www.theclaycenter.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Country singer Scotty McCreery was running a little behind when his mom called to ask if it would be OK if the interview could get pushed back maybe an hour.It wasn't a problem, but the 19-year-old singer groaned, "Oh, God," and then laughed when he heard she'd been the one to call. Just the same, he said he really appreciated the extra help.McCreery, who performs Saturday at the Clay Center, is probably a little bit busier than your average country artist. Outside of touring and trying to squeeze in production for his upcoming, still untitled sophomore record, McCreery is a freshman at North Carolina State University, where he's studying communications. "College ain't no joke," he laughed. "I'm taking a full course load. It's 13 hours. It's Monday through Wednesday, and then we tour Thursday through Sunday."The schedule, McCreery acknowledged, makes for a lot of long days and occasionally having to do homework on the bus. That's what he said he was supposed to do, anyway, but he acknowledged it's sometimes hard to make it happen."It's all time management," he said. "I have to get that down, and once I get into a rhythm, it will all go smoothly."But right now, he's struggling, trying to strike that balance between being a college student and a country star.Of course, there's nothing that says McCreery has to do both. Since his "American Idol" win in 2011, he's been one of the major success stories from the TV talent show.His debut record, "Clear as Day," went platinum, selling more than a million copies. A Christmas record, "Christmas with Scotty McCreery," released last October, was certified gold. The singer has charted hits including "I Love You This Big," "The Trouble with Girls," and "Water Tower Town." He's also won several awards, including the American Country Awards Best New Artist and the CMT Music Awards' Breakthrough Video of the Year" for "The Trouble with Girls."Last year, he opened for Brad Paisley on the Glen Dale native's tour, and now he's headlining his own "Weekend Roadtrip" tour.McCreery is studying communications because he wants to understand the other side of the media he's part of. Going to college may sound like he is hedging his bets, making sure he has something to fall back on if the country stardom thing doesn't really work out. It's not."It's not a backup plan," he said, flatly. "I'm here because I believe in lifelong learning and because I wanted to have the college experience."He acknowledged his situation is far from perfect. Having to do shows on the weekend, he doesn't get the full effect of college life. He misses out on a lot of weekend activities, and what about his plans for spring break?"I think I'm working," he said and laughed. "Maybe I'll get to that somewhere on down the road."But maybe not. Sacrifices have to be made on both sides of his life in order for him to pull off both."It's just one of those thing that comes with maintaining that balance."Still, McCreery didn't feel like he was missing out on much, though he has less time for some things, including "American Idol.""I still follow the show," he said. "But I don't watch it quite as religiously as I did."He knows he's associated with the program. Aspiring singers often come up to him to ask about what they can do to do what he did: win the show."I don't have any secret," he said. "The thing I tell everybody is to just be unique. The judges hear thousands of singers, so you have to stand out. You've got to sing something cool."Aside from trying to fit in time to do his homework, McCreery thought the hardest part of this life was finding time to be with his family. When possible, he brings them out on the road with him."My dad is out with me now. My mom and sister might be out with me next week," he said.Sometimes they pitch in to help wherever they can."Everybody is helping," he said. "They want to, but it's not like they're looking to get a whole lot out of it."It's just family time, you know?"Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com or 304-348-5195.