In early 2016, hours before he was set to appear as a mentor on American Idol, Scotty McCreery got terrible news: he had been dropped from his record label.

When the initial shock wore off, McCreery panicked a little, knowing he had written some of his best songs ever while signed, and that he'd have to fight for ownership of them. His lawyer spent the better part of 2016 trying to come to a deal with Universal Music Group Nashville so he could keep "Five More Minutes" and "In Between."

"I knew it was make or break for [my career]," McCreery tells the Tennessean. "I had just lost a major record deal. I hadn’t had music out since 2013. This had to work, and if I was going to bet my career on a song, it was going to be ‘Five More Minutes.'"

"Five More Minutes" Had a Deep Impact on Scotty's Dad

McCreery regained the rights by December 2016, and he decided to release "Five More Minutes" to country radio in 2017 — as an independent artist. Turns out he didn't need the record label, because the song quickly picked up steam, making it the first independently-released country song to ever chart on Mediabase.

The chart success had McCreery realize he was onto something with his songwriting, and he continued honing his skills. He has 11 writing credits on his new album, Seasons Change, released on March 16. Both "Five More Minutes" and "In Between" made the cut.

"I really tried to be the artist I wanted to be and write what I wanted to write,” McCreery says. “People are asking, ‘Does it feel good to get dropped and then have a No. 1?’ Yeah, it does. It feels really great, actually. It’s nice to be back and bigger and better than ever."

Where Are Country Music's Idol Finalists Now?