As American Idol gears up for its final season, many country stars who experienced success from the show are prompted to reflect on its impact and the fact that it’s ending. Scotty McCreery, who won Season 10 in 2011, says the approaching finale is sad, but also a time to celebrate its success.

“It’s bittersweet,” he tells Nash Country Weekly. “It’s tough to see something like that go, for me, just being a small part of it. But too, it’s such a huge show as far as pop culture in America, and across the world, so it’s sad to see something like that go. There’s been a lot of shows that have stemmed from American Idol over the years. It will be fun to be there for the finale. I think all of the winners are going to go back," he says, "so it will be cool in that aspect, but it will be sad.”

McCreery started young on the show — just 16 years old when he began the journey — and he says Idol gave him a huge boost in his career, which otherwise would likely have been a slow burn. His guitar teacher had already experienced life in Music City, so he gave McCreery some tips on where to go after high school.

"He had the journey, had those relationships and was telling me about it. So the plan was for me after college, or with college, I might have gone to Belmont or Middle Tennessee, to just try to make it that way, play around Nashville and see what happens. That was always the plan after college. At 16, things got a little fast-tracked for me, so it was really cool,” he recalls.

McCreery is now getting ready for the release of his third studio album, the lead-off single of which, titled “Southern Belle,” was released in late August. The tune, written by Sean McConnell and Jason Saenz, is a bit of an edgy turn for the artist, but he says that’s "about as far left" as he’ll go on the record. Details of the new album have not yet been released.

American Idol can be credited with giving several country artists their starts — perhaps most notably Grammy winner Carrie Underwood, who won its fourth season in 2005. Kellie Pickler, Lauren Alaina and McCreery all launched their careers from the show as well. Season 15 of Idol begins in January 2016 and features country star Keith Urban as one of the celebrity judges, alongside Harry Connick, Jr. and Jennifer Lopez.

Scotty McCreery and More of the Nastiest Lawsuits in Country Music