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Scotty McCreery Christmas Album Is Early Gift to Fans

Sara Kauss Photography

When Scotty McCreery won the 10th season of “American Idol” in May 2011, it seemed like life couldn’t get much better for the talented teen, but it has. These days he’s enjoying his first semester of college, touring with Brad Paisley and releasing his first holiday album, Christmas With Scotty McCreery.

“I got lucky. A lot of people have to wait a long time,” Scotty tells The Boot of recording a Christmas album so early in his career. “We released the first album in October of last year and we’re not going to release the next one until probably spring of next year, so it felt right to get some new music out there.”

Christmas is Scotty’s favorite holiday, so recording his new album was a joy. However, the biggest challenge was deciding which of his favorite festive tunes to record. “It was tough. There are so many Christmas songs. There were a few that I knew I had to do. I knew I wanted to do an Elvis song, and it was down to ‘Blue Christmas’ and ‘Santa Claus Is Back in Town.’ I just told myself that nobody can sing ‘Blue Christmas’ like Elvis, so it was ‘Santa Claus Is Back in Town.’”

Scotty has been an Elvis fan as long as he can remember. “When I was a kid, the rest of the kids were listening to Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync and I was Elvis Presley through and through. I was singing ‘Hound Dog’ in the back of the bus. My grandmother gave me a book when I was young, ‘How to Be Like Elvis,’ and I took it to heart. I was all things Elvis.”

His obsession with the King of Rock ‘n Roll even extended to his Halloween attire. “I dressed up like Elvis,” he says. “I would have been probably around 8 or 10, and I’d go up to the door and say ‘Trick or Treat,’ and say, ‘thank you, thank you very much’ and I’d walk away.”

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Christmas with Scotty McCreery, which released this week, also includes such standards as “Winter Wonderland,” “Jingle Bells,” “Let It Snow,” “The Christmas Song” and “O Holy Night.” “I also recorded ‘Mary, Did You Know.’ I sang that at church. ‘The First Noel’ was one of my favorite Christmas songs growing up and I got a chance to sing that at a Christmas Eve service when I was younger at church. That’s always a special one to me and singing that just felt right in the studio with the musicians in there. We all felt the same kind of spirit, the same kind of feeling when we were recording that one especially.”

Scotty recorded the album during the summer when temperatures were soaring to over 100 degrees, but still found ways to get in the holiday spirit, “We did the Christmas lights. I had them all over my music stand when I was recording,” says the singer.

His mother even helped Scotty and the musicians get in the Christmas mood. “Mom brought some hats for everybody and then my tour manager does cupcakes, so she made us all Christmas cupcakes and Christmas cookies,” the 19-year-old notess. “We just got into the spirit. It was ‘ho, ho, ho’ all over there.”

Though he’s known for being a traditionalist, his Christmas collection gives Scotty a chance to rock out a little bit on such lively tracks as the aforementioned “Santa Claus Is Back in Town” and a spirited rendition of “Holly Jolly Christmas.” Scotty also introduces a couple of beautiful new tunes, “Christmas Comin’ Round Again” and “Christmas in Heaven.”

When he was getting ready to record the album, he had been writing a song called “Christmas in Heaven,” but opted to record a different one instead. “I was writing about my grandfather that passed on, telling how I missed him here and wondering what Christmas was like in heaven,” Scotty explains. “My choir director was at a conference for choir directors and we told her to be on the lookout for songs [because] we were doing a Christmas album. She sent us a couple things that were kind of cool, but then she sent me ‘Christmas in Heaven’ and after the first verse, I stopped and said, ‘This is it!’”

Scotty didn’t mind giving up the song he’d been writing in favor of recording the one his choir director had found. “The one she sent me was perfect,” he says. “I’m still learning the craft of writing. I’m still young and I’m still hoping I can get around the Nashville scene and co-write because these guys here are incredible, but it said exactly what I wanted to say, so why mess with it?”

In less than two years, Scotty has proven he has a gift for finding the right songs and delivering memorable performances with his strong, distinctive voice. His 2011 debut album, Clear As Day, spent six weeks at the top of Billboard‘s country albums chart and was certified platinum for sales of more than 1 million units in just three months. It also debuted at No. 1 on the all-genre Top 200, making Scotty the youngest male artist in history to open at the top of the 200 with a debut release.

Even with such impressive out-of-the-box success in the music industry, Scotty chose to finish high school and started college this year at North Carolina State where he’s majoring in communications. “I don’t have much time. This year is crazy,” he says of his schedule. “Last year we had a little time off, but I think now I have two weekends off the rest of the year. My schedule for college is Monday through Wednesday, so we do classes then and Wednesday is a crazy day because all my papers are due, quizzes are due, everything. I just have two days of class and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday we’re hitting the road or coming to Nashville. It’s working out great so far. I’m really enjoying the balance we have right now.”

Most college students try to shy away from early-morning classes, but not Scotty. “I have an 8 o’clock class and everybody doesn’t like that but it’s a golf class, so I can wake up for golf,” he says with a big smile.

Scotty acknowledges that one of the things he loves about college is the freedom. “College is not necessarily just school anymore. It’s your life. When you’re there, you live there, you eat there, you study there. Your friends are there. Sometimes the freedom is a little too much, like the other night, we were playing basketball ’til three in the morning and I had to wake up for my 8 o’clock class. That was stupid of me, but we had fun doing it and that would have never happened back home.”

The singer lives in an on-campus apartment and rooms with other students. “There’s four of us in there and we have a good ‘ole time,” he says with a laugh.

With his hectic schedule, which includes weekends on Brad Paisley’s Virtual Reality tour, Scotty hasn’t had much time to enjoy fishing, hunting or any of his other hobbies this year, but he isn’t complaining.

“I don’t have much [free] time because I’m either hitting the road or in school, but to me that’s exactly what I want to be doing,” he says. “If I could have gone back two years from when I auditioned for ‘Idol,’ [and] planned my life, this is exactly how I would have wanted it.”

The Virtual Reality tour wraps for 2012 this weekend. See the last remaining tour dates here.

Watch Scotty Sing Live in Our Studio

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