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Upcoming country star McCreery seeks normalcy plus musical fame

| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Scotty McCreery Andrew Southam

After Scotty McCreery sang an excerpt from Josh Turner's “Your Man” during his “American Idol” audition, the judges liked his deep voice, but wondered if the Fox show may not be his thing.

The judges reminded McCreery, a North Carolinian with a matching drawl, that “Idol” seeks a pop star, and does not focus on country music. But the teen, now 19, asked the judges to give him a chance. That chance led to the crown of the hit show's 11th season.

Now, McCreery, who will perform Thursday at Stage AE, watches the show's 13th season with joy, especially since the new judging panel includes country star Keith Urban. While other “Idol” winners and finalists, like Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler, entered country music after the show, Urban is the first country “Idol” judge.

“I think it's cool,” McCreery says. “I think they're trying to reach an audience, and make sure all the singers who are on the show ... can get feedback from people who understand different aspects and genres of music.

“I don't think it's geared toward one particular genre,” McCreery says about the show. “I think it's geared toward what the kids are strong at, and what America wants to hear.”

Although some Idols fizzle after winning, McCreery has moved ahead quickly and steadily. His first album — “Clear as Day,” which came out in October 2011 and includes the hits “I Love You This Big” and “The Trouble with Girls” — reached platinum status. Just a year later, McCreery released “Christmas with Scotty McCreery,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard top seasonal albums chart, and No. 2 on the country chart. McCreery won the new artist of the year title at the 2011 American Country Awards, and spent most of last year as an opener for Brad Paisley's Virtual Reality Tour.

“We've been extremely blessed,” McCreery says. “We could have never imagined the success we've been having with these albums.”

Though he focuses mostly on building his singing career, McCreery also attends school at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where the freshman attends classes on Mondays and Wednesdays only. McCreery — who tries to blend into the campus community as a normal student, rather than a celebrity — combines his studies with touring Thursdays through Sundays.

He is not attending college as a Plan B, but “for the value of having an education.”

“Education has been important to me since growing up,” McCreery says. “My grandparents didn't get a chance to go to college.”

McCreery has recorded about seven songs for his next album, though he doesn't yet have a release date. He is aiming for a Top 5 hit with the new songs.

He loves touring and performing live, whether as the headliner or as an opener for an act like Paisley, which he may do again.

“Fans are great at the live show ... singing songs back to me,” McCreery says. “It's always an incredible feeling as an entertainer when they're singing your own stuff back to you. It's one night when we can all kind of bond over a little bit of music.”

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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