Go Big Or Go Home: The Journey Toward The Dream, by Scotty McCreery with Travis Thrasher
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.]
This is a fine memoir from a singer in a period of transition. As this book was released, the singer has parted ways with his previous label (Mercury) and is working on his fourth studio album, whose first single “Southern Belle” did not chart on either the Hot 100 or the Top 40 of the Country chart. Given that context, which the author talks about without drama or rancor, this book is an immensely brave one, given that it is very possible that the singer will be “going home” after a moderately successful career for the past five years, with a platinum album, a gold album, and a handful of charting singles, one of which reached the country top 10 and another of which reached the Top 20 of the Hot 100, with a couple of modest headlining tours and a couple of supporting slots in tours of bigger acts like Brad Paisley and Rascall Flatts. Still, even so, for fans of American Idol like I am, and for people who like reading the memoirs of musicians , which I certainly enjoy, this is a worthwhile memoir from a young man that it is nearly impossible not to like, even if it seems odd that he would have a devoted group of fans known as McCreerians. This book simply works, in large part because the book’s writer is such an appealingly honest, and restrained, person, and because the co-writer of the book is nearly invisible.
The contents of this book are more or less chronological, and are immensely appealing to someone who both wants to read about the author’s life as well as about the inner workings of the music industry machine, both of which are worthwhile subjects explored here from the view of an articulate observer and participant. After a very short introduction to the author’s life as a musical kid passionately interested in Elvis, the book explores McCreery as he winds his way through the competition, both seeking to build a fan base and a career as a country singer, given the songs and styles that are in his wheelhouse, while also showing growth and the ability to interpret songs from a variety of genres, including blues. The first six chapters cover mostly this experience on American Idol, including backstage drama, and dealing with the mix of friendship and competition with the other singers. McCreery comes off as a decent fellow among some others who are far more canny and clever, something that comes up later when the author discusses his lawsuit against a former manager. The book, as a whole, has a “Behind The Music” feel to it, discussing the logistics of touring and performing as well as the profits of an accidental endorsement of the southern chicken and biscuit joint Mr. Bojangles, who happen to make some good chicken and biscuits, it should be mentioned. The second part of the book looks at the life of McCreery after winning American Idol, including his relationship with a young woman named Gabi, who appears as the love interest in the video to his hit “The Trouble With Girls” and who is mentioned only sparingly, likely because she is a shy young woman, his recording and touring, his appearances with other musicians, his ability to enlist the support of other artists, his touring band, and his attempts to live a normal life in high school as well as some studies in college at NC State. He also discusses a scary story of being held up after one of the people in an apartment foolishly opens the door to a stranger at 2AM, afraid for his life, and shows himself to be a grateful, appreciative, and sincerely Christian Southern gentleman. It is an appealing book of about 250 pages of simple and straightforward prose accounts, mostly in the first person.
The book as a whole is an example of someone whose life manages to combine two generally contrary tendencies, the firm confidence of someone who seeks to live honorably within a consistent identity, both in terms of his identity as a Christian as well as a person of firm loyalties to his community and to his favorite sports teams—one of the most revealing and interesting aspects of this book is the way it discusses the author’s serious interest and considerable talent in baseball—as well as the striving ambition of someone striving to make it big. This book is the account of someone who has, so far at least, managed to successfully go big while in many ways staying at home with a tight bond with his family, and someone who has spent a great deal of effort in philanthropic efforts, some of which he discusses people. If you want to read a book by a decent fellow who is open about his flaws and shortcomings and refreshingly honest while also simultaneously discreet, which provides an insider’s perspective into the contemporary music industry, this is an excellent read, which ought to satisfy many readers while they wait for the author’s latest album to finally be released.
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