What a difference a year makes.
"I was watching the show last year and it didn't even cross my mind that this could even happen," McCreery told reporters backstage hours after winning the title Wednesday night. "I think I've changed as a performer and as a singer. ... It's amazing what American Idol has helped me do."
Until host Ryan Seacrest actually read his name, the 17-year-old North Carolina native said he thought Lauren Alaina had won after she powered through a damaged vocal chord on Tuesday. "Last night, watching her sing, I thought she could really take this," he said. "I just kept saying, 'Lauren's got this.'"
Alaina, 16, said the same thing about McCreery. "I knew Scotty was going to win. At the beginning of the episode, I was like, 'Scotty, are you ready to win?'" she told reporters backstage. "I knew he was going to in my heart. I accepted it. I couldn't pick a more perfect person to get second place to. ... He's my best friend."
While McCreery credits Idol with teaching him how to be a performer, Alaina said the show taught her that she cries a lot. So why didn't she tear up during Wednesday's results show? Because she says it was a happy moment. "I didn't lose. I got second. That's still winning," she said. "How could I be unhappy with second place? There are a million people who would love to be in my position."
McCreery thanked his fans for pushing him through to the end, and said his main focus now is getting new material to those fans. "I want to go to Nashville and get cracking on this album. ... I think it's my duty to get the fans the music as quick as possible," he said. "I owe it all to them. They're the ones who put me through every week, and I'm humbled they really want to keep hearing my music."
McCreery also hinted at the possibility of a duet with Alaina. "I hope so. We've talked about it for awhile," he said. "I think we sound great together so I think it would be a wise choice for the album."
Although he hopes they'll make beautiful music together, McCreery shot down rumors that the two are also romantically involved after Alaina refused to answer the question and told reporters to ask Scotty. "She's a character, isn't she? She really is. Nah, we're really close friends," he said. "We're not dating. She's just being funny."
The other burning question of the night: What model of Ford car is McCreery going to get?
"An F-150," he said. "I gotta get a truck."