Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina: Nashville Prospects

With Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina still holding strong at #1 and #4 respectively at Itunes, our attention turns to what’s next for these two country kids. Where will they be headed next, who will they be working with, what kind of reception can they expect in different parts of the country world? Follow our discussion which includes label talk, what producer was brought in for Scotty’s debut single, the writers of “I Love You This Big”, the name and story behind the other song Scotty has already recorded, and information about who’s been involved looking for songs for Scotty and Lauren. It’s all after the jump. WARNING: This post is THIS BIG ;)

Record Label: Where will Scotty and Lauren be signed? The Mediabase add board lists both Scotty and Lauren as 19/Interscope/Mercury. Here’s a quick primer: Mercury is presumably Mercury Nashville which currently has the following other acts on its roster: Laura Bell Bundy, Easton Corbin, Billy Currington, Julianne Hough, Jamey Johnson, Randy Montana, Sugarland, Shania Twain, and roots/pop singer/songwriter Holly Williams (daughter of Hank Williams, Jr.) Let’s just focus on their newer acts to see how Mercury’s been doing with them. Julianne Hough scored a top-20 hit with her debut single in 2008 but hasn’t had any luck on country radio with 2 singles since then and appears to focusing on a film career. Easton Corbin, a neotraditional singer who’s known to sound a lot like George Strait, is the most successful and well known of the newbies with 2 #1 hits. His current single made the top 15 but has peaked, and his album is close to 400k in sales. Broadway alum country/soul/pop singer/songwriter Laura Bell Bundy got lots of TV attention on CMT and a big production performance on the ACMs last year but has yet to crack the top 30 with one of her songs. However, her album received good reviews last year and she’s at work on a new album. Randy Montana is the singer-songwriter whose 1st single didn’t go anywhere and his current single has slowly cracked the top 40.

Based on a quick peek at MCA Nashville’s roster Mercury Nashville’s a little less busy pushing current singles and it’s a little less loaded with new acts so it does make sense to place Scotty and Lauren there.

But what does it mean if they’re also currently showing Interscope as their label? Lauren’s crossover style fits with her being signed to Interscope and a UMG Nashville label, but Scotty’s traditional country voice makes it hard to see him ever making a dent on any pop chart. This may just be a formality for their coronation singles until the legal stuff gets worked out. But on the other hand, will Jimmy Iovine be OK with letting UMG Nashville have the benefit of not one but both of the Idol top 2 contestants when Jimmy’s the one who put his face out there and joined up with 19? There’s also the money issue: will Jimmy be willing to give up the money Scotty and Lauren could make, especially if they are this season’s best sellers in addition to top vote getters? Will he be content to work with popular and/or buzz-generating runners up like Haley Reinhart, James Durbin, and Pia Toscano all of whom appear to have singles in the works?

Based on Season 4 the answer is probably not. We know the story with Carrie Underwood: RCA Music Group wouldn’t give up a cash cow so she signed with Arista New York, fought to do country, performed at CMA Fest, got signed to Arista Nashville, debut album was split 50-50 between country and pop, Sony Nashville head Joe Galante executive produced the country half, Mark Bright produced the country half, Dann Huff produced the pop half. They tried split singles, Carrie only promoted to country, that’s what stuck, Carrie had a huge fight with Arista New York when they wanted to remix Before He Cheats, she won, she renegotiated so she’s now signed with 19 and Arista Nashville only.

With Scotty’s and Lauren’s Itunes numbers out of the gate looking good, Jimmy is unlikely to be willing to UMG Nashville get all the glory. Arguably both of our top 2 this season could at least get a single on Radio Disney but Jimmy can always get involved in working out other non-radio promotional angles to promote exposure. He can and possibly also will get a mix of writers and producers on their albums. Which brings us to:

Writers/Producers: R&B producer Rodney Jerkins told THR that Jimmy instructed him to write songs for Scotty and Lauren (source). He and “Tricky” Stewart (who produced Lauren’s 1st single “Like My Mother Does”) join an increasingly long list of urban/pop writers/producers who have been trying to get into the country scene, a list that also includes Claude Kelly, Ne-Yo, and Brian Kennedy.

That crossover also happened with Scotty’s coronation single “I Love You This Big.” According to the Warner Chappell FB page the song is cowritten by hiphop producer Ronnie Jackson (a.k.a. Lil Ronnie) and well-known country songwriter Brett James (Carrie’s “Jesus Take The Wheel, ” “Flat On The Floor”, “Cowboy Casanova”, plus hits for Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, and Josh Gracin), while Lil Ronnie says on Twitter that R&B/hiphop writer James Rayshawn Smith also produced/cowrote the song. Though Lil Ronnie’s twitter says he was part of producing Scotty’s single, the American Idol news page says

“I Love You This Big” is his new single produced by Mark Bright. 

Mark Bright is the producer on all three of Carrie’s albums so far and in the last few years he’s also produced Reba, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Danny Gokey. That explains why Mark Bright was in this picture by SYTYCD judge Mary Murphy at the Hollywood Walk Of Fame event honoring Simon Fuller Monday (he’s the guy in the black sweater looking sideways). The fact that Mark Bright was brought in to produce Scotty’s single is probably confirmation that Scotty’s lead in the votes was so steady, they knew he was likely to win.

