Scotty McCreery Interview: The American Idol winner, now chart-topping recording artist, talks about the ups and downs of his career so far, family times, and reflects on a special moment for one particular UK fan…
When tickets went on sale for Scotty McCreery’s first set of headline shows in the UK, demand far outstripped supply. An extra date was added for London, and the Manchester show was moved to a larger venue. There’s a real appetite for Scotty’s music right now as the success of his album Seasons Change has shown, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the man from North Carolina, as Neil Hallam discussed with him at that Manchester date.
Great to meet you Scotty, welcome to Manchester
Thank you very much, it’s great to be here.
We were talking a moment ago about my journey here this evening. You’ve had quite a journey too. You’re only 25, but already you’ve had American Idol at 16 and 17 and all the initial success at that time; then later losing your record label deal; the releasing your music yourself without a record label; now you’re with Triple Tigers/Sony Music. In amongst all that, were there ever any moments where you doubted yourself?
Oh yeah, it’s tough for that not to creep in there, you know? Especially that one year, 2016, when there was no label, and what’s the next step if there’s no label… But yeah, it’s one of those things, I’ve always been taught that it’s not always gonna be roses, there’s good times and bad times, enjoy the good times for sure but don’t take it for granted. Bad times, you’re either gonna sit there and wallow in it or you can pull yourself up by the bootstraps and take another step forward. So that’s what we did and luckily it all paid off, so we’re having a great time now.
Having that level of success that you did, as young as you were, do you ever feel that you missed out on the kind of experience of playing to three men and a dog in a dive bar, or that level of things?
Definitely, a little bit. Nowadays there’s definitely more ways than there used to be to make it, for sure, but the Idol thing was… I was doing some different coffee bars and stuff back home, small town stuff, playing here there and everywhere, wherever they’d take me. But not the whole grinding for just a couple of folks at noon on Broadway. But Idol, it’s no cakewalk. It was quite the grind they put us through to get through all that, and then to continue after that was quite the grind as well. So we’ve been enjoying it, for sure, but probably a different path to a lot of other folks.
You released the Season’s Change album with Triple Tigers, and it’s been a big success for you. You co-wrote all of the tracks on the album. How important was that for you?
Yeah, it was huge. Honestly, it wasn’t something that I went into this record thinking I was gonna do. I thought I had an entire record ready in 2015, and I wrote like half the songs on it. Then we lost the label deal, and I was like “Ooh, I have another 2 years to make a record”. So, we kind of, over 5 years we compiled the 11 songs and it all works out. I’m not sure if I’ll do that again for my next record. We’re writing a lot, so I could see it happening again. I did love that every song on there had a personal story to it, and a personal tie to it. It was a really cool thing.
But that’s not something that you would be bound to in the future. It was just the way things lined up this time?
Yeah, it was just how it lined up. I feel we were in a good spot where we were writing for those few years, and we had a lot of time to put it together. But there’s a lot of great songwriters in Nashville. Sometimes you get a song in your email inbox and it’s incredible. I’m not gonna be one of those guys who’re like “Well, I didn’t write it so I’m not gonna sing it”.
Well that was going to be my next question – how do you find your co-writing partners, because as you say there are so many out there?
Yeah, well I’ve been lucky enough that a lot of them now are just buddies, a lot of them are friends. Whether they go through management or their publishers reach out, you know, it’s just how that kind of works out. I had a buddy, when we were flying over here, he was like “Hey, when are we writing next?” on Instagram. So you just never know when the next write will pop up.
Is there anyone that you’d like to write with, that you haven’t already?
Oh, for sure. There’s a good group of them. I’ve never written with Hillary Lindsey, and we’ve been talking with her and her camp and trying to do that. She’s an incredible writer, obviously. There’s definitely a few others as well, but she’s kinda the one at the top of my mind right now.
Family life and family stories, especially including Gabi…
You said that really nice, you got it right!
Thank you, I confess I have been practising. My journey time over here today was not wasted!
Ok, perfect! (laughs)
So, family life and stories feature heavily in a lot of your lyrics and your videos too. So, Five More Minutes has footage of you with your Grandpa and other family videos as you were growing; This Is It has footage from your wedding day; In Between has Gabi and Moose… Presumably Gabi is quite comfortable with all of that?
Yeah, you know, for sure.
Did she know that she was signing up for that when the two of you got together?
Well, I’m not sure she really did as far as the camera’s and everything goes, it’s still not probably her favourite thing in the world. I love to show her off, and I love to just talk about my family life back home. I think it’s very cool that we get to do that. She’s been great about it.
Does featuring your family so much then make it difficult sometimes to find privacy when you need it?
Well when we’re home, we’re home. I try not to do too much business when I’m home. We live in North Carolina, it’s very normal when we’re home. We’re going to the grocery store together, going to restaurants, going to games… It’s a very normal life when we’re home, which we love. It kinda gets us away from the lights and the cameras and everything, so it’s fun. And people really respect that, too. They wanna say, “hi”, they wanna say, “we love your music”, and I always appreciate that. But privacy’s never been too much of an issue, so it’s been all good.
