GARNER, N.C. -- The list is long: Clay Aiken, Fantasia Barrino, Kellie Pickler, Chris Daughtry, Bucky Covington, Anoop Desai and now Scotty McCreery. North Carolina keeps turning out strong contenders on "American Idol."
This week, the 17-year-old McCreery is performing in the finals of the show and folks in his hometown say win or not, America should get ready for a major star.
"He is just such a great kid and he has such a great spirit," said Kathy Pineau, who works with McCreery's mother.
"We realized he was good, but I don't think it crossed any of our minds that he would be in the top," Colin Perry said of his best friend.
We talked with Perry as he got ready for his own performance as part of Garner Magnet High School's Advanced Choral Group, called the Die Meistersingers.
"We're a very prestigious group, obviously, for those who have real experience in chorus. We're missing a big part of the choir, a member of the basses," said Perry.
Before he sang Josh Turner, Scotty McCreery sang choral classics.
"People hear his voice and think, you know, he's grown up a country boy just living on that," but that's not the case, Perry said.
But fellow classmate Will Norris says the transition made sense.
"You know, like his idol Josh Turner ... Josh actually sang bass in his high school choir and that is Scotty right there," Norris said.
The high school choral department is lead by Meredith Clayton, who admits a little surprise when McCreery first opened his mouth on Idol.
"I taught him for three years and he was singing choral music so well and blending in but he didn't have that twang in there," said Clayton. "And the first time his mom sent me a video of him singing country, I thought, 'Oh my goodness.'"
Clayton is ecstatic her student has gone so far. She even travelled to Los Angeles to see him the week he and the other contestants sang songs written by Carole King.
"To watch him go through this, it is an honor to be his teacher," she said.
At the same time Clayton's students -- without McCreery -- started their spring concert at a Garner church, thousands of fans packed the gymnasium at nearby Garner Magnet High for a Scotty McCreery watch party complete with a cardboard cut-out, countless signs and fans of all ages, many buying T-shirts from Tammy Nowell.
"We had little bitty kids come up wanting a 3x and 4x, (sizes) just so they could have a Scotty shirt because that was all we had left. We're sharing him with the world now. That voice is wonderful," she said.
No matter what happens on 'Idol,' McCreery already knows he has a career ahead of him. He shared that much with his friends back home.
"He's given us a little bit of inside scoop. Nothing too much but just saying how people are definitely seeking him out and wanting to sign him and everything, but we'll see how 'American Idol' finishes up," Perry told us.
After several weeks of crowds gathering at the high school, the final Scotty McCreery watch party will be held at the 20,000-plus seat RBC Center in Raleigh. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and his buddies expect a huge crowd and ultimately, a victory.
"Either way you've got to be proud of the kid. He's done so much. He's gone so far more than probably anyone gave him a chance to," said Perry.
Norris added, "He's been himself the whole time. So what you see on TV is the real Scotty."