21 Under 21: Scotty McCreery (2011)
Scotty bursted into the finals with a performance of Garth Brooks' "The River"

Even though he's spending most of his off time on this summer's American Idols Live! tour working on it, "American Idol" champ Scotty McCreery isn't feeling a great deal of stress about his upcoming studio album, which should be out this fall on Mercury Nashville.

"You know, we got a good head start and we are really moving along," McCreery tells Billboard.com. "We laid down the tracks in Nashville before the tour, and did all the songs and stuff, so now pretty much any pitstop we have we are going to the nearest studio and laying down vocals for it and hopefully getting it done as quickly as possible while still making it just right. So on the days off we're working hard. It's definitely a full day in the studio every time I go in."

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McCreery's album is being produced by Mark Bright, who's worked with Rascal Flatts and previous "Idol" champ Carrie Underwood and also helmed the 17-year-old singer's debut single, "I Love You This Big," which hit No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 17 on the Country Songs chart.

"(The 'Idol' producers) thought (Bright) would be a good fit for me, and we clicked right off the bat," says McCreery, noting that he and Bright share a spiritual as well as musical connection. "I wore an I Am Second bracelet throughout the whole competition, meaning God and others are first and I'm second, and it just so happens that (Bright) is the I Am Second Ambassador in Nashville, so it's just those little things that seem to fit he puzzle right now."

As to the album's sound, McCreery says that "it's got different vibes on each song. We're trying not to make it all ballad-y or all up-tempos. We're getting a good mix of everything in there. It's got a good ol' country feeling on some songs, and it's got a contemporary feel in some songs. It's kind of showing what you saw me do all season on ('Idol'). We're trying to find the right mix between the two."

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So far, McCreery adds, he's only recorded original material from a variety of Nashville writers. "We've looked into the possibility of doing a cover," he explains, "but we're thinking if we have this one chance to do a whole album of new, original stuff, why take up one slot of the album with a cover song, especially after I just got done with a show full of covers. So I think we're going to stick with all original stuff, but that could change."

McCreery says he's also confident that the Nashville establishment and the country will embrace him like it did Underwood. "We went (to Nashville) for Fan Fest week, and that was the big question in my mind -- 'Are they gonna accept me?' I'm kind of an odd kid in Nashville; I didn't grow up in honky tonks and doing a lot of things the other guys did. But they were really welcoming, and they treated me like a brother and it was nice to be there. And they pitched me a lot of great (songs) so it's definitely an honor to be a part of that world."

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Also on McCreery's mind for fall -- as if an album release wasn't enough -- is his final year of high school back in Garner, N.C. He'll be a senior, and right now McCreery and his family are "trying to figure out" if he'll be able to return to Garner Magnet High School or finish his studies some other way.

"There's a lot of options out there for us that we're looking at," says McCreery, who pitched for the school's baseball team before "Idol." "I'm still a kid. This is a huge thing for me, this 'Idol' thing and starting my career early, but I don't want to miss out on all those memories that everybody has from senior (year). So hopefully I can get back from some high school football games and have a little bit of fun outside of (the music)."