A decade ago, Scotty McCreery won “American Idol.” At age 17.
So the country music star and huge NFL fan knows all about the pressure players face. Maybe even more so: Remember, as well as he might have performed on stage, fans across the country were casting votes for who would win the competition. Not exactly something in McCreery's control.
“Yeah, sometimes it feels like yesterday and other days it feels like 30 years ago,” McCreery says with a laugh. "We were working 24/7 from the time we went to Los Angeles until the end. We learned songs, did rehearsals, recorded in the studio, shot promotional footage, did interviews, met guest artists who came in to work with us, and more. It was like going to music artist boot camp, similar to athletes in training.
“The biggest lesson I learned was how to keep calm in the midst of chaos.”
That's a lesson he easily could have taken from the former quarterback of McCreery's favorite NFL team, Tom Brady.
“My dad was raised in New England, so he was a big Patriots fan and he raised me that way as well,” he says. "They’ll always be my No. 1 team. It wasn’t always the popular choice in North Carolina, though.
"I’ve sung the national anthem at Gillette Stadium and the Patriots have had me perform at a few Super Bowl week events. They definitely know I’m a fan.
“As far as other NFL players, I’ve got several friends on different teams. But I’ll throw a shout out to Nyheim Hines of the Indianapolis Colts. He’s the man. He and I both grew up in Garner, North Carolina, and both went to NC State. We’ve been buddies for years.”
McCreery tends to drop football references in some of his songs, and on his new album “Same Truck,” a lyric mentions “there’s different color helmets on our Friday night home teams.” In his recent No. 1 hit “Five More Minutes,” there's this bittersweet ending to a high school career:
"At 18, turned my helmet in and walked to the 50-yard line.
"Just the coach and me after we lost 18 to 9.
"And I cried, `Man, next time to get in here, I’ll have to buy a ticket.
"`Can’t you give me five more minutes?' ”
McCreery had plenty of time to put together “Same Truck” during the pandemic. It's his first album in three years, and came after he got married; he calls his wife, Gabi, the inspiration for all of his love songs.
“I like for my albums to feel like I’m having a conversation with the listener and revealing who I am,” he notes. “This album is me at age 27. Most of the songs were written during the pandemic — except for my first single, “You Time, ” and a couple of others. That was the longest I’ve been home since I was 17 years old, and the silver lining was that it gave me plenty of time to look back and reflect on my life.”
McCreery grew up playing baseball and pitched for his high school team — even after winning “American Idol” when he returned for his senior year. He's also hooked on golf, is a frequent fan at Carolina Hurricanes games in Raleigh and, of course, at NC State football and basketball games.
“My wife and I were in a kickball league with friends last year before the pandemic,” he says. “It would be hard to name a sport I don’t love.”
Naturally, McCreery loves to sing, and he admits there are still anxious moments when he is performing, whether it's the national anthem or “God Bless America” or similar songs.
“It’s always nerve-wracking to sing the national anthem,” he explains. "It’s not the easiest song to sing and you certainly don’t want to forget the words in front of all the people in the stadium (and sometimes on TV). Everyone knows those lyrics and are quick to call you out if you mess them up. And let’s face it, the audience in the stadium is there to see the team play, not the singer … and I don’t blame them.
“I do get nervous before going on stage at my concerts as well, but it’s a different kind of feeling because I know I’m going out in front of a crowd that’s there to see me. If I mess up a lyric, the fans just laugh along with me. And there’s nothing quite like hearing an audience sing back the lyrics that you wrote. It’s the ultimate compliment to know that you wrote something that impacts people in that way.”