Less than two years ago, Scotty McCreery was busy winning the 10th season of “American Idol.” Last year, he was on tour opening for Brad Paisley and The Band Perry.
Now, he is in the midst of his first headlining tour of the U.S., which began in early March and heads to the Palace Theatre tonight.
The disarmingly deep-voiced singer, whose 2011 album “Clear as Day” became the first debut by a country artist to enter the Billboard 200 chart at No. 1, is getting used to running his own show. His experiences with Paisley have served him well so far.
“It’s totally different — last year with Brad I was one of the opening acts, so I was out there before The Band Perry,” McCreery said recently, heading out of Nashville on his tour bus.
“Brad is first, really, in the business, so to learn about touring life [from him] — it was definitely a good learning thing for me. . . . He was always very accessible and a lot of fun to tour with, and for the most part I learned a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff. I’d go out and watch every night, see him perform, see how he ran things, how he treated the crew and how he treated us, and that’s how I want to run things now that I’m headlining.”
with Sarah Darling
Where: Palace Theatre, 19 Clinton Ave., Albany
When: 7:30 tonight
How Much: $62.50, $52.50, $42.50
More Info: 465-3334, www.palacealbany.com
Filling a set list
McCreery now has 95-minute set lists to fill, longer than he’s ever had to perform on his previous tours with Paisley and the “American Idols Live” tour. The 12 songs from “Clear as Day,” including his career-launching single from “American Idol,” “I Love You This Big,” will be getting plenty of play, along with some other surprises.
“I cover songs from guys that influenced me, and I’m also doing a couple of new songs that have come about,” he said. “We’re working on album two now and playing some of those songs out there, seeing what the crowds are digging as we’re getting album number two started.”
Born in 1993 in Raleigh, N.C., and raised in Garner, McCreery was the youngest “American Idol” winner yet. He won in 2011, a year that saw major changes to the show, including format shifts and the addition of two new judges, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and singer/actress Jennifer Lopez.
On the show, McCreery quickly impressed with his soulful readings of classic country songs from artists such as Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt and George Strait. He honed his distinctive voice singing in his church’s choir, along with stints with vocal groups in his high school.
“Clear as Day” was bashed out shortly after he won “American Idol,” released after the “American Idols Live” tour wrapped that year. The album’s success helped McCreery establish himself with country audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with his “American Idol” run, and also spawned a Christmas album last year, “Christmas With Scotty McCreery.”
“Country [music] is one of those things I’ve been listening to and been around it my whole life,” he said. “What’s nice is that in the industry, people are accepting, and the fans are totally loyal too. I’m seeing a lot of overlap [with ‘American Idol’ fans], and it’s kind of a good thing.”
Being an “American Idol” first-place finisher doesn’t necessarily guarantee future success. For every Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood who has achieved pop stardom, others like Lee DeWyze and Taylor Hicks have seen their stars fade after winning the show. McCreery is well aware of this, and is putting in the work now to stay on top.
“I know that ‘Idol’ is the platform, but it doesn’t guarantee a successful career,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of hard work going into it, everyone coming to the shows . . . it’s a lot of hard work and a little luck. But it’s the music at the end of the day.”
He is looking forward to taking a little more time with that aspect of things for his second album. The recording is still in the early stages, with seven songs cut so far.
“It’s a lot different. With the Christmas album, I decided to do that pretty late in the game, so we had to rush that and pick the songs quick, then track the record all up in two weeks,” McCreery said.
“The first album after ‘Idol,’ there was a deadline, too, so the first album was really rushed. . . . As far as the first album, I was trying to put together a record and find songs in a short amount of time. This [new] record will be more open, and I’ll have more time to find songs, and write songs. I’m writing with guys in Nashville.”
Writing more songs
Songwriting may be something new for McCreery’s fans, but he’s always been interested in it. With help from Nashville’s stable of writers, he’s been delving into the process even more now, and has already cut two songs that he had a hand in writing.
“A lot of my stuff is stuff that I’ve either done or felt,” he said. “A lot of times I’ll hear something and just plug in the iPod real quick to record it, just so I can remember it when I pick up the guitar. But inspiration comes from everywhere — I always keep my eyes open in case I see or hear something that’s catchy.”