Scotty McCreery knows what it’s like to be on top of the world. He also knows what’s like to be knocked off it.
The Season 10 “American Idol” winner was riding a wave of newfound celebrity and fans. His first album, “Clear as Day,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 that year and reached the top on five separate Billboard charts. He had won multiple music awards, toured with Brad Paisley, released his sophomore album, “See You Tonight,” which also debuted at No. 1, his holiday album debuted at No. 1 as well, he headlined his own tours, and he was doing everything right with his fan base who call themselves “The McCreerians.”
So when his record label dropped him in 2016, McCreery said he “was blindsided.” That was the low point. And it brought out the fighter in him.
“You just have to play the cards you’re dealt,” he said in a recent phone interview during a tour stop in West Virginia.
Passionate about his music career, McCreery was embroiled in a lengthy legal battle while he searched for a new label and, with the help of his management team, took a big risk, releasing a song on his own.
“Most sane people would have said to wait,” he says, “but my management and I really believed” in the song — “Five More Minutes.”
On the first day of its release, it was ranked No. 2 on the iTunes country singles chart and No. 9 on the iTunes all-genre singles chart.
That got the attention of Triple Tigers Records/Sony Music Entertainment, which signed McCreery. “Five More Minutes,” which has gone platinum, is the lead single from his third album, “Seasons of Change,” which debuted on the Billboard Country Albums Chart in September 2017.
McCreery will perform on the grandstand stage at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20 at The Great Frederick Fair. Tickets are $25 for grandstand annex, $48 for grandstand and $53 for track seating.
The new album also includes the romantic “This Is It,” a song written as a love song for his then-fiancee Gabi Dugal. McCreery wrote the song with Frank Rogers and Aaron Eshuis just a few weeks before he proposed to Gabi. The couple wed in June 2018 on a mountaintop in North Carolina and the music video features the couple the days before and during the wedding.
“[The director] never asked us to do anything special. He was just in the background filming the day,” McCreery said. “It turned out exactly how I hoped it would.”
McCreery, who will be 25 in October, co-wrote all 11 tracks on the latest album, working with some of Nashville’s best songwriters, including Frank Rogers, who also produced it. McCreery said Rogers was the perfect producer for him because he understood how to make McCreery’s little-bit-old country and little-bit-new country work.
The songs, he said, are very personal and were inspired by his wife Gabi. The title track was the first song he wrote for the album.
“It’s the perfect song to show where I’m at in life … it’s all good again,” he said. “I have to just pretend that 2016 didn’t happen. It was not fun for me, but you gotta learn from it, stay persistent and work hard and good things will come.”
From Elvis to Scotty
McCreery said he started singing in church when he was 5, and he was a mega Elvis fan. In fact, he still is.
“Elvis was all I listened to in my childhood,” he said, and he used to include an Elvis cover in his shows, but not anymore. Conway Twitty and Ronnie Milsap were also musical influences.
He admits he had a lot to learn about being an entertainer and he learned a lot about that while touring with Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts and others.
“I know a little bit more than I did when I started,” he said. “You have to learn how to entertain.”
During and after “Idol,” his life went from “0 to 100” and he just “went with the flow day-by-day, step-by-step,” he said.
He dived into songwriting, working with “new people who were just starting to work their way up and with experienced songwriters.
“I was like a sponge soaking it all up and to kind of find my place,” he said.
Life is busy, he said, with being on the road about 150 days a year and with a new wife, there’s little time for his other passion — golf. But, he admits, “it’s awesome” being married.
“It’s definitely an adjustment,” he said. “I used to live with a bunch of guys in a little rented house. So much nicer coming home to Gabi.”
McCreery and some family members recently competed on “Celebrity Family Feud,” winning $25,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He will likely be remembered for his answers to two questions: “Name something you immediately saw and said, ‘I’ll take it.’” His answer: “Fried chicken.” And “Name something you think of when you hear the word ‘Boo.’” His answer: “Yah.”
McCreery will be part of the line-up at the Nashville Songwriters Awards at Ryman Auditorium on Sept. 19, along with Blake Shelton, Chris Janson, Bill Anderson, LANCO and others. He kicks off his “Seasons Change Tour,” with Jimmie Allen and Heather Morgan, on Nov. 29 in Dallas.
At the GFF, McCreery said his set will include songs from his new album and his hits (“The Trouble with Girls,” “See You Tonight” and “Water Tower Town,” among others).