Photography: Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
We caught up with the rising country music artist to talk about his accolades, forthcoming sophomore release, and more.
With only two years in the business, Cole Swindell’s success is on the rise. Named the 2015 ACM New Artist of the Year on the strength of his debut album, Swindell’s success has only just begun. Swindell’s much-anticipated second album, You Should Be Here, drops May 6 with its first single, the title track, already topping the iTunes Country Music Hot Tracks list. Before his performance at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, we had the pleasure of chatting with Cole Swindell.
Cowboys & Indians: You were just named the 2015 ACM New Artist of the Year and now your new single, “You Should Be Here,” has followed your last four singles, “Chillin’ It,” “Let Me See Ya Girl,” “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey,” and “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight,” into the No. 1 spot on the iTunes Country Music Hot Tracks list. How has this been for you?
Cole Swindell: Like a dream come true, to be cliché. When you get your record deal and start out on this crazy ride, you dream of things happening the way they have for me. That’s why I’m so thankful that I’ve had the support. It’s amazing the support I’ve had, and it’s only been two years. It’s pretty crazy.
C&I: We know you are a big fan of sports and played football in high school. How did you go from sports to music? Was there a specific person or event that inspired you to pursue a music career?
Swindell: You know I always say ’90s country music. George Strait, Tim McGraw, Tracy Byrd, all of them. I literally grew up loving country music, but I always played sports. I never sang or never dreamed I would be here. [Laughs.] I guess I wasn’t good enough to play anything in college so I decided I could play the bars, so I started doing that. I just loved when I got on that stage. I was just thinking cover songs back then. But just being able to entertain people and be in front of folks — the feeling of that is what made me realize I wanted to move to Nashville and do this for a living.
C&I: You wrote songs for big-name artists, including Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line, before signing a record deal with Warner Music Nashville. What was it like to finally hear your voice on the radio?
Swindell: [Smiles.] Pretty special. ... A little weird, though. First, I had to get used to hearing a song I wrote on the radio with my buddies singing it, so that was pretty amazing. But then, when you’re sitting there listening to yourself for the first time, it’s just a flashback to those days as a kid, not even dreaming that that was where I was going to be. However many years later — you know — it’s just crazy! To hear it, it just sounds like all the work was worth it. It’s an amazing feeling and it still never gets old. I’m like, There’s no way this is real. It’s been cool, though.
C&I: How was your experience touring with Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, and Jason Aldean? Is there anything that you learned from them that you have developed in your own career?
Swindell: I mean, if anything, I think you have to be yourself up there on stage. They all put on great shows. I hope that I get to do this as long as they all have, because they’ve been in the game for a while, and it’s tough to do that in this business and to always put on a show. [The way] your crew treats people and the way you treat people is a big deal. All those tours have treated us amazing and I think that’s what I want to pass on — that hopefully I get to take some younger guys on tour with me someday and treat them the way I was treated. It’s pretty amazing being with people like Kenny Chesney and him hanging out and just being a normal person to you. It’s just pretty cool.
C&I: Your new album, You Should Be Here, drops May 6. What are you most excited about?
Swindell: I think just for the fans to hear what’s on this album. I mean obviously that first single, “You Should Be Here,” that’s the album title. I think it’s a little deeper. Still got some fun stuff on it, like I had on the first album, but I think the songs, I think they're better, and I think that’s me maturing a little bit. And also recording outside songs from the best writers in Nashville, I think that helps.
C&I: The new single drew thousands of fans to share their personal stories. What is it like to get such a response from your music?
Swindell: I think the reason I fell in love with country music is because it was relatable and, whether it was my parents going through a divorce or something else, there was a song that kinda helped me, you know? I just think it's real-life stuff. I hate the circumstances that made me write this song but just to see how powerful music can be makes it all worth it. To me, if a song can move you to tears, or all these stories I’m reading about ... what it means to [fans], thanking me for writing a song. And I just thank them for listening to my music. But I’m glad to be able to finally put out a song that helps folks.
C&I: “You Should Be Here” highlights the emotions of loss. What does this song represent to you and what do you hope to convey to your audience?
Swindell: To me, it’s personal. I lost my dad a couple years ago and it’s kinda what it means to me. There’s just all these moments like this right here: getting to play the Houston Rodeo. There’s lines in there, “You’d be lovin’ this,” “You’d be freakin’ out,” and that’s how it was. Just about the moments we all miss people, whether they’re gone or just out of town. There’s always birthdays and newborn babies and weddings and all this stuff I haven’t experienced yet without my dad, but it’s just crazy hearing other people’s stories, and it’s heartbreaking. To the fans, I want them to know that what they’ve let me know, that I’m not alone in losing somebody like that — I think that’s what’s cool about the country music fans. They’ve got my back, and I just want them to know that I’ve got theirs, too.
C&I: How does “You Should Be Here” set the tone for your new album, and how is it going to be different from your debut album?
Swindell: “You Should Be Here” is the most special song I’ve ever been a part of, ever written, ever sang, all that, so I think that sets the tone for a big album there. It’s going to be tough to follow up with a song like that. I just had to put my best songs, whether I wrote them or not. I think we’ve got a great album. I love my first album, so I don’t know what to say other than I think these songs are ... I just think they're better. I think we all get better as we go. I just think the songs are better, and I think that there’s a couple that I got to say some different things that I didn’t get to say on the first album. And I hope everybody loves it, because I think “You Should Be Here” has everybody’s attention, so we’re excited about the rest of the album.
C&I: With all your success and busy schedule, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Swindell: Lying on the couch. [Laughs.] I’m pretty tired when I get home, but I do love golf. It’s my favorite thing, so now that the weather's getting back, I’m gonna be hopefully playing as much golf as I can.
Cole Swindell is currently on tour. See tour dates at www.coleswindell.com.