It's the rare artist who can perform in the Philippines and attend his high school homecoming in the same week. Rare, too, is the artist who releases his debut album just five days before his 18th birthday, but so it goes for Garner, N.C., native Scotty McCreery , winner of the 10th season of "American Idol" and matriculating high school senior.
"I've got one more class to graduate, but I'm taking a full load because I plan on applying to college," the young country crooner says. "School is important. It's going to probably take me a few years extra [to get a degree] because I'll be working and doing the singing thing, but we're definitely heading that way."
Since winning "Idol" in May, McCreery has been juggling his desire to stay true to his small-town-boy roots and the demands of his burgeoning career. He spent the summer performing on the American Idols Live! tour and prepping for the release of debut album "Clear As Day" (Oct. 4, 19/Interscope/Mercury Nashville). Produced by Mark Bright ( Carrie Underwood , Rascal Flatts ), the set utilizes the assets that helped make McCreery a champ-his charm and deep bass voice-across songs perfectly suited to his age, aptitude and attitude.
"I could have made a record where I was trying to sound like a 40-year-old country singer, but that's not what I wanted to do," McCreery says, adding that he knew he found the right producer as soon as he met Bright. "He knew exactly where I was coming from in the country format, as well as my background in church and the Christian aspect in my life."
McCreery's first single, "I Love You This Big," debuted at No. 1 in June on Billboard's Country Digital Songs chart and peaked at No. 15 on Hot Country Songs . Follow-up "The Trouble With Girls," which McCreery describes as "a song that says what girls want to hear and guys have a hard time saying," is No. 40 on Hot Country Songs.
Video: Scotty McCreery, "I Love You This Big"
Though he didn't write any of the album's tunes, McCreery worked closely with Bright to select such material as "Water Tower Town" and "Dirty Dishes," about a mother's prayer, that speaks directly to McCreery's life and values.
"Scotty knew what he wanted to record," Universal Music Group Nashville VP of marketing Tom Lord says. "He has a really good sense of himself. When you hear the songs you go, 'That seems like the guy I saw on 'American Idol.''"
Post-"Idol," McCreery's labels released an EP ("American Idol Season 10 Highlights: Scotty McCreery") as a bridge project to satisfy fans until the full album arrived. The American Idols Live! dates featured postcards with McCreery's street date and website info, as well as the Oct. 11 release date for runner-up Lauren Alaina . "We drove people to Scotty's site to preorder," Lord says. "If you buy the digital or physical album, you get an instant download of 'I Love You This Big' and a limited number of orders got a signed 8-by-10 photo. You were also able to get a customized message on a 24-by-24 poster."
Advertising will target a broader audience than the typical country release because of the "Idol" fan base, including spots on ABC Family and Nick at Nite. "Both of those networks index extremely well with the country consumer, but also index extremely well with the 'American Idol' viewer," Lord says. "Online we're trying to do the same thing and spread beyond the country side."
McCreery's street-week media blitz will include appearances on "Good Morning America," "Today," "Live! With Regis and Kelly" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," as well as the GAC special "Introducing: Scotty McCreery," featuring footage shot this summer and premiering Oct. 3. "Clear As Day" will also be released in a limited edition 'ZinePak featuring the album and a 72-page mini-magazine, available exclusively at Walmart. Other plans include a homecoming/birthday event on Oct. 8 in North Carolina where people can use their CD to enter the performance, Lord says.
"The marketing partnership has been in tandem with Interscope Records in L.A. and that has been an advantage to Scotty and Lauren," Lord adds. "In this case, [there are] two major labels backing them."
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