Scotty McCreery bet on himself for his third studio album. The mostly self-written, very autobiographical Seasons Change details his engagement, makes clear that he's no saint and reminds you that while he's Nashville proud now, he'll always be a Carolina boy.

In fact, fiancee Gabi Dugal and his home state dominate the 11-song project, his first on Triple Tigers Records after two records on UMG Nashville. It's counterintuitive to claim that in spite of the very high profile way we met the now 24-year-old singer we didn't really know him until now, but that's exactly what's happened. Part of the reason is that he's a more competent writer than ever, something he'll freely admit.

“Looking back I can 100 percent say that. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing on my first record,” McCreery tells Taste of Country. “Second record had a little better idea, but still wasn’t writing songs as much as today.”

The other reason — well, we'll get there.

McCreery and Dugal are set to marry this spring in what the singer describes as a very classic, old-school destination wedding. Deep inside the album liner notes he lets his love of six years know that every love song he writes is about her, and that's apparent on Seasons Change, but not in a way that's obstructive. This is important because great songs don't just tell great stories, they're accessible.

"Wherever You Are" and "Still" are the two most obvious examples. The first — a fun, mid-tempo, melodic pop-country cut — puts a roseate spin on the struggles of long-distance love (for the last several years they've been split by his job in Nashville and hers in Durham, N.C.), while the latter is a soft, dare-we-say sexy ballad. To this point, the Season 10 American Idol winner has not cut a true bed sheet burner, but this one comes close. However, he never objectifies. The woman he's singing about is never reduced to a one-dimensional, here-for-the-pleasing cartoon character. There's a maturity here that amidst widespread, valid complaints about how women are treated in society and entertainment deserves to be mentioned.

"She’s still working," McCreery says when asked what the future holds for them. "She’s a nurse. She’s a very strong, independent woman. She wants to make her own living and all that. So I fully support that. I wanna support her dreams just like she supports mine.”

"This Is It" is the song everyone will gravitate toward, because it tells the story of how McCreery proposed to Dugal. There is a major twist to that story, which you can learn all about below, but the takeaway is how much it is a blueprint for that afternoon.

Watch: The Real Story Behind "This Is It"

“I shared ‘This Is It’ with Gabi as soon as we got back to the cabin, after the proposal," McCreery adds. "Her family was there and we put it on the Apple TV and played it over the speakers. Yeah, there were some tears and her mom was getting all misty-eyed and everything."

“If things hadn’t gone to plan and we hadn’t gotten to the mountain I probably would have had to scrap the song. But luckily it all worked out.” Ironically, and in the face of the above point about songs being so personal they're not accessible, this song and "Five More Minutes" may be the album's biggest hits, and his biggest hits to date.

McCreery is comfortable writing what he knows, and more than ever it sounds natural and universal. During "In Between," he lets fans know that he stirred up a little trouble during his college years. "Boys From Back Home" is exactly the song you think it is — a classic rock inspired shoutout to the Blue Crew. "Home In My Mind" also recalls his North Carolina days, but "Barefootin'" is a more obvious tribute. The song, a beach music jam with horns, is an outlier on Season Change. Take a moment to Google "shag dancing" to understand him when he says, “I got a couple of go-to shag moves. I can’t sit there and cut a rug for hours on end like some of my friends can, but I do have a few shag moves I can bust out."

Right now he's smiling but still speaking in the soft-spoken voice anyone who's talked to him a few times recognizes. Those closest to him may know the opposite, or maybe not.

Triple Tigers Records
Triple Tigers Records

He always has been soft-spoken, even as a chip forged from competitive fire grew larger and larger on his shoulder. Through the years he hasn't so much been protective of the details of his life as he has just not been great at presenting them. McCreery constantly referred to this "we" when asked questions about his career or life. He doesn't any longer. Expectations were very high and the results weren't always satisfying. They are now.

“You live a lot of life 17 to 24," he says, reminding us of something so obvious but so forgotten when it comes to the celebrity lifestyle. "In the grand scheme of things, it's seven years, so it doesn’t sound like that big. But those are big years in anybody’s life. Moving out on your own, you’re paying your own bills, getting married. For me I’ve been robbed at gunpoint, I’ve been sued, I’ve been dropped by labels … there’s been a lot of life that’s been lived in these last seven years.”

More than ever before he's figured out how to funnel it into his music. Well, most of it.

“There’s not a robbed by gunpoint song but that’d make a cool wild, wild, west song.”

5 Things You Don't Know About Scotty McCreery's Fiancee

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