"The world shut down and I had nothing but time to sit there and pick up a guitar and strum ideas and write songs," the singer-songwriter tells PEOPLE

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Back in May, Scotty McCreery found himself in a state of shock.

His beloved and seemingly healthy Uncle Mark found himself in the hospital, suddenly fighting for his life. During those painful days, in an effort to create a bit of levity in that cold and stark room, the family would play McCreery's then almost completed new album Same Truck. But still, the 61-year-old man who had spent his life building engines for race cars remained mostly unresponsive.

That is, until the song "How Ya Doin' Up There" began to play.

"He hadn't spoken a while or moved for that matter, but that day he kind of lifted his fist up as soon as he heard the song," McCreery, 27, tells PEOPLE in a recent interview about the stirring song he wrote alongside Monty Criswell, Derek George and Tyler Reeve. "It just showed me again how special that song is."

scotty mccreery
Scotty McCreery
| Credit: John Shearer

McCreery would ultimately lose his Uncle Mark in June, nearly four months before the current release of his new album. But ultimately, the song now lives on Same Truck and serves as yet another example of the faith that weaves not only through the life of McCreery, but through the music he has put out since the moment he beat out Lauren Alaina for the top spot on American Idol back in 2011.

"Faith is something I lean on daily," he explains quietly. "I've definitely had to lean on it a lot in the last year and a half, you know, with the craziness of the world."

Indeed, it was the craziness of the world that went and caused the multi-platinum selling singer/songwriter to completely rethink and partially recreate his fifth studio album, most of which had been completed before the pandemic wreaked havoc.

"I had a lot of outside cuts actually the first time around," remembers the North Carolina native, whose new album now includes 12 songs, 10 of which were written by him. "But then the world shut down and I had nothing but time to sit there and pick up a guitar and strum ideas and write songs."

scotty mccreery
Credit: Triple Tigers Records

He went and wrote those songs with a newfound confidence, having hit a point with his 2018 RIAA gold-certified album Seasons Change where he no longer found himself proving himself with every note. In fact, chart-topping songs such as "Five More Minutes," "This Is It" and the gold-certified "In Between" seemed to finally cement McCreery's place as a future legend within the country music industry.

"I just felt like for the first time I was comfortable expressing those feelings and letting people know who I was as a guy and as an artist and not shying away from that," says McCreery, whose current single "You Time" seems to be on a fast track to No. 1 on the country music charts. "It seems like people responded to that. It's what I'm going to try and continue to do, to write from that personal point of view and tell stories like we do in country music."

And yes, there does seem to be a noticeable maturity on Same Truck, from the songs he sings to the photos he poses for.

"Yeah, I started picking them weights up a little bit," McCreery chuckles when asked about the album cover of Same Truck, in which the singer-songwriter seems to show off some newfound muscles under his stark white t-shirt. "We've got a gym in our garage now, so I finally starting to use them a little bit. They just sat there collecting dust for a little while."

scotty mccreery
Scotty McCreery
| Credit: Jeff Ray

It's a strength that is just one of the many pieces that make up the man who also finds himself completely and utterly in love.

"She's tremendous," McCreery raves about wife Gabi, who serves as inspiration for a number of flirty album cuts such as "Why You Gotta Be Like That" and the downright steamy "That Kind of Fire." "She's the biggest part of my life. We've been together nine years now and married for three. She's our family's rock."

The word 'family' floats out of his mouth almost effortlessly, seemingly referring to the family he has created alongside Gabi and their much-loved dog Moose. But one must wonder ... are kids in the cards?

"Um, yeah, I hear 'ya," he says with a shy smile. "We're three years into this. When we got started in the marriage, we told each other we wanted to live life. We wanted to go travel. We wanted to go do things. And I would say we have done that at this point. So, it's definitely a conversation that's being had!"