members in a month than I’ve changed in five years. I wouldn’t like that. I want to go on the road and know who I’m getting on the bus with, and have them be friends. And they really are like a second family. It’s important to me.

I didn’t realize that you were such an Elvis fan. He’s like a secondary character in your life story.

He is. I mean, he was literally the biggest influence on me and my music tastes. I’m an old soul in general. At 5 years old on, it was Elvis. I would throw in Conway Twitty and Ronnie Milsap too. Ronnie was a North Carolina guy so I loved him. It was heavily, heavily Elvis.

Do you like ‘70s Elvis?

Yeah that’s cool but I’m a ‘50s Elvis guy. Swiveling the hips. But the jumpsuit days are fun too.

What was it like the first time you went through Graceland?

It was pretty sweet. It was one of those days I was looking forward to for a while. I’ve still got to go back because Priscilla said she was going to take me through a private tour, just me and her, up to Elvis’ room, which would be really cool. Yeah, that was special for me, just going through rooms that I had seen pictures of my whole life, like the Jungle Room. I could have stayed there for a long time and been just fine.

scotty mccreery see you tonight11In the five years since you won American Idol, you’ve had highs and lows. For people who want to know about your career right now, what is your management and label situation?

We’re definitely in between. The label thing was definitely more of a surprise. We put out a few records and all of them went No. 1 on their respective chart. It was a little bit of a surprise and you can only do so much. It was a business decision. It was nothing personal there.

I’m looking at a couple of different options out in front of us and figuring out a few things contractually. It’s a lot of business stuff that the fans don’t care about. But once we get the contract stuff figured out, we should have some stuff in front of us pretty soon. The music’s ready and the people we’re talking to know that, and they’re excited about that.

So, hopefully it’s in the very near future, and the management should be in the near future too. I’ve had talks with everybody in town – lots of folks. I’m excited about some of those options too.

What is the dynamic like when you have these meetings? Do you feel like people might not know where you’re coming from?

No, it’s been great! I feel like the people are really understanding about where I’m at and where I want to go with my music. If there’s anything I’ve been really good it, it’s understanding who I am – who I am as a person and who I am as an artist. And I convey that really well through my music, and especially with the music we have written now.

That’s been the greatest thing about these meetings. You can say, “Hey, I’ve got music ready,” but once you play it for them, that’s when the questions start. That’s when I get to see if they like it and they get to see if it’s legit. It’s been fun to see the eyes get big and people looking around the room saying, “This song’s really good.” That’s been a really big positive for me, the fact that people are responding to the songs.

How many songs do you have ready to go?

We had recorded 10 songs for the record on the last label and half of those were co-writes and half were outside cuts. I’m not sure how many we’re going to get back for the next record, but I think we’re going to get at least three that were co-writes. Maybe four. I’ve been a lot more involved in the writing process on this one. That’s been the evolution of it. On the first album, I had none. On the second one, I had three, and this one I had five out of 10.

Why did you want to grow that side of yourself as an artist?

I feel like it gives fans a little more personal side to the artist. I love writing and I love hearing good songs. If the outside cut has said what I want to say better than how I said it, I’m going to cut that. I love cutting so that’s why it’s half and half. I just feel like there’s a little more of the personal feel when you write it yourself and I think the fans can feel that.

Pictured (L-R): Sherod Robertson, Molly Hannula, Scotty McCreery, Troy Stephenson, Craig Shelburne, Jessica Nicholson, Eric T. Parker

Pictured (L-R): Sherod Robertson, Molly Hannula, Scotty McCreery, Troy Stephenson, Craig Shelburne, Jessica Nicholson, Eric T. Parker

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Craig Shelburne is the General Manager at MusicRow.

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