Sophomore status has made the grade in more ways than one for Scotty McCreery.
In his second year of studies at N.C. University in Raleigh, near his hometown in suburban Garner, the 20-year-old baritone has his seen “See You Tonight,” his second original studio album, debut atop the country charts this past autumn.
Returning at 8:30 p.m. Saturday to play House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, the winner in 2011 of Fox-TV’s 10th season of “American Idol” had spoken last spring about the challenge of getting back on the radio after his first CD, “Clear As Day” generated two hits: “I Love You This Big” and “The Trouble with Girls.”
Patience paid off as the single “See You Tonight,” released last spring on the Mercury Nashville/19/ Interscope label, cracked the Top 10 to close this winter, capping a long climb, bringing what he called “an incredible feeling.”
“That’s fine with me,” McCreery said two weeks ago by phone. “As long as we get there. We’ve been working this thing and believing in it from the very beginning.”
He sees “a couple of songs” as contenders for his next single, for which “we’ll find out here soon.” He said in the process of choosing what to release, “I definitely throw my two cents in as much as I can” for record label officials decide, and that “at the end of the day it’s always been kind of a unanimous decision.”
McCreery called high school and college “two different things,” but he’s comfortable with the transition.
He said with this See You Tonight Tour begun with several dates a month since January, he’s keeping up schoolwork “part-time and online” and “and getting heavy” with the tour, and that school’s “still important to me.”
The former high school pitcher said he was happily “going berserk” watching the Boston Red Sox win the World Series last year, sharing the fanfare with his father, who grew up in New England.
As a new baseball season begins, McCreery said he’s ready for “my favorite time of the year.”
He also has gone to bat as the National Goodwill Ambassador for the 12.14 Foundation, which wants to build and operate a performing arts center in Newtown, Conn., to memorialize and honor the 20 children and six adults who died Dec. 14, 2012, in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.
McCreery loves “this responsibility I’m carrying” since meeting “beautiful and great people” in that town.
Helping the cause in any way possible, “I’m so glad to be part of it,” he said.
Because he’s often on stage himself when the prime time vocal competition shows air on national television, McCreery said, “I DVR ‘American Idol’ to catch up with that,” and he also has seen “The Voice” and some other such shows.
“They are unique as well,” he said, impressed how these programs in general continue “finding new artists through different channels.”
Asked to judge what marine animals fascinate him the most, McCreery – who performed March 1 at SeaWorld in Florida – started by naming squid and octopuses, leading to another mighty fish.
“Sharks are incredible creatures,” he said. “I would love to get up close and personal with sharks, just as long as I was going to look at the them through a cage. It would be cool to see how they are in the wild.”