SCOTTY MCCREERY - PAGE 2
“My stage debut was as Baby Jesus when I was first born, in the church musical,” reports the million-selling sensation. “Then, in the fifth grade, I was Joseph and sang ‘O Holy Night.’ That was my first solo. I did the Children’s Choir, went to Youth Choir and participated in all that for the church. We sang ‘Mary Did You Know’ for Christmas Eve services.”
He had no idea then that those first performances were paving the way for a meteoric rise in country music. He recently made his first entry into the Guinness World Records Book for being the youngest male to enter the U.S. album charts at No. 1. In 2011, his debut album, Clear As Day, premiered atop the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart and was certified platinum for sales of 1 million copies in just three months.
The album garnered the highest sales of any country solo album released last year and held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart for six weeks.
His first two singles were certified gold and he was named New Artist of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards and the American Country Awards.
In September, he was ranked No. 4 on Billboard’s list of “21 Under 21: Music’s Hottest Minors 2012,” which was his second consecutive year to be ranked No. 4 on that prestigious list. Recently, he was among only five musical artists to be included in Variety’s Youth Impact Report 2012 that detailed those under age 21 who are driving forces in the entertainment industry.
Making a Christmas album had been a dream of Scotty’s since he started thinking seriously about a career in music, so he knew right away what he wanted his second album to be. It’s no surprise that much of the repertoire for McCreery’s first holiday collection is drawn from the music of his youth. “Winter Wonderland” and “Let It Snow,” for instance, are both drawn from vivid memories.
“The earliest Christmas I can remember – I was maybe three or four -- it was snowing outside. Just a little bit, just a little dusting. I came downstairs dressed like I wanted to go outside. Forget about the presents, I want to go see the snow. We don’t see much in North Carolina.
“Our one real white Christmas, it snowed a couple of days before Christmas, and we got a lot of it. So we were still having to shovel snow. I was about 15 or 16, old enough to do all that shoveling, but young enough to still get out there, sled around, make a snowman or have a snowball fight.”
At age 10, he received his first guitar, a Christmas present from his grandfather. “It is probably my favorite Christmas present. I started strumming right away. I might not have sounded good, but I was strumming. That guitar carried me a long way, for sure.” Actually, he became so obsessed with the instrument that he slept with it that winter.
“Choosing songs for this record wasn’t that difficult. Songs like ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘First Noel’ and ‘Mary Did You Know,’ I’ve sung those songs for years, so those songs have a history with me.”
He also has a history of loving the music of Elvis Presley. As a boy, he was inspired by a book his grandmother gave him that offered suggestions on how to be like Elvis. He listened to Elvis cassettes and even dressed up like Elvis for Halloween.
“My favorite Christmas album, it might be obvious, was the Elvis Christmas album. There’s nothing like it. He puts a spin on things, and it works, because he’s the King. So it was cool that we have an Elvis Christmas song on the record, ‘Santa Claus Is Back in Town.’ I tried to channel the King. I might have had a little lip curl when I was recording it. I’m proud of that one.”
He knew he wanted to include some holiday standards, such as “Jingle Bells,” “Holly Jolly Christmas” and “First Noel,” as well.
“I also heard a couple of new songs. ‘Christmas in Heaven’ and ‘Christmas Comin’ Round Again’ really touched me. As soon as I heard them, I knew they were going to be on the album. I knew I was supposed to record them, and people were supposed to hear them. In the end, it was very clear which ones were supposed to be on the record.
“Recording this album was definitely a lot more comfortable and a lot more relaxed than Clear As Day was. Clear as Day was definitely a little more hectic. We started as soon as Idol got done, right out of the gate recording in Portland, Oregon, Nashville and Los Angeles. We were everywhere.
“But for this one, we were all in Nashville, and everybody was relaxed. We had Christmas lights in there and Christmas cupcakes, even though it was in the middle of July and August. It was a cool experience this time around, for sure.”
You’d never know it from his unfailingly polite, unflappable demeanor, but the rise of young Scotty McCreery has been blindingly rapid. Following a youth spent singing in church in the Raleigh satellite community of Garner, N.C., he led a praise-and-worship group called Audience of One. More significantly, he sang with an advanced high-school chorale group called Die Meistersingers. It required him to sight-read music, perform classical pieces and compete with similar groups on a national level.
“Both of these groups helped me to really learn to be a professional about music,” says McCreery. “I think the classical training that I got has helped me in the country world, as far as my voice technique, all around.”
His other passion was baseball, and McCreery pitched for his high-school team while he pursued music. He also worked briefly in an auto-mechanic shop and for a longer stint as a grocery cashier throughout his junior year in high school. Then came the American Idol audition in Milwaukee 2010, where he impressed the judges by singing “Your Man.”
In May 2011, he won the show at age 17, becoming the show’s first country male winner and its youngest male winner in any genre. “I Love You This Big” was instantly issued as his debut single. On June 10, he staged his debut at the Grand Ole Opry. From July 6 to the end of September, McCreery toured in the “American Idols Live!” show. In between tour stops he worked on his album Clear as Day with producer Mark Bright.
The album came out in October as he turned 18, and “I Love You This Big” became a gold record. By the end of the year, Clear as Day was certified gold, as was its second single, “The Trouble with Girls.” In December, Scotty McCreery was named Billboard magazine’s No.1 new country artist of the year and won New Artist of the Year at the fan-voted American Country Awards.
Just three months after its release, Clear as Day was certified platinum in January 2012, and McCreery began touring with country stars Brad Paisley and The Band Perry. He took school work for his senior year in high school with him, helped by his mother, a former teacher. That spring, he introduced his third single. “Water Tower Town,” won the Academy of Country Music’s New Artist of the Year trophy and earned a Breakthrough Video honor at the CMT Awards.
Immediately after his performance on the CMT telecast, he flew home to North Carolina to graduate the next morning with distinguished honors from Garner Magnet High School. During the summer, he worked on Christmas with Scotty McCreery, enrolled in the North Carolina State and moved into his first apartment, within walking distance of the school’s Raleigh campus.
“There have been so many wonderful things and great things that have happened to me since I got off Idol,” says Scotty McCreery. “It happened so quick, I didn’t get the chance to forget who I was. I’m still deeply connected to my community. I had a great church, a great upbringing, a great family. They wanted what was best for me, but helped me remember where I come from.
“Getting to tour with Brad Paisley, a guy I’ve looked up to for so long, was an honor. But it all really goes back to the fans. Seeing them sing the songs back to me that weren’t even singles, it was really cool to see that. They’ve had my back since Day One.”
Again produced by Mark Bright, Christmas with Scotty McCreery showcases more of the subtleties and nuances of the young star’s singing voice. Whether enjoying the traditional warmth of “The Christmas Song” or conveying the deeply devotional “O Holy Night,” the album promises to remain a household favorite for years to come.
“Christmas time is definitely a time of year when we can all get together and rally ‘round,” he says. “It gives us all hope. It means so much. It really is a special time of year for me. I try and live, year-round, by my faith, and this is one of those years we can really celebrate that.”
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