When I talked to Scotty McCreery on the phone recently, he told me he tries to never take it for granted that this is what he gets to do.
You can tell.
The singer played a lively and captivating show during Sunday’s second annual Back Road Country Fest at Weidner Field. His headlining set came after several hours of tunes that would’ve made any country music fan smile widely. And there were plenty of smiles to see.
The Colorado-based cover band Double Wide kicked off the festival with what they called a ‘90s country party. It included fun covers of songs like Reba McEntire’s “Fancy,” George Strait’s “Check Yes or No” and “That Summer” by Garth Brooks. Those who arrived to the festival early enough for the opening act were all either singing or dancing along.
Double Wide even played one pop song. After covering Smash Mouth’s “All Star,” the group’s frontman jokingly said, “I hated every second of that.”
This was a country music festival, after all. Up next was the James Barker Band with songs such as “There’s A Drink For That” and “Keep It Simple.”
Collie Caillat might be known for her soft pop sound, but this year she formed a country quartet called Gone West. The Nashville-based band played a mix of their own songs, such as their first single, “What Could’ve Been” as well as Caillat’s hits including the ever-popular “Bubbly.”
The talk of the event, though, was McCreery. Fans filled the seats at Weidner Field and the small standing area in front of the stage. A handful of people got to take photos with McCreery during a pre-show meet and greet.
One fan, wearing a T-shirt adorned with the singer’s face, came prepared with a homemade sign full of references to his songs. It read, “I love you this big Scotty McCreery. My seasons would change if you could give me five more minutes and let me sing with you.” Another told McCreery his music got her through high school.
It’s easy to see why people have such a strong connection to McCreery, who got his start after winning “American Idol” in 2011. He was just 17 at the time. His songs feel authentic and far from the “bro country” sound that has in recent years taken over country radio.
Take, for example, “Five More Minutes,” which features lyrics about wanting, as a kid, more time to go fishing and play high school football and, later on, craving more time with his late grandfather.
McCreery grew up singing along to Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, and he showed off his love for both of the legendary singers during a nearly 10-minute mash-up of old-school country songs. He also played his range of hits, including “The Trouble With Girls” and “I Love You this Big” as well as his most recent release, “In Between.”
In an encore, he ended the show with the song, not one of his own, that made him famous. We all were introduced to McCreery and his shockingly deep voice eight years ago when he sang Josh Turner’s “Your Man” during his “American Idol” audition.
He sang it again Sunday. It was the perfect way to end a day full of some of the best country music out there.