Scotty McCreery summed up the last year in a few words:

"A crazy ride."

Last May, he became the youngest "American Idol" winner at 17. About 39 million people tuned in to see his name announced.

He released his first album, "Clear As Day," in October.

"(I'm) just trying to catch up still," he said during a recent phone interview before a concert in Cleveland. "I've done a lot of things I never thought I'd be able to do. I performed at the World Series."

In December, he was named New Artist of the Year at the American Country Awards. But one of McCreery's biggest accomplishments came earlier this month: He graduated from high school.

"It was a good time," he said with a laugh. McCreery preferred history to math but said he loved the experience of high school - the football games and time spent with peers - more than any subject.

And like any teen fresh out of school, McCreery said he's looking forward to having fun this summer and plans to spend some of it at the beach. He stops in central Pennsylvania July 12 for a show at Lancaster's American Music Theatre. Tickets are nearly sold out.

But during other upcoming dates, McCreery will open for Grammy winner Brad Paisley. In October, Paisley and McCreery will hit Hershey's Giant Center.

McCreery said that backstage will be his new classroom.

"Every night (Paisley) takes it seriously, but he still has fun with it," McCreery said of live shows.


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"He has a great sense of humor. I'd like to be more like him. He's been good to learn from."

During "Idol," McCreery said he got a crash course on stage presence.

"It was definitely a learning curve," he admitted. "I had to move around the stage or entertain instead of just sitting on the stage ... with a guitar." But McCreery, a North Carolina native, was no stranger to performing. He grew up on Elvis, Merle Haggard and Conway Twitty.

He got hooked on "Idol" during the second season.

Scotty McCreery will perform at the American Music Theater in July.
Scotty McCreery will perform at the American Music Theater in July. (SUBMITTED)
Contestant Clay Aiken, who also hailed from North Carolina, had the whole state rooting for him.

"Little did I know, I would be trying out," said McCreery, who was 9 at the time.

He thanks season four "Idol" winner Carrie Underwood for paving the way for other country contestants, including the most recent winner, Phillip Phillips.

McCreery joined the list of winners but still considers himself part of a larger group of about 130 contestants over 11 seasons.

"We're all a big family, and it's been nice to see and meet a lot of the season winners," he said. "Everybody just supports each other."

He added that he's also thankful for the support of his studio staff.

Aside from a basement project in ninth or 10th grade, McCreery had no recording experience. But working on "Clear As Day" was a positive experience.

"We're just getting the wheels in motion for the second album," McCreery said. "I'm sure I'll be a lot more comfortable. (I'll) experiment more and take more risks. You can always record it again."

The album will probably be done early next year, McCreery said.

The crazy ride will continue, but, thus far, McCreery's laid-back attitude has remained intact. His secret for keeping up: "A pre-show nap. That's it really."

- Erin McCracken,

FlipSide staff

If you Go

"American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery takes the stage 8 p.m. July 12 at American Music Theatre, 2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster. Tickets cost $67. A limited number are available. For details and tickets, call 717-397-7700 or visit www.amtshows.com.

Audition

Registration begins July 10 in Chicago

Registration begins July 15 in New Orleans

Registration begins July 18 in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Auditions were held earlier this month in Los Angeles, San Antonio, Charlotte, N.C., and Newark, N.J.

Did you audition this summer? Share your story with us. Email your name, age, municipality you live in, where you tried out, a short account of your experience and photos to emccracken@ydr.com. Deadline is July 27.

Idols on tour

The "American Idol Live! Tour" kicks off July 6 in Detroit and hits more than 40 other cities this summer.

Fans can see Idol contestants Colton Dixon, DeAndre Brackensick, Elise Testone, Erika Van Pelt, Heejun Han, Hollie Cavanagh, Jessica Sanchez, Joshua Ledet, Phillip Phillips and Skylar Laine in concert.

Regional stops include, Baltimore Aug. 9; Philadelphia Aug. 21; Wilkes Barre Sept. 6; and Reading Sept. 8. For details and tickets, visit americanidol.com.

Interviews with other contestants

David Cook

Ruben Studdard