AUSTIN, TEXAS - MAY 07: Scotty McCreery performs onstage during the 2022 iHeartCountry Festival - Show held at Moody Center on May 07, 2022 in Austin, Texas.
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Scotty McCreery on Inspiration-Turned-Peer George Strait: 'an Icon, a Legend, a Hero of Mine'

In Oct. 2021, Scotty McCreery pledged allegiance to the King of Country Music with new single "Damn Strait." A relatable song for others raised on the classics stretched a run of consecutive No. 1s to five.

Jim Collins and Trent Tomlinson co-wrote the only outside cut (which means that McCreery isn't credited as a songwriter) in the ongoing streak. It turns the often-criticized trope of namedropping artists or song titles for the sake of a rhyme on its head by craftily using six of Strait's signature hits —"Nobody in His Right Mind Would've Left Her" (1986), "Marina del Rey" (1982), "Blue Clear Sky" (1996), "Give It Away" (2006), "I Hate Everything" (2004) and "Baby Blue" (1988)— as the tentpoles of a throwback heartbreak song.

"It might have been done before, but in my experience, I had never seen a song namedrop song titles in a way that it's not just the titles," McCreery told Wide Open Country and other outlets at the No. 1 party for his three most recent singles. "Like, it actually makes sense in the story to the point where even if you don't know George Strait songs— shame on you if that's you! But if you don't, you can still listen to the story and understand the story. That's what made the difference to me with this one and what made me fall in love with it: just how clever they wrote the song with those titles in mind."

Singing his love for Strait brings things full circle for McCreery, whose country idol hand-picked "Check Yes or No" as one of the covers that propelled the North Carolina-born teen to a 2011 American Idol win.

"George is such an icon, such a legend, such a hero of mine," McCreery said. "He was my first concert, Greensboro Coliseum. It was him and Reba and Lee Ann Womack. The first time I met him, he tapped me on the shoulder and said, "'Hey Scotty.' I was speechless for like two minutes before I could even say anything."

The song's Jeff Ray-directed music video was shot at legendary New Braunfels, Texas venue Gruene Hall. McCreery gets to cross another entry off his Strait bucket list on Sept. 23 when he debuts on the same stage as a live performer.

"Going on the Opry stage, you're like, 'Oh my gosh, my heroes have played here before,'" McCreery explained. "Guene Hall is that same kind of thing. A lot of other acts beside George, but George really cut his teeth there, him and the Ace in the Hole Band. That's where they got their start. I felt it going there to film the music video, but we were just filming the video there. We didn't have fans packed in there to play a show and show them our music."

"Damn Strait" isn't the only ode to McCreery's childhood on 2021's Same Truck (Triple Tigers). He credits Brooks & Dunn for inspiring "It Matters to Her," a co-write with Thomas Rhett and Lee Thomas Miller.

"That just randomly happened as far as the nod to Brooks & Dunn just because I grew up listening to 'Red Dirt Road,' 'Neon Moon,' 'Indian Summer,' all of them," McCreery shared. "It was kind of the soundtrack to my life growing up. It kind of makes sense where that influence would come through in this kind of song."

After a six-year chase of his first No. 1, McCreery topped Billboard's Country Airplay chart with sentimental 2017 hit "Five More Minutes." Four subsequent singles —"This is It," "In Between," "You Time" and "Damn Strait"— reached the same pinnacle.

"I'm still kind of processing it, I think, because to me, it still feels like yesterday that my biggest goal —and I said this all the time— was I just wanted one song at the top of the charts in country music," McCreery said. "In my mind, that's when you know you've made it: you have a song on country radio that's really made it to the top. To have five in a row is just bananas to me. We don't take it lightly. We're celebrating, we're grateful and just having so much fun with it."

"Damn Strait" further elevated McCreery amid his hottest streak as a Nashville star. It's his first Top 40 entry on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart since 2011, when debut single "I Love You This Big" reached No. 11.

READ MORE: Brooks & Dunn's 12 Best Songs, Ranked