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Scotty McCreery Talks 'Clear As Day' Tracks, Family Support and the 'American Idol' 'Pressure Cooker'

The Season 10 "American Idol" winner tells THR what fans can expect from his new album, which hits stores Tuesday, Oct. 4.

Scotty McCreery
Andrew Southam

They say behind every good man is a woman, and American Idol season 10 winner Scotty McCreery would be first to admit that the women in his life have shaped the artist he is today. Which makes the inclusion of a song called “The Trouble with Girls” a peculiar choice for the 17-year-old’s debut album Clear As Day (out Oct. 4).

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“My mom and my sister have shown me how to treat females with respect,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “After some boyfriends she had in the past, my sister would say, ‘Don’t do that.’ She’s been great to me. They have both been right by my side from the start – my mom since the show started in February and then on tour. Idol’s fun, but it’s a pressure cooker.  It’s a tough thing to do seven days a week, all hours of the day. I don’t know how the rest of the kids did it without a mom or somebody there to help them out.  It was definitely a nice plus for me.”

Mom Judy, as well as McCreery’s father, Mike, played all-important roles in helping their son wade through the muddy waters of the music industry, which the country crooner says he is still figuring out.

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“There’s a lot more work behind the scenes,” he says. “Paperwork and stuff. I told my mom that I just want to sing some songs! But she’s been great with the business side of things.”

It’s a strange position to be in. Still in high school, years from being legally allowed to have your first beer, and you’re expected to make adult decisions that involve hundreds of thousands of dollars and could significantly alter your life? Fortunately, a perk of fame is meeting more seasoned artists that take time to mentor young talent, such as Brad Paisley, who invited the young singer out on the road.

“It’s an honor to go out on the road with somebody like him who has been in this business forever,” says McCreery. “He knows the ins and outs. It is going to be a fun experience, but it’s also going to be a learning experience. I’ll be learning about the road life and about country music through somebody like Brad.”

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On the flip side, one minor annoyance of fame is constant speculation about McCreery’s love life -- which was once again brought into the spotlight by Idol host Ryan Seacrest on his syndicated radio show.

“People like to make up rumors. Just last [month] Ryan Seacrest asked me ‘What’s up with you and Thia (Megia)?’” said McCreery, bemused. “People want to know stuff about your personal life, and that comes with this job, being out in front of the public eye but, sometimes… just keep things on the low.”

McCreery is turning 18 on October 9, just days after he releases Clear As Day, which he hopes will paint a clear picture of who he is beyond the TV persona and through his music. It’s produced by Mark Bright (Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts), who first met the Garner, North Carolina teen during Idol’s top 3 week.

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“He produced ‘Amazed’ when I sang it that week,” McCreery explains. “They brought him in because we were starting to think of life after Idol and wanting to connect with Nashville. Mark is a big Nashville guy behind producing for Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts, and he worked with Lonestar, who sang “Amazed.”  We just kind of hit it off. We come from the same background, and that was definitely a more personal and better relationship that I established out there.”

The combination has produced a collection peppered with small-town references and family values -- from Friday Night football games, to family dinners where, “Nobody eats until you say, Amen,” trucks, pretty girls, water towers, sweet tea and simple living.

Of all of the songs on the album, one track, “Dirty Dishes,” passed the important “mom test.”  When McCreery played the song, whose lyrics tells of a mother saying a prayer of thanks for noisy children, a tired husband, and dirty dishes, she teared up as the words hit home -- because in the end, those things make a happy home.

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“That’s one of my mom’s favorites,” says McCreery. “We were in Nashville listening to it in the office, and she started bawling, so we figured it was a big one. We actually weren’t planning on cutting it, but we pushed another song out of the bunch just so we can do that one.”

McCreery says it wasn’t difficult choosing songs for the album and that the process “flowed naturally… We had a big meeting in Nashville with a lot of publishers and a lot of writers. I told them exactly what I was looking for and the songs I was looking to put on this record.”

The teen says if there was a specific theme to the record, it’s love. “It’s got the love of a family, like ‘Dirty Dishes,’ or the love of a town in ‘Water Tower Town,’ which speaks of the way I grew up. The water tower where I grew up was right across the baseball field where I played at. I got a lot of energy when I’m singing that song. It hits home with me.”

Speaking of the song “Back on the Ground,” McCreery expounds: “It can be about a college student or someone in my situation. Everybody thinks when they’re young -- 17 or 18 -- they want to get out of the house real early and move on. But once you’ve been gone for a while, you end up missing stuff. I’ve been missing home.  There is one line in there that says: ‘Restless and time to move on / Now it’s any reason to get back home.’  It really speaks to this: I’m glad to go out there and sing every night, because that is what I really wanted to do my whole life, but it’s nice every now and then to be home and have some kind of normal in your life.”

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Additional songs on the album sure to make a splash with the country audience: “That Old King James, written by Phillip White and Mark Nesler, which also passed the mom crying test, the lead-off track, “Out of Summertime” and the title track, about a girl who never makes it home from a Friday night football game because of a car accident. There is also a track, “Walk in the Country,” contributed by Keith Urban and Vernon Rust.

“I met [Urban] at the CMT Awards show,” says McCreery, who added that Urban sent the song, originally recorded by his old band, The Ranch, with a note that said it would be a good match for McCreery.

“My label sent it to me, and even if they hadn’t told me it was a Keith Urban song, I would have loved it,” he says. “the feeling of the songs, the lyrics, and everything behind it… Having a Keith Urban song is a huge bonus in my book, and Keith is a great guy, too. When I met him he was cool and really down to earth.”

As for his Idol experience, McCreery holds on to advice dispensed by Jimmy Iovine to this very day. “A lot of people were trying to make me do pop one week, change it up,” he says. “Jimmy was really keen on me staying true to me and not confusing people.”