With his new single "In Between," Scotty McCreery ends a transition period from the sweet boy you hope your daughter (or granddaughter) marries to a man with a few stories, a nuanced appreciation of a range of human emotions and mature talent.

He's simply better than he was when Scotty-mania reached fever pitch eight years ago after he won American Idol. By comparison that Scotty McCreery was a caricature, as we all are at 17 years old when compared to the more adult version of ourselves. Time, life experiences and writing sessions with some of Nashville's best have paid off for the now 25-year-old, but make no mistake: he got to "In Between" through hard work and an unwavering belief in himself as others started to bail. That's not a typical journey for a teen phenom — pressure, distractions and self-doubt tend to creep in like morning fog on the first cold day of autumn.

This transition really began with "Five More Minutes" and continued with "This Is It," two easily accessible ballads that work the big muscles. "In Between" is finer. McCreery — with help from Jonathan Singleton, Jessi Alexander and Frank Rogers — dials in on something more specific without losing pop-sensibilities or identity. "I ain't all holy water and I ain't all Jim Beam / I'm somewhere in between," he sings. It's as effective of a hook as you'll hear in 2019. 

It's also an announcement. For McCreery to continue to grow as an artist he needs to be able to sing about adult things. "In Between" is his pivot point, the song that closes one extended chapter and begins another as he begins a new personal chapter with a wife and (someday) kids. It's also his first single that works with not-so-obvious emotions and yearnings. Putting words and melody to those is what separates a career artist from the pack.

Did You Know?: While at North Carolina State University, McCreery and his roommates threw a party that got busted up by the police. But he tells the story better. See the video below.

How Scotty McCreery's "In Between" Shows His Bad Boy Side: 

Scotty McCreery, "In Between" Lyrics:

I'm a little bit of ball cap / Little bit of pearl snap button down shirt / Little bit of big city concrete / But a lot more small town dirt / I can see your pretty eyes reading me like a map / Wondering who I am and where I'm at.

Chorus:
I'm in between / Friday night wild and quiet Sunday morning / Between / Done after one and keep on pouring / Ain't too high, Ain't too low / Just holding down the middle, I’m steady as I go / I ain't all holy water and I ain't all Jim Beam / I'm somewhere in between.

I can be a steel toe work boot, 40 hour blue collar, mud on my jeans / Then a weekend pack a bag, disappear, kick back on a white sand beach / I'm a far cry from being a one night stand / But I ain't ready for a ring on my hand.

I can see your pretty eyes reading me like a map / Wondering who I am and where I'm at.