It’s been two years since Scotty McCreery released his career-defining fourth studio album, Seasons Change. His first on the label Triple Tigers, that project contained his first No. 1 radio hit, “Five More Minutes,” which climbed the charts while McCreery was an independent artist, before he even had the backing of a label.
Now, McCreery is getting close to finishing a follow-up project, and he admits that the wildly successful Seasons Change is a tough act to follow.
“It’s always like, your last project is your favorite project, and Seasons Change changed my life, for sure. You always gotta try and one-up yourself,” he reflected recently to Country Now. “Especially after a project like that. It’s definitely a lot of pressure — at least, a lot of pressure that you put on yourself.”
He recorded a batch of new songs in December of 2019, and another in early February of 2020. McCreery didn’t try to replicate the songs on Seasons Change. That batch of tracks documents a time of his life that’s in the past — losing his grandfather, falling in love and deciding to propose to his now-wife Gabi — but he’s hoping to channel some of the same songwriting magic by tapping into where he’s at in his life these days.
“I think we have some cool stuff. It won’t be ‘Five More Minutes’ or ‘This is It,’ because those songs are special, and from a very particular time in my life, from back then,” he points out. “These songs are looking ahead now. And looking back on our first year of marriage, and the rest of our lives. So there’s a lot of interesting stuff in there.”
The two recording sessions, he goes on to say, were divided pretty evenly between songs he didn’t write and songs he did. “The first batch was all songs I wrote, and the second batch was all outside cuts,” he continues, adding that the Nashville songwriting community delivered a huge selection of options for the latter group.
“The beauty of Nashville is that it’s a songwriting town. So a lot of incredible songs get written, and there’s a lot of incredible songwriters out there,” says McCreery. “I’m fortunate that we got a lot of songs sent to us, and got to listen to them and cut them down to, ‘Man, that’s a lot like me,’ or, ‘That feels like my story.’”
But it wasn’t only the songs that spoke to his personal experience that made it into the recording sessions. Though he’s known for personal songwriting that digs into his real-life experiences, McCreery says he’s looking forward to including some less literal cuts on his next album.
“I feel like there’s times, being the artist, that you can tell a story and kind of play a part. It doesn’t always need to be so autobiographical,” he muses. “I think there’ll be moments of both on this record: Moments of me telling my story, and some very personal things, and then moments where I’m kind of telling a story, playing a part.
“Which is something I haven’t done — at least, not on the last record,” he points out. “So I’m excited to try that out.”
Sonically, McCreery continues, fans can expect his next album to double down on his traditional country leanings. “Especially with this [most recent] batch of songs,” he hints. “We cut some true country songs, some songs that kinda make you sit back and listen. And make you reflect.”
Whether he’s sharing personal memories or channeling someone else’s experience, McCreery has always focused on the undeniable storytelling power of the country genre — and his next album’s musical style will highlight that.
“I think that’s the beauty of country music, the stories it tells. It’s in the lyrics, it’s in the instrumentation, it’s how you present it,” the singer points out. “So there’s definitely gonna be some steel guitar and fiddle on this record, the kind of instrumentation I fell in love with as a kid.”
While McCreery will explore plenty of uncharted territory on his next album, he’s got the same co-pilots: Producers Frank Rogers, Derek Wells and Aaron Eshuis will return as a three-part dream team.
“Frank Rogers has done every project since my first project with me, and then Derek and Aaron are on as co-producers,” McCreery explains. “Frank is the guy that’s kinda been there, done that. He’s produced everybody in town and had some amazing hits. Derek is the guy who’s been sitting in pretty much ever on every session until now, so he knows what’s working and what’s not working. He knows how to find my unique sound, if that makes sense, because he’s played on everything.
“And Aaron’s a guy that, every time I write with him, I feel like we gel,” the singer goes on to say. “He knows what I’m trying to say and how I wanna say it. I think we wrote three songs together on the last record, and they all made the record. That never happens.”
As the subject of some of his best-loved hits and the person who best knows the stages of life he’s trying to document, McCreery’s wife Gabi has good insight into the song selection process, too.
“She’s definitely part of it,” he agrees. “We were driving back from the mountains a couple of weeks ago, and had a three-hour drive back home, and I was like, let’s play some demos and pitches that got sent to me in the last week. So we went through ‘em, the whole drive. Sometime’s there’ll be a song she loves that I’m like, ‘Eh, whatever,’ but every now and again, there was one that we both really loved.”
McCreery will be headed back out on the road this spring, even making his first-ever trip to Ireland. “I’ve never been there. This’ll be a first,” he says. “We’re planning a day off in Dublin. I wanna hit a few local pubs and grab a pint — I’ve never had a Guinness.”
The singer says he’s not expecting to finish the project before hitting the road, but he hopes to have some new material to test out live. “We’ve already been talking about teasing a little bit here and a little bit there,” he adds. “There probably won’t be an album by then, but we’ll definitely have some new music to try out.”