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Country Superstar Scotty McCreery Talks New Album ‘Rise and Fall,’ His Opry Induction and Being a Dad (EXCLUSIVE)

Plus, hear about his Grand Ole Opry induction and more!

Sitting on the grounds of the scenic Peju Winery in Napa Valley, California, it seems appropriate that 2011 American Idol champ Scotty McCreery‘s sixth number one hit single is “Cab in a Solo,” a country breakup song about a guy who sees his relationship ending and finds himself drinking cabernet sauvignon alone as he sings, “Cab in a solo, solo in the cab of my truck.”

“I haven’t seen too many Solo cups around. It’s all glasses around Napa Valley, but back home we don’t mind drinking a little wine in a Solo cup,” McCreery tells FIRST for Women as he sits smiling in the California sunshine. “It’s my first ever wine song and we get to celebrate out here as it’s peaking on the chart.”

Breaking down his newest hit

Scotty McCreery wrote “Cab in a Solo,” which appears on his new album, Rise & Fall, with Brent Anderson and Frank Rogers during a songwriting retreat in the mountains of North Carolina.

“It really was a cool hook and Brent Anderson brought that to the table,” McCreery says of the Nashville singer/songwriter, who also has a new album, Human Jukebox, releasing later this month.

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“The first time I heard it, I was like, ‘What the heck did you just say?'” McCreery remembers. “The second time I was like, ‘Oh I get it! We need to write that song.’ It just felt like the country music I grew up listening to on the radio, so I’m glad to have one of those songs in my catalog now.”

Scotty McCreery, 2018
Scotty McCreery in 2018Matt Winkelmeyer/ACMA2018/Getty for ACM

Scotty McCreery has put in the work

Since winning the 10th season of American Idol in 2011 at just 17, Scotty McCreery has become one of country music’s most reliable hitmakers. Right after his win, he made history as both the first country artist and the youngest male artist of any genre to debut his first studio album, Clear as Day, at number one on the all-genre Billboard Top 200 Albums chart.

The 30-year-old, who was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame last year, has sold more than four million albums and dominated country radio airwaves with such memorable hits as “This is It,” “In Between,” “You Time,” “Damn Strait” and “Five More Minutes,” which inspired two Hallmark movies.

On April 20 of this year, McCreery joined a long lineage of country icons when he was inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. “It was a lifelong dream,” he says. “My mom has always talked about when she went to the Opry back in the ’70s, and her memories there.”

Scotty McCreery performing at the Grand Ole Opry in 2017
Scotty McCreery performing at the Grand Ole Opry in 2017Jason Davis/Getty

“I’ve always admired and respected the Opry for what it is, the tradition, the history and what it’s done for country music,” McCreery says. “All my heroes have played there and a lot of them are members, so to be a part of the family now is just beyond my wildest dreams.”

A family man

McCreery hopes that becoming an Opry member will inspire his young son, Avery, to one day pursue his dreams. “This really is the pinnacle of country music. If you want to play on a stage in country music, you want to play on the Grand Ole Opry stage,” he says with excitement. “I’m already looking forward to being 70 and singing ‘Five More Minutes’ on the Opry stage. I can’t wait for that.”

Reflecting on sharing his achievement with his son, he says, “As Avery grows up, he’ll see that I’m here. I’ll tell him this was Daddy’s dream and Daddy accomplished his dream. So, ‘Buddy, whatever your dream is — I’m not sure I’ll steer him towards the music business — but whatever your dream is, chase that too because it can come true.’”

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Gabi Dugal McCreery and Scotty McCreery, 2021
Scotty McCreery with his wife, Gabi, in 2021Jason Kempin/Getty

McCreery is also quick to praise his wife, Gabi, for her support of his career and her excellent mom skills. “She is the rock in our family and does so much,” he says of Gabi, who he’s known since childhood.

“I feel like a lot of times the spotlight is always on me and she’s taking care of things in the background, but I couldn’t do it without her and she is born to be a mom!” McCreery enthuses. “She crushes it every single day. She lifted me up when I was going through bad times, and she kept me grounded when I was going through good times. I’m just very lucky to have her.”

Scotty McCreery talks songwriting and Rise & Fall

Rise & Fall is a personal album for McCreery. As he explains, “I freed myself up a little bit in the songwriting process and there are some autobiographical songs on this record like ‘Love Like This’ and ‘Porch.'”

