Scotty McCreery | AP
♦ 8 p.m. March 28
♦ Paramount Theatre,
23 E. Galena, Aurora, Ill.
♦ SOLD OUT
♦ 8 p.m. March 30
♦ Star Plaza Theatre, Interstate 65 at U.S. 30, Merrillville
♦ Tickets, $27- $47
♦ (800) 745-3000;
Updated: April 23, 2013 1:39PM
Livin’ la vida loca might be the anthem for singer Ricky Martin, but “crazy life” seems the perfect descriptor for the world of singer Scotty McCreery.
Not that he’s complaining.
The talented 18-year-old country music sensation, who once worked as a cashier at a local supermarket in Garner, North Carolina, where he grew up, is simultaneously working on a new album, touring the country and attending college.
“I have classes Monday through Thursday [at North Carolina State University],” McCreery said, phoning from a recent tour stop in Nashville, Tenn. “Then I’m performing on the road Friday through Saturday. That’s pretty much how it plays out. It’s all about time management. I literally have to book time for me and the band to have some time off around all the school and concerts. It’s pretty crazy.”
McCreery’s big break came via season 10 winner of “American Idol” where the then 17-year-old emerged as the winner. He released his first album, “Clear as Day,” shortly thereafter. The album spawned hits including the title track, “I Love You This Big,” “The Trouble With Girls” and “You Make That Look Good.” His videos earned as many at 10 million hits apiece on YouTube, making him one of the most popular artists on the website.
Most recently, McCreery toured with Brad Paisley, an experience he calls “one of the best things that ever happened to him.”
He brings his headlining tour to the Paramount Theatre in Aurora for a show on March 28 followed by a gig at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, Ind., on March 30.
Question:How’s college life treating you? Are you living on campus?
Scotty McCreery: The first semester hasn’t been too bad. It’s a lot of work. It’s been a pretty normal college experience so far, staying up way too late with my friends, that kinda stuff. I live in an apartment off campus with three of my buddies that I’ve known since we were 3 years old. They’re my biggest haters! [Laughs] They don’t want to hear any of that stuff about me being a celebrity. They don’t care. That’s what I really like about them. They keep me grounded. And the other students for the most part are respectful or me being there to get an education just like them. They might have been a little distant the first few days, but now everybody knows I’m just a real person like them and that I’m pretty normal.
Q.Is college something you’ve always wanted to pursue?
SM: I think it was very important for me to continue with my studies. It’s always just been one of those things I wanted to do, and hopefully succeed at. I have grandparents who weren’t able to go to college because they never had the money. They told me if I ever got the chance to go, that I should go. So I’m doing it for them, too. I also just wanted the experience of going to college because I think it makes you a more well-rounded person. I’ll have to revisit it every year to see if I can keep going full-time like I am now. So we’ll see.
Q.What does a song have to say to you before you decide to record it?
SM: It’s gotta be relatable to me. It’s gotta be real. Country music is great because people can relate to it. It’s not all that techno crazy stuff. It’s about real life. That’s what I think it important in a song. We’re in the studio now writing new songs for my next album. They’re all real songs.
Q.What kinds of songs are they?
SM: Some ballads and some uptempo. The more ups the better. For this next album we’re really focusing on getting radio play, and uptempo stuff seems to do a little better in that environment. In the last year I’ve have lots of success whether it was sales or awards shows, but I’ve never had that radio hit. And that’s my focus now.
Q.Some would say that radio is over and done with, that the Internet is where hits are made. You don’t seem to agree with that.
SM: A radio hit is very important to me. Radio is huge in country music. That’s how fans really get to know and hear your music. More mainstream artists get to be on the big time TV shows and such, but for the rest of us radio is definitely where it’s at. YouTube is big, but people have to search you out. On radio you’re already out there.
Q.You got to sing at the Grand Ole Opry. What as that experience like? Lots of ghosts of country music artists past?
SM: Any time you play the Opry its one of those moments. You immediately feel the spirit of all the great artists who have played there. You really do get some chills when you walk out onto that stage.
Q.You also toured with Brad Paisley. What did you learn from that experience?
SM: That was unbelievable. Originally it was supposed to be for three months, but then he asked us to continue through October so it was a long, cool run. I would put on a ball cap and hoodie and sit out in the audience every night for his part of the concert. I would just watch and listen. He was different every night; every show was unique in a lot of ways. That’s the way to do a tour. And moreso than that, I learned how to run a tour the right way. Brad is just a classy guy, from the way he treats his crew, his band and his fans. That really stuck with me.
Q.How did “American Idol” change you as a person and an artist?
SM: “Idol”does change a lot of people because they try to mold you into something that works for TV. I didn’t let that happen. The show changed my life professionally but it didn’t change me. I’m still the same person I was before “Idol.”
Q.Do you have any pre-concert rituals that you simply must do at every show?
SM: I’m pretty low-key. I don’t take any goofy stuff out on the road with me, or anything like that. But I HAVE to listen to the “Rocky” theme song, “Gonna Fly Now,” every night before I go out there to get me hyped up for the show.
Q.What do you hope the new album with say about you?
SM: I want my records to grow with me. I got started at 17; my first record went out when I was 17. We really rushed to get it out there right after “Idol.” I’m taking a lot more time with the new album to get the songs just right.