"I guess when you start at 16 and 17 years old, you have no choice but to grow up," McCreery says in this week's episode of Certified Country. "You go out and you live on your own, you pay your own bills. For me, I got engaged, getting married this year. It's been a wild few years. I lived a lot of life and wrote a lot of songs."
McCreery's third studio album, Seasons Change, is out now. The North Carolina native wrote or co-wrote all 11 tracks -- two of which were pulled from a previously scrapped full-length. One of those songs, the heart-tugging "Five More Minutes," would go on to become McCreery's first-ever No. 1 single and the fastest-rising song of his career.
"I knew it was special when I wrote it," McCreery says, recalling a tweet he had posted on that day in 2015.
Just wrote what might be my favorite song I’ve written. Getting excited about this next record
"I knew it was special for my granddaddy and just life in general, but I didn't know if it would translate to other people. If they would identify with it, too," he recalls. "They did, and they're telling me their stories every day about who they want five more minutes with or how it relates to them, so I've really been loving that."
But there was one song on the album that McCreery had to keep closely guarded. About two weeks before he popped the question to longtime girlfriend Gabi Dugal, the singer put his proposal plan to paper in the sweet "This Is It."
Through the lyrics, McCreery paints the picture of the jaw-dropping North Carolina mountains as he leads his future wife on a hike and ultimately drops to one knee.
"Luckily she said yes or else the song probably wouldn't have made the record," McCreery cracks. He and Dugal are set to tie the knot later this year.
"She always wants to hear the songs the day I write them," McCreery admits. "That day, I had to tell her, 'Oh, we didn't get anything today. We couldn't wrap our heads around anything. I had to keep that one a secret for a while."
Amid a whirlwind start to 2018, McCreery has been busy promoting his new album, performing regularly and, yes, filming a guest appearance for the newly rebooted American Idol. Meanwhile, he's also on groom duty.
"We got most of the big plans out of the way," he says. "We're heading back to North Carolina, up in the mountains, so that'll be fun."
For his part of the planning, McCreery is on food duty.
"Gabi, she reminds me, because we're doing so much with the music business right now, she'll say, 'You know, we are getting married this year. You gotta call the caterer. I'm like, 'I got it! I'll call them.' ... I'll go taste test all day long. That's something I'm good at. My main gig is making sure the food's all good."
The couple will take about a month off to enjoy their newlywed status, taking in a tropical honeymoon before settling into marital bliss as they split time between homes in Nashville and North Carolina. As for plans for a big family, the McCreery's are focused on fur babies first.
"She wants a lab and I want a little English Bulldog," he says. "I'm going between Brady and Elvis for the names for the bulldog."
For more on McCreery's engagement, album and details about his upcoming American Idol appearance, watch the full episode of Certified Country below. Follow along on Facebook Watch for new episodes every Friday.