"Southern Belle," the first single from Scotty McCreery's upcoming album, moves the baritone singer closer to the edge of the pop side of country.
"She's Dukes of Hazzard in her daddy's car/Amazing Grace in a Mason jar," the 21-year-old sings in the tune, penned by Sean McConnell and Jason Saenz. McCreery nods when told that the lyrics seems a bit risqué for someone who is best known for squeaky clean, traditional country music and who wears a Christian "I Am Second" bracelet.
"This is probably about as far left as we'll go," he tells Rolling Stone Country. "When my producer [Frank Rogers] heard it, he said, 'I think we can Scottify this.' There was one [reference to] hell that we changed. . . "
He predicts those who listen to the entire album when it's released early next year will have a solid picture of who he is as a recording artist and songwriter. He's not a typical bro-country guy and not a wholly traditional performer either, but rather a hodgepodge of a lot of sounds heard on today's country radio. The North Carolina native hopes the new set of tunes will give fans a glimpse of his personality, as well.
"I want them to get to know me," he answers when asked what he hopes fans will take away from "Southern Belle," which he debuted with a live performance on Fox and Friends last week. "The best way for me to communicate with them on a personal level is through my music.
"I'm an old soul," he continues. "What makes me different is that I'm normal when so many things are crazy out there. I'm just an average Joe that loves to play country music and play baseball. I try to translate that through my music."
McCreery did just that with the help of some of Nashville's top songwriters, spending every day of January and February writing for the new album in Music City. Although he felt a bit intimidated by working with seasoned veterans, some of whom are decades older than him, he was up to the challenge.
"They have all the wisdom, and I want to be a sponge and soak it up," he says. "It's different when you're writing with guys that are new in town, just making their marks. When you're writing with [established songwriters], you really want to show them, 'I can do this.'"
McCreery has been writing songs since he was a little kid. He recently found an old notebook containing lyrics he'd written between around ages 10 and 12 and looks back at them with laughter. One early song was titled "Can't Handle this Cowboy," written after a girl broke his heart in middle school.
"She said she didn't like me anymore, and she went with some city slicker guy," he recalls. "I wrote that song and played it at a pool party against my better judgment. It was kind of a Taylor Swift breakup song before I had honed my craft. Looking back, though, it's pretty funny."
The mature Scotty writes about his life with a more introspective, sophisticated approach. He speaks of a song he co-wrote for the new album, "In Between," which waxes poetic on his discomfort over fans considering him "a holier than thou guy."
"I am human; I make mistakes. And I like to have fun. I'm just a regular guy," he insists. "The [co-writers] said, 'Yeah, you are not a holier than though guy and you're not a party guy. You're in between.' So we just ran with it."
McCreery is currently crossing the country on Rascal Flatts' Riot Tour, also taking detours for several fairs and festivals. Check out where you can see him live here.