Music Row is also reporting Scotty recorded a song cowritten by Tim Nichols (Tim McGraw‘s megahit “Live Like You Were Dying”, Chris Young’s #1 hit “The Man I Want To Be”) and Jonathan Singleton (singer/songwriter who cowrote Josh Turner’s #1 hit “Why Don’t We Just Dance?”, Billy Currington’s #2 hit “Don’t”, Gary Allan’s #2 hit “Watching Airplanes”, and David Nail’s top 10 hit “Red Light”). Called “Out Of Summertime”, this must be the song that Tim Nichols tweeted about Scotty recording last week. Based on the title alone it may have lost out to “I Love You This Big” because it wasn’t inspirational/Idol journey-ish enough. But that Music Row article says the demo was very popular with the Belmont University students who heard it in an internship run by BMI’s Beth Mason Laird and Leslie Roberts. Looks like they might have a solid backup if “I Love You This Big” doesn’t sustain airplay.

We also hear Dallas Davidson who got some coverage here when news came out that he’d been writing with Casey James is lined up to work with Scotty. In addition to his string of recent #1 hits, Davidson cowrote Lady Antebellum’s current single “Just A Kiss”.

Add to the mix that people who have known Scotty since before he auditioned for AI (like his guitar teacher Gary Epperson and his high school friend Jay Booth have said that he’s a songwriter. Nigel Lythgoe also noted in an interview with’s Michael Slezak that he thought Scotty could write, while saying he wasn’t as sure about Lauren though she could be placed in cowrite situations to help with lyrics.

Too, UMG Nashville has also been involved according to Phyllis Stark’s aside in her controversial column documenting country radio’s opinion of Scotty and Lauren:

In fact, the A&R team at Universal Music Group Nashville is already actively looking for songs for both teens.

Also involved is 19’s Iain Pirie: he’s actually the one who reached out to Beth Mason Laird for songs for Scotty and Lauren.

Jimmy Iovine and his coterie of writer/producers, UMG Nashville’s go-to writers/producers, 19’s go-to writers/producers. That adds up to a whole lot of people involved and possibly some competing agendas. Don’t be surprised if Scotty’s and Lauren’s debut albums end up being the product of compromises just like Carrie’s Some Hearts album did. For Carrie what mattered the most was that she had good to great country songs and the same applies to Scotty and Lauren. Another important factor will be how Jimmy and UMG Nashville CEO/Chairman Luke Lewis coordinate the activity and personnel on the album and how hands on each of them are respectively. Then there’s how the gatekeepers in the country world will be.

How will people in the country genre react to Scotty and Lauren? That discussion got off to quite the start with that Phyllis Stark article, which had comments from a few PD/MDs mocking Scotty’s appearance, calling him a poor man’s Josh Turner, and saying that Lauren, while talented, didn’t seem ready for the big stages. That resulted in immediate backlash, documented again by Phyllis Stark which featured other PDs/MDs calling their peers mean and crazy for not giving 2 young artists with the AI platform and fanbases the chance to grow and actually release music. If Jimmy (not the ex-President) Carter’s latest column is any indication, Scotty did himself some favors by holding his own in his finale performance with Tim McGraw:

The “Idol” insanity: Lots of crazy radio people popping off and made to look like fools saying what they would or would not do with the new “Idol” singers. Several stars were created this year. They may or may not burn out as fast as they were created. Scotty held up his part with the Tim McGraw duet. Only true haters couldn’t compliment the young North Carolina man.

But skeptics remain, as evidenced by the latest column by CMT Editorial Director Chet Flippo, who has frequently spoken up against Idols going country because they “have nothing better to do” (though he was impressed by Crystal Bowersox’s “Farmer’s Daughter”).

Established and up and coming artists in the country world have been more supportive. After surprising Scotty at his Idol homecoming concert, Josh Turner tweeted his congratulations to Scotty. The Band Perry and Martina McBride both tweeted to compliment Lauren on her performances of songs they performed and cowrote. Thompson Square tweeted a compliment to Scotty for his cover of their hit. Jewel worries about Scotty and Lauren being able to find their own niches but still sees them as “valuable” to the country genre. Carrie has obviously been supportive of both.

Despite questions about country radio’s willingness to play their songs, Scotty and Lauren have both received a nice number of initial spins from country radio as documented by Kirsten here. Scotty’s picked up more spins according to the Mediabase spincrease chart and was actually the Greatest Gainer on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for the week as of this morning while Lauren’s already scored 2 official adds from early reporters: one’s from her hometown station in Chattanooga and the other’s from WKIS Miami (the #12 market).

In addition to national media, Scotty and Lauren will have the opportunity to really introduce themselves to country fans at the upcoming CMA Music Fest. Scotty and Lauren both confirmed in their conference calls that they’d be attending, with Scotty mentioning they’re looking into setting up autograph sessions for both of them and also possibly debuting at the Grand Ole Opry. With the CMT Awards set to take place on June 8th, don’t be surprised if they also make an appearance there. Expect a good amount of coverage by Nashville media and some leaks about the level of UMG Nashville’s involvement with Scotty and Lauren since a lot of that’s likely to be worked out then.

That about covers it! What do you think about Scotty and Lauren’s chances in the country world? How involved do you think Jimmy will be in their careers? Who would you like to see them working with?

About Deb B 432 Articles
Also known as Windmills, I cover country music news and live televised country events, in addition to recapping ABC's 'Nashville.' Additionally, I occasionally do long-form chart analysis that has been cited by Entertainment Weekly, Pitchfork, The Guardian, The New Republic, NPR, and more.