Speaking of family…If I say “Boo!”, you say…
Yah! There you go, I knew where you were goin’ with that (laughs)
Family Feud isn’t broadcast over here, but we’ve seen clips of it on YouTube.
I don’t know where that came from. He said , “Say the first thing that pops into your mind”, and that’s what it was.
I thought it was a brilliant answer! You raised a good chunk of money through that TV show for St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Tell us about your connection with them.
Yeah, it’s an incredible organisation, incredible hospital. I got the chance to tour there a few years ago, and I got to meet a lot of the kids and the doctors, and find out more about what they do there. Just the fact that every family that goes there doesn’t have a bill, and it’s through donations like that, through donations from everybody that they can do that. It’s not just the hospital themselves, it’s the research they’re doing and they share that with everybody. They’re a great group, and my wife’s a paediatric nurse, so it’s a subject that’s near and dear to our hearts. We’re big fans of St Jude’s.
So, the current tour… What have been some of the highlights so far? We’ve seen photo’s of you and Gabi at the Brandenburg Gate, have there been any other “go to” sites during your time over here?
Absolutely, yeah, we’ve definitely tried to get up early and go see the sights. In London we went to the Tower of London, walked over to Westminster Abbey… Kensington Palace, Hyde Park and walked around… In Germany, the Brandenburg Gate, we got to go into the Berlin Cathedral. In Cologne we got to see the Cologne Cathedral which is massive, quite the sight. So yeah, we’ve definitely gotten to see the sights and take in the cultures, eat the food, drink the drinks. It’s been a great experience this far, and we can’t wait to get back.
How have you both been handling the food? Some of it is quite a bit different to what you might be used to.
Oh, we’ve been loving it, we’ve been loving it. I mean, I’m not a big fish guy personally, but if I’m gonna be in England I’m having fish and chips. And In Germany we had the schnitzel and everything, so it’s been great. We’ve been enjoying it.
One of my Six Shooter Country colleagues was at Bush Hall in London last night, and she said it was amazing, a fantastic gig. How was it for you?
It felt great on stage. Every night has, and every night has been a touch different, but the crowds have just floored us. Just with their knowledge of the music, their passion, and they’re just as much a part of the show as we are. They’re singing every word. Honestly, we don’t get that back home. They know the singles and things, the diehards will know some album cuts, but these fans have been singing every word to every song. It’s an amazing feeling on stage, knowing that they care that much. Here, it’s not like it’s everywhere, country music. That means if they wanna hear it they’ve gotta go look for it, go listen to it, and it’s a cool thing for sure. We really appreciate it, every night, it makes us wanna play better and sing better, and give them a show they deserve.
Were you told about the UK audiences before you came over here?
Yeah, every artist comes back and they all kinda say the same thing. Things like, they’re a passionate group, they know their music and they know the lyrics, and they’re right there with you every step of the way. It was cool to experience that first hand. We’ve still got a couple more shows to do, we can’t wait.
There was a very special moment for one young man last night…
That’s right, when you brought him up on stage to sing with you. You seemed quite emotional about that too?
Yeah. It was a very cool moment. We got a chance to meet him backstage before the show. He was telling me how he’s been watching me since American Idol, and his favourite song is I Love You This Big and he couldn’t wait to hear it. And I looked at the band, we haven’t played I Love You This Big in probably a year and a half. So I said, “Ok, let’s go”, and we went out back and we worked it up again, and we said “We’re playing it tonight”. Max was stage left, second or third row, standing there singing every word so, “You wanna come up and sing with me, bud?”. And he did. He knew every word, he’s up there singing it with me, and it was just a really cool moment. I hope he enjoyed it as much as I did. It was really cool.
Judging from the reaction so far, it seems that you would be welcomed back to the UK with open arms. It’s maybe a little early to ask this, but do you have any plans to return? You’ve played London and Manchester on this trip, and I know there are other parts of the UK that would love to see you.
And I would love to get there as soon as possible. I’ve always heard that when you come over here it’s first step, second step, it’s like building blocks. So this was our first step, the first step I hope of many. We were talking last night, obviously nothing official, but of Scotland and Ireland and coming back and doing London and Manchester again, and just expanding the UK and other parts of Europe. It’d be awesome. For me, I just wanna see those parts of the world and get to meet those people, shake their hands… It’s something I’m looking forward to, and hopefully it happens in the near future.
What about recording? Do you have any recording sessions lined up?
Yeah, in December we’re gonna get back in the studio. We’ve got a lot of songs written, a lot that we’re excited about, and we’re gonna start the process. In Between is the single right now, we’re gonna ride this thing and I’m excited about it, no plans on stopping with that but it’ll probably be the last single on the Seasons Change record, and we’ll go from there.