Half college student, all country star

College student McCreery on first headlining concert tour

Andrew Southam
Scott McCreery was the Season 10 winner of “American Idol.”

Andrew Southam Scott McCreery was the Season 10 winner of “American Idol.”

Being a platinum-selling touring musician is demanding enough, but country singer Scott McCreery has the added pressure of having to get his homework done first.

McCreery, the winner of Season 10 of the hit TV music competition “American Idol” in 2011, is a communications student at North Carolina State University from Monday through Wednesday. But come Thursday, the 19-year-old becomes a music star, the belter of hits like “I Love You This Big” and “The Trouble with Girls.” He performs Friday at Horseshoe Casino’s Bluesville in Tunica (1021 Casino Center Drive, Tunica Resorts, Miss.).

“It’s definitely a weird life,” McCreery says from an airport after wrapping up his week’s studies. “It’s cool for me because I get to have the best of both worlds, which is kind of what I’m looking for. I liked my life before everything happened to me. I didn’t just want to give that up and forget about my friends and family back home. I wanted to have a foot back at the house.”

McCreery’s drive for an education was instilled in him by his grandparents, whom he says never got a chance at a college degree. Still, from an early age growing up in Garner, N.C., it was clear that McCreery was not headed for an academic career. He started singing when he was 11. When he was 16, he won a singing competition in nearby Clayton, N.C.

The next year, McCreery made the leap from talent show to international sensation. There was an “American Idol” audition in Milwaukee that year, so his family decided to make that their annual vacation.

“I was not really expecting much out of that because we took a vacation every year,” McCreery recalls. “I’d watched the show pretty religiously since Season 2, so I figured I might have a chance so why not try out and make a vacation out of it? And it kind of blew up on me.”

McCreery was just 17 when he won “Idol,” snagging more than 122 million votes and becoming the youngest male to win. That fall, he released his debut album, the million-selling Clear As Day. Last October, the devout Christian followed up with his first Christmas record.

Now that the first rush of post-“Idol” success has washed over him, however, McCreery is graduating to the next stage of his budding career. After spending part of last year on the road opening for superstar Brad Paisley, McCreery has embarked on his first headlining run, the appropriately titled “Weekend Road Trip Tour 2013.”

“I spent all last year learning from (Paisley), and now we’re taking what we learned there and putting on our own show,” McCreery says. “When you’re headlining, you’re the one they are coming to see for an hour-and-a-half, two hours, so you got to keep them entertained. We’ve changed up the set, changed up the staging. We got video behind us, ramps on the stage. And we got some really cool new songs we’re doing.”

Among those new songs are some selections from his upcoming studio release, tentatively scheduled for release this fall. The first single, “See You Tonight,” was released recently, marking the first time McCreery has co-written one of his songs.

“I’ve got a lot more input on this record,” says McCreery, describing his new material as more mature. “I get to be the artist on this one where last time I was singing songs that were sent to me. This record’s going to be a lot more me, and I’m excited about it.

“That first record I did when I was 17 years old. I’m 19 now and still pretty young, but I think when I grow up, you’re going to be able to look back on these records and see how I’ve matured.”

Also This WeeK

B.B. King returns to the Mississippi Delta for a show Saturday at Gold Strike Casino’s Millennium Theater (1010 Casino Center Drive, Tunica Resorts, Miss.). At 87, King, a native of Itta Bena, Miss., who made his first big splash as a bluesman in Memphis in the 1940s, is still going strong. He has a packed tour schedule through at least the end of the summer, including a stint with British guitar great Peter Frampton.

For those who can’t catch him on one of his live dates, King’s latest project is a new biographical documentary, “Jon Brewer’s B.B. King: The Life of Riley,” which is making the rounds in Europe and should be available soon in the U.S.

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