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Scotty McCreery on New 'American Idol' Panel: 'It's Definitely Going to Be a Good Season' (Video)

The season 10 victor is set to release his sophomore album, "See You Tonight," on Oct. 15.

Scotty McCreery is giving an enthusiastic thumbs-up to the newest American Idol panel, which includes returning judges Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez alongside newcomer Harry Connick Jr.

"I like it a lot," he tells The Hollywood Reporter, noting that he is especially excited to see Lopez return to the judges' table. The singer has fond memories of his own time with Lopez, no doubt, as the pop superstar first joined the panel during season 10 -- which saw country crooner McCreery take home the crown.

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"Keith is there as well, holding it down for country, so I like that," he adds. "I haven't met [Connick], but I've watched Idol growing up, and he was a mentor to the contestants, and it was great. I definitely think it's going to be a good season for Idol."

While the newest panel marks the series' first without an industry insider, McCreery says the contestants are in good hands.

"They're all big-time artists and big-time musicians, so they'll have good advice whether they're insiders or not," he says.

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Not that his own experience is anything to scoff at. The now 19-year-old released his major label debut, Clear as Day, just months after finishing Idol. The album (which, coincidentally, includes a song from Urban), made McCreery the first country artist (a high schooler, no less) to debut atop the Billboard 200 chart with his first album. Now, with Clear as Day and a Christmas album under his belt, McCreery is set to release his next offering, See You Tonight, on Oct. 15.

So what advice would he give this season's Idol hopefuls?

"I would say stay true to yourself," he says, "because coming out here to TV land -- I was from a small town in North Carolina -- it's a huge difference, and it's easy to get lost in it all.

"So I say keep your family and friends close, make sure you don't change who you are," he adds. "You can grow and get new experiences coming out here; that'll change, but stay true to your core self and you'll be fine."

Email: Sophie.Schillaci@THR.com
Twitter: @SophieSchillaci