Exclusive Interview: Scotty McCreery talks hitting No. 1, his ‘no’ list and prom

Scotty McCreery has only been 18 for three days, but so far so good.

The day before his birthday, he celebrated with 15,000 fans in Raleigh, N.C. (one town over from his hometown of Garner) and received a gold plaque for his first single, “I Love You This Big,” selling more than 500,000 copies.

Then on Tuesday, he played country”s most sacred spot, Nashville”s Grand Old Opry, alongside Trace Atkins and LeAnn Rimes.

Later that night, the “American Idol”  got confirmation that his debut album, “Clear As Day,” was a lock to enter the Billboard 200 at No. 1, making him the youngest male artist of any genre to achieve that feat with his first studio set.

So how did he celebrate? By continuing on with interviews and promoting “Clear As Day.” Hitfix talked to the unfailingly polite McCreery Wednesday morning (he even called early) about coming in at No. 1, how he spends his rare time off, what he won”t sing about, and the prom.

I grew up in Raleigh, so he and I couldn”t help but engage in a little chat about top N.C. past time -golf -as well as what it means to be a Carolina gal and girl.

You got the best 18th birthday present ever. How did you find out that “Clear As Day” went to No. 1?

I got an email last night from my manager. She said this is where we”re at, so congratulations. We were going wild. We”ve been working towards it. It was really cool to see all the hard work paying off

You topped Adele on the chart. That must feel good.

The thing that”s really cool about Adele is she”s been going strong for weeks on end. It”s amazing to see what she”s doing but it”s just wild to see ”Clear As Day” take off like it”s doing. We”re excited about it.

With “Clear as Day,” you found your voice very quickly. The song selection is material that seems to speak to you. How many songs did you plow through to come up with the final choices?

Oh, we went through a bunch, and the label, they”d gone through a lot before they even got to me. We had a big meeting in Nashville with the songwriters and the publishers and told them what we wanted to have on the album and what kind of topics we were looking for, so after that, the songs were really coming down the pipeline, a bunch at a time. It was fun getting the songs and I think we picked the right ones.

[More after the jump…]

What did you tell the publishers that you weren”t looking for? What was on your “No” List?

We all know the stuff that”s 1) not me and 2) that I can”t sing about like going to the bars at night or all that romantic stuff. I just wanted to sing about real-life things and that”s what we wanted to put on the album.

The song “Water Tower Town” is about how you feel about Garner. How soon before your name”s on that water tower?

I don”t know if I”ll make the water tower, but it”s just been amazing to see the support I”ve gotten from my home town. They”ve been great to me and I really don”t think I would have made it this far without them. They were really pushing me hard.

Clay Aiken was also from the area. Chris Daughtry is from North Carolina. Can you talk about how there really seems to be something special in terms of the support that we North Carolinians give our “Idols?”

Definitely. It”s a family thing, you know. That”s something I was telling people back home… when I was on the road, it”s really like they were on the journey with me. It was fun to carry them along. I”d get on YouTube and see all the viewing parties they had. It was just a really cool thing for me to see that because I”ve always loved my home town, so it was great to see that.

What did you want people to learn about you as an artist from “Clear As Day” that they wouldn”t have learned from watching you on “Idol?”

I wanted people to see that I really am a real person. I”m not just some guy who was on a TV show, some guy engulfed in the Hollywood life. I”m just a normal guy when it comes down to it. I”m just your average joe and that”s what this album talks about, real-life things that everyday people relate to. People in middle America can say, “yeah, that sounds like my life.” That”s what we wanted the songs to do.

You just turned 18 on Sunday and you seem so grounded. Was there any moment where you started to get a little bit above your raising and your parents said, “Not so fast.”

I don”t think they ever let me get like that. Even if I said an inkling of something, they”d slap it out of me so quick (laughs). There hasn”t been a moment where I”ve tried to use a car or something unless I want to go golfing or something and I”ve said, “Look, I”m only here for a day. Can I please go play golf?” But that”s it, but I haven”t really had that chance to get bigheaded.

So the biggest thing has been wanting to steal away and go golfing.

Yes, sometimes I say, “I know it”s late notice, but it”s my only day home, Can I please come and play” and they”d always been nice about it. I try not to do that stuff because that”s not me.

Given how much we love our golf in North Carolina, is there a golf course that you can”t wait to get onto like Pinehurst? (Pinehurst is the prime golf course in N.C., about an hour from Garner).

Pinehurst is the big one. Hopefully I”ll be able to playing that sometime soon, but I”m actually going to play Augusta [home of the U.S. Open]  in November. That will be amazing.

How did you swing that, no pun intended?

I”m playing a guitar pull, an acoustic set, for their radio station, KICKS 99 (WKXZ). We”re going to do that and then I”m playing Augusta.

Any thoughts of playing with some of country music”s top golfers like Vince Gill or Jake Owen or Rascal Flatts?

Hopefully one day, we can all head out onto a course and see how we stack up against each other, but, you know, my golf game needs some work.

What”s your handicap?

I have no idea (laughs).

You sat down with Brad Paisley and his father and they gave you a little advice about college. What did they say to you?

They just told me how important it was and we knew that. They were just saying how glad they were that I was really thinking about it. Brad went to Belmont [University in Nashville], so his dad was talking about all the great things at the school. It”s a lot about learning about yourself and not just about the chemistry formulas.

It seems like North Carolina State University was the leading contender before “Idol” and now it”s Belmont.

It really just depends upon if we want to make the move from [North] Carolina to Nashville or not and that”s something we”ll have to sit down and examine and make the right move for me. I mean State”s still big on my list.

Are you hoping that you can write for album No. 2?

We”re going to give this album a few months before we start getting the songs picked for the next one, but I want to keep writing about life experiences and relatable things to people. Me and one of friends, right before I left to be here, wrote something for the football team back home. Getting a song together for that because playoffs are coming up. We want to give them something to pump them up. Hopefully, one of my songs can make the album next time.

So you”re written a song that the Garner Magnet High School football team will use?

I don”t know about use, we might play it for some of the boys. It”s not even done yet, we”re still working on it. We”ll see.

You”re trying to continue on at your high school despite your heavy traveling  schedule. Are there any occasions where you”ve said you have to be home?

I”ll be home for graduation. Now that “Idol”s” over, I have more pull to say, “Right, this weekend I”m not working and I”m going to be home.” I can say that stuff. I”ll be home for graduation, I”ll be home for play-off football, I’ll be home for all the big things and, you know, hopefully, I can make it to the big events like prom. I made it to homecoming too.

What has been your biggest “pinch me” moment, where you couldn”t believe it was your life?

Last night at the Grand Old Opry. It was a huge lineup with Eric Church, Trace Adkins, LeAnn Rimes, Sara Evans. Tons of people. It was wild for me to be there and sing and seeing all those people that I”ve been growing up listening to.