Between school, baseball practice, and going on tour with Brad Paisley, Scotty McCreery rarely has a moment to chill out. The high school senior’s life changed when he became the youngest male winner on the tenth season of American Idol. It’s obvious that his fans adore him: He snagged the most votes to win Best New Artist at the 2012 Academy of Country Music Awards.
Now his The Trouble With Girls video is nominated for the CMT Music Awards’ USA WEEKEND Breakthrough Video Award. Currently, McCreery is focused on enjoying his last month of high school before heading to North Carolina State University, where he plans to make new friends, room with old friends and cheer on the Wolfpack at basketball games. McCreery hits the road a few weekends this month, back to doing what he loves: singing. “I’m looking forward to it,” he says.
How does it feel to be nominated for the USA Weekend Breakthrough Video of the Year Award?
McCreery: It feels great! I mean, it’s been a wild year. That video was cool for me because it was actually [filmed] in my hometown at my high school with all my friends. So to have it nominated for an award means a lot to me and a lot to my friends, as well. They’re pretty pumped about it.
Where were you when you heard that you were nominated?
McCreery: I think was at school. I’m back home now on a little break before we start touring again in May. I got the email from my manager and I was pretty excited to tell all my friends.
Why did you decide to film the video in your high school? What was the significance?
McCreery: The plot that we picked for the video was based in a high school. Originally, we were going to pick a random high school in Nashville and shoot it there. And I said, why don’t we do it at my high school and use my real friends. It would add a certain element to it, a realness to the video. They liked the idea so we bused everyone from Nashville down here to Garner, North Carolina. We had a good day, a good shoot.
There’s a certain girl who stars in the video, Gabi Dugal. You also took her to prom. So do you really have trouble with girls?
McCreery: [Laughs] I think every single guy out there has trouble with girls at some point, just not every day. Girls, they’re something else. Gabi, she’s been a good friend of mine. We’ve known each other since kindergarten and we’ve stayed friends through high school. It was an easy pick. She did a great job. She always laughs at one part. There’s a wink scene where she kind of waves to me on the baseball field. She said it looks awkward…
You’re a high school senior and on the baseball team. How do you balance school, baseball, and performing?
McCreery: I’m trying to figure out the perfect way to do it. I think it’s important for me to stay connected to home and stay connected to my friends. [Idol fame] all of a sudden happened to me within the last year and it was something I didn’t really prepare for. But we’re still hitting the road, still trying get out there and making sure our music’s being heard, reaching out to the fans. That’s why I’m so glad I’m on the tour with Brad Paisley. We get to travel around the country, see everybody, and do radio visits. I mean, we’re still trying to figure out the perfect balance. I’m having fun doing it. I’m finishing up baseball, school—I graduate in a month. It’ll be cool.
Which is harder: competing on American Idol or your worst high school class?
McCreery: I don’t think I’ve had bad classes, but I’ve had hard classes. And hard classes cause a lot of stress. But I don’t think there’s anything out there in the world like American Idol as far as the stress factor. You’re doing it seven days a week, all hours of the day. I looked at the show and tried out and figured I’d just have to sing songs each week. That’s the life, it’s easy. But there’s a lot that goes into it behind the scenes. So Idol would have to take the cake there.
You’re planning to attend North Carolina State University in the fall. What part of college are you most excited about?
McCreery: I’m excited to get there. I’ve been looking to go to NC State since I was a kid. Once again, we’re going to have to figure out exactly how to balance it. ’Cause high school’s one thing, but going to college and taking classes and that everyday thing—it’s grueling. I’m just looking forward to getting there and meeting new people. I’m rooming with some of my friends that I’ve grown up with, that will be good as well…. And going to basketball games.
You plan to major in marketing or communications. What do you plan to do with that degree?
McCreery: It’s going to help me in the long run with what I’m doing. A college degree to me and my family — it’s just important. So I’m going to give it my best shot. I’m in music class everyday now. Being on the road with someone like Brad Paisley, he’s about a good teacher as it gets. I go out and watch him every single night while we’re on the road. I watch what he does, how he interacts with the crowd, watch how musical he is. But I should learn more about the business side of things. That’s why I think marketing, communications or public relations [will be helpful].
Are you going to continue to sing and perform while in college?
McCreery: Oh, yes. We’re still going to be singing. I can’t just leave. Music is my passion. Music is what I love and what I want to do for the rest of my life. But college is important to me, so I’m going to figure out how to make both work.
Do you have any country idols?
McCreery: I’ve said it a lot and been pretty vocal about it: Josh Turner. He’s one of the many artists out there that doesn’t get looked at. But Josh, he’s just a great guy who sings great music. He has a great life off the stage, has great values and [is] not afraid to speak of his faith. And that’s something I admire and look up to. And something I strive to do as well. It’s not just about the music. I mean music is a lot of it, but it’s about affecting people’s lives and making good change[s] in people. Josh has done it and I think a lot of artists out there have done it. And hopefully I can be one of those artists as well.
Does Josh Turner sing one of your favorite country songs?
McCreery: He sings my favorite, Long Black Train.
When you’re not in school, playing baseball or performing, what do you like to do to have fun and relax?
McCreery: Me and the boys will chill. We’ll go fishing or just hang out and lay low. My life’s pretty busy so when I have time to chill I don’t try to do anything. I just try to hang out at the house or maybe go catch a ball game down the street.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals or good luck charms?
McCreery: Me and the band always get in a circle and pray and ask [for] a blessing on the performance. We also have the Rocky theme song in our heads. I’ll start punching the air, punching nothing, just trying to get hyped up on stage and get the heart racing. That’s my thing. I’ve been doing that since I was a kid at baseball or basketball games — just trying to get in the mood.
What’s your advice for aspiring country singers? Would you tell them to go on Idol or take a different road?
McCreery: There’s a lot of different ways to do it. Idol’s my way. I’d definitely say it works. It worked for Carrie Underwood; she’s at the top. Just play good music. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I was thinking, if Idol hadn’t happened to me I had planned to head on down to Nashville and try to make it there. Who knows how that would have worked out. You’ve got to give it your all every single night because you never know who’s listening. It could be the head of a label in Nashville!
Take a look at the six nominees and cast your vote today! Then, tune in to the CMT Music Awards on Wednesday, June 6 at 8pm ET on CMT. (Check local listings.)