Clear As Day is the perfect title for Scotty McCreery’s debut country album because this impressive collection of songs clearly and vividly captures who Scotty is as an artist and a young man.
America fell in love with Scotty in 2011 when he appeared on American Idol and immediately made a name for himself with his deep and undeniably country voice, strong sense of self, small-town roots, and unwavering integrity and conviction. In May, he won Season Ten of American Idol when a record-breaking 122.4 million votes were cast for the finale and nearly 39 million people tuned in to see the winner’s name announced.
The album’s debut single, “I Love You This Big,” became a Top 15 hit and enjoyed the highest-charting debut for a new artist since at least 1984, while the video for the song hit No. 1 in just a week after its release. He recorded his debut album while starring in the American Idols Live! Tour, which Pollstar ranked as one of the nation’s Top 15 tours.
Scotty is pleased that he was able to accomplish the goals he had set for his debut album. “I wanted to make sure people could hear me through the songs they were listening to,” he says. “On American Idol, I always told them, ‘What you see is what you get. Scotty on the show is Scotty off the show. I’m the same guy onstage and offstage.’
“On this album, I wanted them to make sure they really got who I am, how I grew up in Garner, N.C., and what I am all about,” he says. “It was also really important to me to keep some of the traditional elements of country music in it, to remember where country came from, and I think we did that. I hope that the people who listen to this record will see that and appreciate it and really see exactly who I am.”
And who he is, says the album’s producer, Mark Bright, is an amazing singer with tremendous vocal control and depth. “His voice is shockingly great,” he says. “Everybody knows Scotty has a deep voice, but what a lot of people don’t know is that he has a pretty high range. His listeners will get to hear the nuances, emotions and actual range of his voice.”
While recording the album, Scotty was driven by the desire to blend the best of both musical worlds – classic and contemporary – to create a fresh sound that is simultaneously new and timeless. “It’s got some true country songs that have a contemporary feel, like ‘The Trouble With Girls,’” he says. “But there are some songs, like ‘Clear As Day’ or ‘That Old King James,’ that have that old country feel to it, that country that I grew up idolizing and listening to, like Hank Williams and Conway Twitty and Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash. I think this album has a good mix.”
Clear As Day explores the big philosophies and small details that define life in America, especially the small towns that can sometimes feel confining to teens with a powerful wanderlust for places unseen. With songs such as “Out of Summertime,” “Write My Number On Your Hand” and “You Make That Look Good,” the album depicts the intoxicating excitement of the coming-of-age years, such as the anticipation of Friday nights, the intrigue of meeting a pretty girl and the thrill of exchanging class rings.
The album is a collection of appealing songs with universal themes, whether they’re exploring topics such as girls, family dinners or the Bible. “I chose these songs because they mean a lot to me, but I think everybody can also relate to them,” Scotty says.
For instance, “Water Tower Town” talks about working hard and living right in a place where word travels fast and wheels turn slow. The chorus says, “Friday night football is king/ Sweet tea goes good with anything/ Nobody eats ‘til you say amen/ And everybody knows your mom and them/ You can see who loves who for miles around/ In a water tower town.” Says Scotty, “It reminds me so much of my hometown, where growing up meant Friday night football games,” he says. “Everything in that song screams my hometown of Garner.”
The vivid title track is a cautionary tale about the dangers of teenage driving.
“The town next to Garner, N.C., had a lot of teenage driving deaths in the last few years, and ‘Clear As Day’ talks about that in a powerful way,” he says. “It has a great message and a great feel, and I could really relate to it. It tells the story of a guy waiting on his girl after a Friday night football game and they go to a party and it’s raining. After the party, he walks her to his brother’s Silverado and she says she’ll call him the next day, but it’s a call she never got to make.”
The album’s second single, “The Trouble With Girls,” describes the knee-buckling power women have over men as, “they bat those eyes/they steal you with hello/ they kill you with goodbye.” “It’s a really sweet song that talks about all of the great things about girls, like how pretty they are and how they have wonderful smiles,” he says. “It talks about things girls like to hear.”
Scotty decided to record “Dirty Dishes’ in part because it passed what he calls “the Mama crying test.” “She was crying when she heard it,” he says of his mother. “It talks about a mom and a family sitting down at a table eating dinner. The mother sits down for prayer and starts saying thanks for noisy children and slamming doors, because slamming doors means they live in a good home and noisy kids mean happy kids. The mother has a cool way of looking at things.”
Scotty developed his unique way of looking at things while growing up with older sister Ashley in a musical household in Garner, N.C. By age 3, he was singing “The Muffin Man” to anyone who would listen, and a few years later he was repeating the words of those around him in a song. His father, a senior manufacturing systems analyst, and his mother, a real estate agent and teacher, sang in the church choir, as did their children.
His grandmother gave Scotty a book on Elvis Presley when he was in pre-school, so Scotty began walking and talking like The King. His mother listened to artists such as Conway Twitty while driving, and Scotty quickly fell in love with those sounds. He still vividly remembers his first country concert, a show featuring George Strait, Reba McEntire and Lee Ann Womack.
He began guitar lessons at age 10 and was so hooked that he started sleeping with the instrument. “I would wake up and have my guitar and my friends would be sleeping,” he says. “They would give me a look and I’d be like, ‘All right,’ and put the guitar down so they could go back to sleep. But they were really accepting of it. They would say, ‘Learn this song,’ and I would play it for them. When we became teenagers, we would drive around listening to ‘Your Cheating Heart’ and ‘Okie From Muskogee.’”
Scotty sang in his school choirs since elementary school, including the high school group that travels nationally and consistently wins competitions. His voice dropped dramatically when he was about 13. “I didn’t notice a difference, but my mom said it fell off a cliff,” he says. “There was no real cracking.”
He performed locally at Christmas events and at Bullfeathers Restaurant. His rendition of label mate Jamey Johnson’s hit “In Color” helped him win Clayton Idol and gave him the confidence to perform more frequently in public.
His parents, as well as his chorus teacher, believe something else gave Scotty the confidence to perform in public – pitching baseball. Following in the footsteps of his father, who was also a baseball pitcher, Scotty learned to pitch at an early age. “When you are a pitcher, all eyes are on you,” says his mother, Judy. “You have to be focused and able to handle pressure.” It turns out that Scotty is as pitch-perfect on the mound as he is onstage: in his last varsity high school game, he pitched a complete shut-out and struck out nine batters.
He continued that winning streak on the stage of American Idol, where he became the youngest male winner and the only country male winner in the show’s history. He’s now eager to take the next step of his country music career with the release of his debut album, which comes the same week as his 18th birthday. But it turns out that he’s already received the best birthday present possible: the support of people across the nation who’ve made it clear as day that they love both the music and the young man.
“I am so grateful to all of the fans out there because we’ve been on this journey together,” he says. “They are the reason I am where I am; they voted me through. Hopefully with this album we can continue this journey and see where it takes us.
“Performing on tour has really taught me a lot,” he says. “We have different crowds and different responses that always keep it fresh. It’s showing me that this is what I want to do forever. I thrive on this and I’m really enjoying it. Hopefully I can do this for the rest of my life.”