Scotty McCreery was less than five months shy of his 18th birthday on May 25, 2011 when he was crowned American Idol’s Season 10 winner and that singular moment catapulted him into the world of country music.

“I know it hasn’t been that long ago,” McCreery said last week while preparing for a concert in Pittsburgh, “but I honestly have a hard time remembering much of that moment. It was a strange situation with Lauren (Alaina) standing there and finishing second with the confetti flying all over the place. I don’t recall what was said or what I did. Needless to say it was
an awkward moment. But that moment changed everything.”

He went from a student’s desk in the junior class at Garner Magnet High School in North Carolina to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. The transition was one thing, but was the world of country music what he expected?

“I’ve heard that at Rap and Hip-Hop concerts and rock concerts they have guards around the stage and the bands leave in a hurry,” McCreery said. “But country music isn’t like that at all. The singers go out and talk to the fans afterward, everyone is friendly to each other. If you have an impression of it (country music) from the outside then let me tell you it’s
exactly the same way on the inside.”

McCreery, who still hasn’t reached his 20th birthday, will perform in SoCal for the second time in less than a year (he was at the San Diego County Fair last summer) on Friday (May 31st) when he sings at the Temecula Balloon & Wine Festival. He will follow that with an appearance on Saturday at the Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella.

“I had a great time last summer at the Del Mar concert. I love the San Diego area. Can’t wait to get back out there,” he said.

He launched his “Weekend Roadtrip Tour” in February and worked it around his class time as a freshman at North Carolina State University where he is majoring in communications with a focus on information media.

Unlike most youthful athletes/celebrities who choose to delay their education until their careers are over, McCreery went in the opposite direction.

“Education has always been important in our family,” he said. “I just finished my first year at N.C. State. We were able to work the class room stuff around touring.”

Of course, first he had to finish high school after Idol, which he did. He surmised he did finish in the top 50 of his class. But what he didn’t do was get to play that final season with his high school baseball team.

“Yes, I missed playing, but I couldn’t do both being on Idol then,” he said. “I was a pitcher. In high school I could throw in the high 80s ( he actually reached 88 mph) but I don’t think I was going to make it at the college level.” In his final high school game he struck nine in a complete game shutout.

His father Michael, who was raised in New England, played at the semi-pro level and is a life-long Red Sox fan. “Our family has various rooting interests,” he laughed. “The Braves are one of our favorite teams, but we have to root for the Red Sox too.

“I think there is a part of him (his father) that would have liked to have seen me continue in baseball,” McCreery said, “but he’s very proud of what I have accomplished.”

“Clear As Day” is his debut country album. It features a mix of the new and old styles of country music. “I enjoy both (studio work and concerts),” he said. “You get to be creative in the studio and it is all spontaneous and different every night on tour.

“Performing on tour has really taught me a lot,” he explained earlier in the press release. “We have different crowd and different responses that always keep it fresh. It’s showing me that this is what I want to do forever. I thrive on this and I’m really enjoying it. Hopefully, I can do  this for the rest of my life.”

So, while McCreery’s country music career continues to grow, his launching pad, American Idol, seems to be in a state of disarray with tumbling ratings and audience reaction.

“I think it’s like anything else,” he said, “it’ll have it’s ups and downs. Maybe they do need a new judges panel. But they will figure it all out. It’ll be OK.”