Scotty McCreery Says He’s Still Impacted by Downfall After ‘American Idol’

Scotty McCreery

Heavy/Getty Country star Scotty McCreery

After country star Scotty McCreery won the 10th season of “American Idol” in 2011, the 17-year-old was on top of the world with a record deal, concert tour, and multiple hit songs. But five years later, everything fell apart. When his 2016 single “Southern Belle” didn’t perform well on the charts, he was dropped by his label, Universal Music Group’s Mercury Nashville, per PBS, and left to figure out his career on his own at 22.

“I experienced some incredible highs early on,” he told PBS, “and then a few years ago, I experienced some of the lowest points of my life, getting dropped from a record label and not knowing what the next step was going to be; not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for so long. But I just kept taking one step at a time.”

Incredibly, the North Carolina native wound up coming back even stronger than before and, in new interviews, has opened up about that “roller coaster ride” since his big win on “American Idol” and how it’s fueled his drive to succeed.

Scotty McCreery Says He’s Driven to Always ‘Raise the Bar’

Scotty and Gabi McCreery with son Avery

GettyScotty McCreery and Gabi Dugal attend Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s opening of American Currents: State of the Music on March 7, 2023 in Nashville

In 2016, when McCreery learned he’d lost his record deal, he was in Los Angeles to appear on “American Idol,” according to the Tennessean. It was a shock to the young singer, who had a new album’s worth of songs written and ready to release — but no one to put the album together and distribute it.

Eventually, he decided to release one of his favorites, “Five More Minutes,” as an independent artist — a move that helped him make history. In July 2017, the newspaper reported, he became the only country music artist to ever have a song on the Country Aircheck/Mediabase Top 50 charts without the backing of a record label. Later that summer, Triple Tigers Records/Sony Music Entertainment scooped him up and signed him to a new record deal.

According to Music Mayhem Magazine, McCreery, now 29, has sold over five million albums and has scored five consecutive Number One country hits: “Five More Minutes,” “This Is It,” “In Between,” “You Time,” and “Damn Strait.”

But the new dad — who welcomed son Avery with his wife Gabi in October 2022 — isn’t taking any of his success for granted. Having experienced such extreme highs and lows in the music industry, he says he and his team still take things one day at a time, he told Audacy’s Katie & Company on June 2, 2023.

“Just brick by brick,” he said. “That’s kind of what I tell my team, my management, all the time. Brick by brick, you know, we’ll make believers and I still feel that way.”

“To kind o look back at my career and see the roller coaster ride — and most folks don’t start the roller coaster kind o at the top — it was really wild,” he said. “Just coming off ‘Idol,’ I mean everything that came with that at the time and having the success, but then all of a sudden everything just stopping and like, not knowing what we were gonna do tomorrow. Like, ‘Are we ever going to have music that goes out to radio again? What are we going to do?'”

McCreery told Katie & Company that his downfall after succeeding so quickly still impacts his mindset and desire to grow.

“I still have that mentality of it’s never enough,” he said. “Always try to raise the bar. I can still, like, appreciate it all. Like, it’s been the wildest few years of my life these last few, but still trying, still not satisfied. I want to keep growing and getting better and write better songs, have better shows. That’s just … it’s fun.”

Scotty McCreery Says He’s Learning From Legends Brooks & Dunn on Tour

Scotty McCreery

GettyScotty McCreery performing in March 2023

Currently touring with longtime country music duo Brooks & Dunn, McCreery says he loves looking to legends like them for insights on how to build his career.

On June 1, McCreery told Audacy’s Rob+Holly, “I always try to find guys that are at the top of their game, like, what do they do? And then I try to incorporate little things that I like into my show. So there’s some little moments and things they’ll say to get the crowd going.”

He continued, “What I’ve learned that I’ve liked is just, like, the behind-the-scenes stuff. Like, talking about songs kind of before the show and Ronnie would just be like, ‘Oh, let me tell you about how we wrote that one’ and ‘When we said that on the radio, this is what we were thinking.’ Like, it’s cool to get those kind of behind-the-scenes stories.”

During his Katie & Company interview, he said it’s also amazing to be opening for some of his idols.

He said, “Growing up as a kid and learning ‘Red Dirt Road’ on guitar and all these songs, and now like, being able to play a show right in front of them and then boogie, shower, and get back into the crowd so you can go watch the show every night, I’m having a blast.”

He said he’s impressed with their “professionalism” and that they still “get out there and they kick butt every night.”

“I mean, they’re no spring chickens,” he laughed. “But they still — the energy they bring to that stage is unmatched.”

Late this year, McCreery will be inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in country music. McCreery will join five other “American Idol” stars who’ve been inducted into the Hall of Fame in the past: Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken, season 3 winner Fantasia and season 5’s Kellie Pickler, Bucky Covington and Chris Daughtry.

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