Avid baseball fan Scotty McCreery stands on the mound for his own double-header. In addition to hitting the promotional and touring circuits for new studio album “See You Tonight” (Oct. 15), the singer is concurrently enrolled at North Carolina State University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in communications.
“The plan wasn’t to pursue a music career at 17,” McCreery says in the sonorous voice that clinched the “American Idol” crown in 2010. “I would have done that down the road after college.”
His change of plan resulted in a platinum album (“Clear As Day”), two gold top 20 singles (“I Love You This Big,” “The Trouble With Girls”), a holiday album (“Christmas With Scotty McCreery”), the opening slot on country star Brad Paisley’s 2012 tour and best new artist accolades from the Academy of Country Music Awards and others. But McCreery’s plan now is squarely focused on evolving beyond “Idol” champ to career-building singer/songwriter.
“See You Tonight” is a “more mature record,” says McCreery, who turns 20 on Oct. 9. “It was nice to have that ‘Idol’ momentum. I was proud of and thankful for the first album. But it was bang, bang, bang. For this record, I was able to take time to put more of my heart and soul into it.”
And that included co-writing five songs, among them the title-track lead single. “I’ve been writing since I was a kid,” McCreery says, “so I was glad to be able to go to Nashville and write on songs that were worthy enough to make the album.”
Universal Music Group Nashville senior VP of marketing Cindy Mabe says, “The music is young, energetic and soulful. Scotty was able to take the time to settle in and develop a sound that shows depth and growth.”
Collaborating with producers Frank Rogers (Paisley, Darius Rucker) and Mark Bright (Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban), McCreery integrates contemporary and traditional. Opening the 13-track set is the rock-vibed “Now,” another McCreery co-write. Also of note is the McCreery/Rogers co-penned “Something More.” Alison Krauss of Union Station guests on traditional track “Carolina Moon.”
Mixing an upbeat, poppy feel with such traditional elements as a steel guitar, lead single “See You Tonight” has had a relatively slow start. After 23 weeks, the song is still building on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, where it’s now No. 34.
Brian Jennings, PD of Clear Channel country KZSN Wichita, Kan., contends that despite the single’s slow-building momentum, McCreery brings along a considerable fan base and is someone worth fighting for. “There wasn’t a lot of time to roll out the first album,” Jennings says. “He didn’t have much of an image other than TV exposure, and the songs were a bit rushed. You can attribute the slower growth of this single to the chart struggles from before. But this song is so much better. It sounds great on the air.”
Following multiple sellouts on his first headlining tour in 2013, the Weekend RoadTrip tour, the Garner, N.C., native added a fall run in early August that will wrap Nov. 23 in Lincoln, Ore. To further set up the album, he teamed with Major League Baseball for a six-city ballpark tour beginning Aug. 29 that includes stops at Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park (Sept. 22) and Atlanta’s Turner Field/State Mutual Stadium (Sept. 27).
A former high school pitcher, McCreery-in conjunction with MLB’s RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program — invites local country radio winners to be his guest as he throws out the first pitch, provides CDs for giveaways and sings as part of the seventh-inning stretch, among other activities. At the culmination of the ballpark tour, McCreery will have donated $50,000 to youth baseball.
He’ll kick off his album launch with two hometown performances during street week in Raleigh in tandem with the North Carolina State Fair. Media rounds include a “Today” appearance on Oct. 15. Premiering Sept. 5 on PopCrush and Taste of Country, the “See You Tonight” video targeted other digital outlets including the Boot and Vevo. An iTunes pre-order campaign began Sept. 17 offering standard and deluxe versions of the album. Walmart will also offer its own deluxe edition.
Despite his jam-packed schedule, McCreery insists the only pressure he feels is to grow musically. “Making sure the music is where you want it and it’s saying what you want to say is the main pressure,” he says. “I’m always trying to one-up myself.”