- Associated Press - Sunday, June 5, 2011

In their own style, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina are the newest duo on the country scene.

After the May 25 season finale of “American Idol,” the teenagers are together doing press like a team, and this team doesn’t roll alone: They’re equipped with publicists, security guards, managers, record label extras and their real bosses - their mothers.

Seventeen-year-old Scotty beat Lauren, 16, to become the season 10 champ, but the fact that they are both young country singers with similar goals puts them on the same career track.

Ahead of their “Idol” top 11 tour - which features stops in the District and Baltimore in August - they will visit Nashville to begin prep on their debut albums.

“We’re going to work with the record people down there and get some songs straightened out and hopefully I’ll get to listen to them, get to learn them,” Scotty said.

“American Idol” - the top-rated show on TV - can make you a star, but not all of the show’s winners actually come out on top. Remember Taylor Hicks? What about Ruben Studdard?

Lauren said she thinks country music fans are what kept her and Scotty in the running.

“Well, country fans are really loyal, so I think that’s why Scotty and I did so good,” she said. “We’re young and so we appeal to a younger crowd, and I think that the combination of those two things really helped us out.”

Scotty, from Garner, N.C., said growing up his friends listened to Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync, while he jammed to Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.

“I guess you could say I was the weird one. But, no, I was the one who listened to good music,” he said. Scotty said that uniqueness - along with his baritone-styled voice - is what led to his victory.

Scotty and Lauren are also on same page about recording pop music: While there’s interest, staying true to their country roots is their top priority.

Lauren wants to follow in season-four “Idol” winner Carrie Underwood’s footsteps, while Scotty said he is hoping to maintain a classic country sound with a “contemporary twist to keep it up to date.”

“With the album, I just want to establish myself as an artist and put my stamp on that album,” he said. “My main focus is going to be country music, that’s what I grew up with and what I love.”

So far, the country world has been accepting: The first singles from Scotty and Lauren have hit the Top 20 on the pop charts. Their label, Mercury Nashville, ran an ad in the Billboard Country Update, a web newsletter, welcoming the singers and thanking “Country Radio for a great start.”

But Scotty may already be on the pop route: His song, “I Love You This Big,” was co-written by Ester Dean, whose writing credits include No. 1 hits for Rihanna (“S&M,” “Rude Boy,” “What’s My Name?”) and Katy Perry (“Firework”). Miss Dean has also written for Nicki Minaj and Usher.

“[Miss Dean has] written a lot of other pop and R&B songs as well so … if we can get that kind of flavor in my songs and make it country and still make it current, then that would be fine with me,” Scotty said.

When asked if he felt pressure to match the success of Ms. Underwood - or surpass the disappointing sales from albums by previous winners Lee DeWyze and Kris Allen - the teen seems unfazed.

“I wouldn’t call it pressure,” he said. “I want to go out there and make the best record that I can, and I think if I do that people will buy it. It’s just up to me to put good songs on the album and get songs on that thing that people want to hear.”

Then he paused, and said: “I guess that’s kind of pressure.”

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