“It’s been a year since me and Lauren Alaina tried out,” a stunned McCreery told host Ryan Seacrest at the time. “Me and her have been together since day one, and we’re gonna stay together. I never in my wildest dreams … I gotta thank the Lord first. He got me here.”
McCreery might have beaten Alaina to be crowned the winner, but he still remembers when he heard Alaina perform for the first time, while they were both competing on Idol, and how blown away he was by her voice.
“I’ll never forget the first time I met Lauren Alaina,” McCreery recalled to Audacy’s Rob + Holly. “It was Hollywood Week, and I’m listening to her sing thinking, ‘Oh my God, she is incredible.’ Thinking she’s going all the way, and obviously, she did. It’s been fun over the years. We’re not talking every day, but it’s still that brotherly/sisterly relationship when we do see each other. We’re catching up, we’re hugging, we’re asking how the families are.”
McCreery previously spoke about the uniqueness of his experience with Alaina, especially since they were both so young.
“I think for the both of us, we went through that together,” McCreery told Radio.com. “We had a country finale, which I’m still so proud about, on the biggest show that was out there. But it’s true. I think you’re a TV star when you come off that show, but I don’t think anybody goes on that show to become a TV star.”
“It’s crazy, because one thing everybody in this business is looking for is to be able to put a face to the name and you get that immediately with Idol,” he continued. “But I think what me and her are both looking for is to be seen as country music artists that write our own songs, and have them on the radio … Idol helped us get known, but I would say both of us were looking more so for the songs. Because in country music it’s all about the song.”
American Idol certainly catapulted McCreery to his now-successful career in country music, but it wasn’t all easy for him after he was crowned the winner. As part of his prize for winning, he was granted a recording contract with Interscope Records, which didn’t work out quite like he had hoped. His debut Clear as Day album included two singles that landed in the Top 20, both “I Love You This Big” and “The Trouble With Girls.”
The title track of his sophomore See You Tonight album hit the Top 10, as did the follow-up single, “Feelin’ It.” But when the next single, “Southern Belle,” failed to chart — even though McCreery wanted to release “Five More Minutes” instead — the label dropped him.
“I knew ‘Southern Belle’ didn’t do well, but I also knew that we had ‘Five More Minutes’ in the wings, waiting,” McCreery recalled on CMT Stages. “I just knew we’d come back with that, and it was just going to be a no-brainer. But eventually, we never got that chance.”
Undeterred, McCreery decided to release “Five More Minutes” on his own. The song became his first of five consecutive No. 1 singles, and earned him a new record deal, this time with his current label home, Thirty Tigers. But at the time, releasing a song as an independent artist, was a challenge.
“After ‘Southern Belle’ to getting ‘Five More Minutes’ out was hell,” McCreery admitted. “2016 for me was probably the worst year of my life, just going through that. I thought the next moves were, ‘Okay. We’ll go find a new label, and we’ll put this song out, and it will all be fine and dandy.’ And then I realized that that stack of papers that was as tall as me that I signed for Idol and stuff, I realized what it all said. And it’s not that easy to just go find a new label.”
“It’s been a crazy run these last few years,” McCreery acknowledged. “If someone would have told me back in 2011, ‘Hey man, 2023, you’re going to have five straight No.1s,’ I would have signed up for that in a heartbeat. Am I where I want to be? No. I want to grow. I want to continue to extend the bar higher for myself, writing better songs, and having better shows on the road in front of fans. And that comes with hard work. That comes with dedication to the craft. It doesn’t happen overnight. Little by little and step by step.
“But I’m happy with where we are,” he added. “I’m happy the hard work has paid off, for me, for the band, for my team that’s behind me every day. There was a lot that went into getting us to this point, and a lot of hurdles to overcome, especially after 2015, 2016. Most folks don’t really come back from that. So I’m really proud that we did, and have come back stronger.’
McCreery’s current single, “It Matters To Her,” is in the Top 5. The North Carolina native is spending the next few weeks on the road, serving as the opening act for Brooks & Dunn, on their REBOOT 2023 Tour, Find music and tour dates at ScottyMcCreery.com.