Originally from North Carolina, Scotty McCreery shot to fame back in 2011 when he won American Idol, aged just 17.
Since then he’s notched up four top five albums on the US country charts – most recently 2018’s chart-topping Seasons Change – and scored six top 20 singles, including two number ones with Five More Minutes and This Is It. Last month he made his long-awaited UK live debut, playing to sold-out crowds in London and Manchester.
While he was in London, I caught up with Scotty to talk about the response he’s had from the UK audiences, what he’s learnt from touring over the years, how his approach to songwriting has changed and his plans for new music.
Congratulations on your first UK tour! How have you found it?
Thank you. It’s been amazing. It’s been so much fun. We’ve just been taking in the sights and meeting the fans and meeting everybody over here. Everybody’s been so nice and so knowledgeable and it’s been a great, great run so far.
You sold out both nights in London and your venue in Manchester got upgraded. Did you think the reaction would be this huge when you were initially planning this tour?
I didn’t know what to expect. But I was not expecting the shows to sell out as quick as they did. I was hoping they might, you just never know. But when we got the call that the first show sold in like 90 minutes, it was like, ‘oh my goodness, this is amazing’. So yeah, the show Saturday night was just as amazing as I thought it would be and last night in Manchester was incredible, so it’s felt really good.
What’s been the thing that’s surprised you most about UK audiences?
Yeah, it’s not all singles, you know. In the States it’s mainly the crowds get all excited for your singles and then they’re not tuned out for the other songs, but they’re just a little more chill. And here they’re singing every word to every song. There’s a song called Home In My Mind that I’ve got that apparently it’s been a crowd favourite every night. They’ve been singing it loud and it’s been super cool to see. That’s one of my favourites off the record that was never a single.
What have you learnt from touring and being on the road over the years?
You know, it’s just every venue’s different, every night’s different, every crowd’s different. And you can’t expect one night to be the same as the other so you gotta go out there and bring it every night. And just kind of feel the room every night too and just see where the night’s gonna take you. Sometimes the set list changes up, sometimes how you play a song changes up. It’s just different every night. So that’s kind of the main thing you get. It’s never the same.
The last time we spoke was 18 months ago – what have been your highlights since then? Apart from playing the UK obviously…
My goodness! Well definitely the two number ones. I’ve never had that before in my life, so the fact that we had two of them on this record – hopefully three but you never know. Fingers crossed! But yeah, that was massive for me. So much fun and just getting to share that with the fans and seeing their reaction to those songs every night has been a highlight. And then just getting to play the songs I wrote a few years ago and that mean a lot to me. I don’t have a child but I’ve always heard songwriters say these songs are like your children and you care for ’em and you wanna see them grow. And that’s definitely been the case with the songs.
Were there any songs on Seasons Change that were particularly easy or particularly difficult to write?
You know, I think they were all pretty… we all wrote ’em mainly in a day. Five More Minutes took more than a day, we came back to that one a couple of times to rewrite the first verse a little bit. And the end of the song too. That one we could just tell was a special song when we wrote it and we just wanted it to have the impact that we felt it needed to have. So that’s probably the one song we visited a couple of times to get right.
Do you feel your writing process has changed over time?
Yeah. You know, I think I’m definitely more comfortable in the writing room. Early on we were writing and I was just figuring things out, five, six years ago. Kinda nervous, don’t wanna say anything in the room ’cause you don’t wanna embarrass yourself or say something silly. And now you realise there’s no wrong thing to say. If you throw something out there that you think is dumb sometimes someone will say, ‘that’s the perfect line’. So nowadays I’m much more comfortable in my skin, for sure.
And do you find that you ever get writer’s block?
It happens. Yeah, it’s a thing, for sure. It’s why in Nashville you’re normally co-writing, so it’s always nice to have somebody to bounce ideas off of. And sometimes something they say can trigger an idea in your head and vice versa. So it happens but hopefully not too much.
You’re best known here for getting your start on American Idol. Is that still influencing your approach to your music now or has it changed since then?
Yeah, I don’t know that it’s influencing my music now. It obviously was an amazing platform and like you said gets your name out there in a way that you really can’t find anywhere else. But yeah, I think I’ve grown a lot since then. Back then I was 17, wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to say or how I wanted to say it. I’d never been in a studio in my life so recording an album was a little intimidating. But now I’ve just learned a lot and again a lot more comfortable now. I’ve learned what I wanted to say as I’ve grown up and have a better idea of how I wanna say. So definitely recording and writing a lot differently than I was back then.
I remember watching you perform on the show – it was a big introduction to country music for me and many other people here, especially your season with Lauren Alaina. Would you ever work together again?
I’d love to. We’ve always talked about it and I don’t see as much of her as I used to. She’s obviously an incredible artist and she’s killing it right now, for sure.
Is there anyone else – either in the country world or other genres – that you’d like to work with in future?
Yeah, there’s plenty. I’m a fan of all these artists. There’s a bunch of artists on the list that I would love to work with, whether they’re the classic artists or the new artists. Anybody from Carrie or Kelly or Lauren would be awesome, or classics like Dolly, Loretta, Garth. Somebody like that would be incredible to work with.
You have quite a few classic country covers in your live show…
Yeah, I love that.
Do you have a particular favourite of those?
Oh! My goodness. As far as for me to sing… I’d probably say Hello Darling is one of my favourites to sing. It’s just a song I grew up listening to. My mom loved Conway Twitty and the Twitty Birds, that was huge for her and her sister and she played the song for me as well. Yeah, it’s just a fun song to sing. You don’t hear those kind of songs too often any more so it’s cool to throw it back.
I feel like there’s been a bit of a revival of that sound lately – obviously yourself and then other artists too…
Yeah, I feel like it’s kind of coming back a little bit, which is great. I grew up on that stuff, so I’ve always tried in my approach to making music to take old school, new school, put ’em together and see what we find. So that’s what we’re trying for anyways.
What song do you wish you’d written?
Wow! There’s a lot of ’em. Probably say In Color, Jamie Johnson. That song means a lot to me and I think it’s one of the most well-written songs in the last decade or two of country music. And I was singing that song well before I was on American Idol. That was a song I was known for in my home town, back in Garner, North Carolina, for singing. That was one everybody would ask me to play.
What do the next few months look like for you?
Yeah, well we’re not slowing down til the end of the year. Our last show is December 31st, so we’ll be playing all through the end of the year. And then we’re gonna get in the studio in December and start recording the next album, so that’ll be fun. And then touring with Old Dominion, starting next week. And then we’re hopping on another summer tour coming up soon – we can’t say who yet but we’ll be out there on tours.
Can you give us any hints about what the new record will sound like?
Yeah, you know, we’re just gonna try to continue the trend on what we’ve had for the Seasons Change record. I mean obviously a lot’s changed in my life from when I made the Seasons Change record – I wasn’t married, so that in itself has changed a lot for me and what I’m writing. But yeah, it’s still gonna be another personal record and I’m writing a lot. I’m not sure if every song’ll be written by me on this next record, but we’re writing a lot so we’ll see.
As we’re now coming up to Christmas and you’ve made a Christmas album previously – what’s your favourite Christmas song?
Ooh! Yeah. Well it’s White Christmas. White Christmas is a song that I basically sing 365 days a year and I don’t know why. It’s just one of those things that stuck in my head. So I’d probably say that would be it.
Have you got any plans to come back to the UK soon?
We’re working on ’em, yeah. Absolutely. Right after our show in London we were talking with the folks that brought us over here about getting back here very soon. So we’d love to come back next year. Absolutely.
Scotty McCreery’s Seasons Change album and his current single The In Between are out now. Watch the video for In Between below: