Raised in Garner, N.C., Scotty McCreery grew up on Country Music. He was a celebrity in his hometown, where he played local shows and toured with his high school’s award-winning chorus. And … that’s about it as far as this young man’s pre-celebrity background, since he had already rocketed to fame by winning “American Idol”’s top honors at 17.
McCreery has had a terrific year, including an appearance with Josh Turner onstage at LP Field during this year’s CMA Music Festival and a debut single, “I Love You This Big” (written by Ester Dean, Ronnie Jackson, Brett James and Jay Smith), that reached the Top 20 in just seven weeks. His most impressive achievement thus far, though, is his debut album, in which he emerges as a superior vocal interpreter and unique stylist even before being old enough to vote.
Produced by Mark Bright and released by Mercury Nashville/19 Recordings/Interscope, Clear as Day includes no original McCreery compositions, but this allows us to appreciate his interpretive skill. On “I Love You This Big,” his nuances – little slides into the first note of certain lines, the tasteful rubato he applies to emphasize key words – all enhance rather than disrupt the melodic flow. Especially impressive is how he holds back on the key change, letting the lift speak for itself and then giving it a push by saving his high note for the next few bars.
The maturity of his artistry plays well off his preference for small-town images (“Water Tower Town,” by Lynn Hutton, Tammi Kidd and Cole Swindell) and paeans to young, innocent love (“The Trouble with Girls,” Chris Tompkins and Phillip White); this interaction suggests that there’s plenty of great music ahead as McCreery’s horizons expand.
SONG YOU’D LOVE TO COVER: “‘Our Song,’ by Taylor Swift. It has a good little feel to it.”
BOOK ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND: “The Bible.”
PET PEEVE: “When people don’t say thank you when you hold a door for them or do something nice. Just say ‘thank you.’ It’s not a big thing.”
ACTOR TO PORTRAY YOU IN A BIOPIC: “Let’s go with Shia LaBeouf.”
PHRASE YOU SAY OVER AND OVER AGAIN: “Well, dad gum.”