McCreery thinks it’s key to have a mix of songs that are autobiographical and songs that aren’t, saying that non-biographical songs are “a great mark of an artist in country music.” As he explains, “You’re not always going through the heartbreak, but can you connect with people that are and can write those kind of songs. I tried to add another little wrinkle to my songwriting brain and try that kind of thing out.”

Cover art for Scotty's new album
Scotty McCreery’s new albumJeff Ray

McCreery adds that getting away for writer retreats with some of his favorite songwriting buddies provided a great creative environment. “We wrote a lot of fun songs that I’m proud of,” he says. “We went up in the mountains in Carolina to write these things, so I think creatively it took us to a different place. It’s a different flavor for me, but I’m enjoying it.”

Among the album’s highlights is “No Country for Old Men.” “I just wanted to name check all the artists that influenced me growing up and that I still listen to today,” McCreery says of the song. “We had a blast writing it. I wish there was a hidden camera watching us, because we were just laughing and hooting and hollering the way it was coming together. It was fun.”

Scotty McCreery, 2024
Scotty McCreery in 2024Jeff Ray

McCreery reveals that the song started differently and took a turn. “Originally, that song was just going to be George Strait through the whole song. That’s how we wrote it, and listening back to it, I texted my cowriters and said, ‘Guys, I just had an entire song about George Strait,’” he says referencing “Damn Strait.”

He soon realized he could use some variety, saying, “I love the guy, but maybe we should see if we could throw some in other artists that mean something to me, so I put in Keith Whitley and they were like, ‘Oh, absolutely!’ I love that line, ‘Whitley in the kitchen.’ I would hope people understand it’s Keith Whitley and hope it makes people look him up, listen to his music and say, ‘Oh, this guy is pretty dang good.’

“I really love all the songs on the album,” he continues, “but there’s one that just feels so good to my soul and that’s ‘Slow Dance.’ It feels good to sing. I don’t get to hit those low notes too often. It just feels good to me, so I do love that song.”

The next single — and beyond

Fall of Summer” is slated to be McCreery’s next single released to country radio. “I really love this song,” McCreery says. “It’s got such a nostalgic feel. One of my favorite things to do is reminisce on old times and this song does that. It looks back on young love and heartbreak. It has a good drive to it too, so hopefully people will enjoy it.”

McCreery also paid tribute to his faith with “Red Letter Blueprint” a song written with Brent Anderson, Derek George, Jeremy Bussey and Monty Criswell. “We were sitting around a piano so it felt right to write a faith-based song that day,” he shares.

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Scotty McCreery, 2024
Scotty McCreery performing in 2024Jason Kempin/Getty

“As I was writing this song, I was thinking back to the not-so-great times in my life and career,” McCreery says. “2016 for me was not too much fun. There was not really much good going on, and I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, so what do you lean on during that time?”

He continues, “I lean on faith during the good times and the bad. My faith got me through that year and the blueprint is right there for you in the red letters in the Bible. Praise Him in the good times. Praise Him in the bad times. That’s what got me through it.”

Scotty McCreery’s life out of the limelight

These days, McCreery’s career is thriving in and out of the spotlight. “Your perspective on life changes when you have a kid,” he says of his son, who was born in 2022. “Your priorities change. Playing golf all the time is way less of a thing for me nowadays than it used to be because I want to be home with my kid when I’m home and not on the road.”

McCreery has also seen a change in his music. “Being a father is also going to impact your songwriting and how you craft a song and make an album,” he notes. “I wrote enough daddy songs and baby songs to make three albums, but we only put a couple on this one. I didn’t want to flood everybody with just that,” he says with a laugh.

Scotty McCreery, 2022
Scotty McCreery in 2022Danielle Del Valle/Getty

Even though he started his career as a teen, McCreery has always had a strong sense of who he is and has done things his own way. After winning American Idol, instead of moving to Nashville, he returned home and enjoyed his senior year in Garner, North Carolina.

“Coming off the show, it was the hottest thing on TV with 30 million people watching, and we were setting records everywhere we were going, but to me it was important to go back and get those memories with my friends and have those life moments that you only get once,” says McCreery, who still lives in North Carolina.

He looks back fondly on that time, saying, “Now, years later, I have those memories and life moments to write about. All these years later I think we’re seeing the fruits of me doing that even if it took a little time to see.” This down-home quality is just what makes Scotty McCreery one of contemporary country music’s most reliable hitmakers.

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