Three years ago (in 2014), Cole Swindell was just beginning to break out as an artist with the #1 country hit, “Chillin’ It.” Since then, the singer/songwriter has been on a non-stop winning streak with several chart-toppers: “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight,” “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey” and “Let Me See Ya Girl” from his self-titled debut album, which led to Swindell being named ACM New Artist of the Year in 2015. Then with his second album called You Should Be Here, he had two more hits with the title cut “You Should Be Here” and “Middle of a Memory.”
Before Swindell even had a label deal with Warner Bros. Records, he was a hit songwriter for Sony/ATV Music, where he co-wrote an impressive list of hits for Florida Georgia Line ““This is How We Roll”), Luke Bryan (“Roller Coaster”), Thomas Rhett (“Get Me Some of That”), Craig Campbell (“Outta My Head”) and Scotty McCreery (“Water Tower Town”). During that time, the 33-year-old performer also came up with the idea for his current heart-stopping Top 20 hit, “Flatliner.”
We are pleased to do this new interview with Cole Swindell. This is our second interview with him–three years ago we interviewed him about his earlier successes for a 2014 article. In this new interview, Swindell spoke to us prior to one of his shows opening on the Dierks Bentley’s What the Hell World concert tour, a few days after the two artists performed together on the ACM Awards.
Here is our new Q&A interview:
BC: You performed your new single “Flatliner” with Dierks Bentley on the ACM Awards. That must have been a special night.
Cole Swindell: I think back to my college years when I was just getting started playing in the bars, and before I even started writing songs and Dierks Bentley’s first album came out. Thinking back to those days, and here I am at the ACM’s about to perform a song I wrote with a guy that made me want to write songs. It’s one of those moments that was a lot of years in the making. It wasn’t just performing on the ACM’s—it was performing with somebody that I look up to.
BC: You’re opening up for Dierks on tour too. What’s that been like for you?
Swindell: Amazing! He’s always been one of my favorites, and to be out there and see things behind the scenes. He’s amazing on stage, but he’s also an amazing person off the stage…how he treats his people, how he treats me and my crew and band. It’s like we’re part of the family.
As a support act, hopefully, I’m learning for me and my guys, if we ever get to that point, which is our goal, to headline someday. The past three years being on tour with Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, now Dierks—I can’t imagine anybody better way to learn from than those folks.
Here’s the video of Cole Swindell’s hit single, “Middle Of A Memory.”
BC: I know you and Dierks have a lot going on, but do you ever have time to do any songwriting together out on the road?
Swindell: We’ve mentioned it in passing. I think we have to have that on the books, on the schedule, and maybe do it back home. You think you have time out on the road, but between his schedule and my schedule, it’s hard to write when you have to focus on meet-and-greets or I’ve got an interview in a couple of hours. I don’t think you can get in the right head space. I’m willing to try if he is. I do write on the road, but usually, it’s with a songwriter from Nashville, and that’s what they’re out here for. We’re not having to juggle two schedules.
BC: You’re in North Carolina as we speak. Can you describe the things you need to do, before you hit the stage?
Swindell: Typically, when the day starts off, we don’t have a lot going on until sound check. We usually try to ride to the gym or play basketball every now and then, something to get active and be off the bus for a little while because you’ll go crazy sitting on a bus all day. I like to get out and play golf sometimes. It depends on the schedule. Tonight I have a couple of interviews, and I have a meet-and-greet. We’re playing a festival, so I have a private meet-and-greet for the festival. It’s a lot of hurry-up and wait, but it’s all worth it whenever I get to step on that stage.
BC: What’s the story behind your current single, “Flatliner”?
Swindell: It’s a pretty crazy story. Back in 2012 or 13, I wrote this song before I had my record deal. When we wrote it, I thought it sounded like something Dierks Bentley would sing. I don’t think we had the right avenues back then to maybe make sure he heard it, and I don’t think it ever got to him. Years later, I told him about this song and about writing it for him. He was like, “No Way!” I sent it to him and he loved it.
A couple of years ago I was writing songs and trying to get whoever was out there with a record deal to record them. I was only songwriting every single day. It’s crazy to see how it’s all come together. I was trying to get Dierks Bentley to record this song, and then fast-forward a couple of years later, and he’s singing with me on it, on my second album.
I had two great co-writers on it—Jaron Boyer & Matt Bronleewe. Jaron’s had some songs recorded by Dierks. Bronleewe is an amazing musician, and the whole track he had built with guitars and everything was just rocking. It’s easier to write a song when you have something to listen to that gets you in the mood for writing an uptempo song.
Here’s the video of Cole Swindell’s hit single, “You Should Be Here.”
BC: Critics have said the songwriting on your latest album, You Should Be Here, has grown and improved, and that you showed a more vivid storyline with your writing. What’s your response to that?
Swindell: I think songwriting is one of those things that you have to do it a lot. I think the more you do it, the better you get because of experience. That was one of the things that was hard for me. I wanted to write the best songs possible right when I moved to Nashville. That’s not how it works. I think we’ve got the best country music songwriters in the world in Nashville, and being in the room with them and seeing how they approach ideas, I’ve been thinking deeper. I’m not settling with a line. You can tell that as you go and grow as a songwriter. You may have a line that’s pretty good. You think to yourself a year ago, I would have probably rolled on with this and thought it was the best I could do. Now, I’ve seen how my favorite songwriters write and how they take their time. Every little word is important. When you get a chance to be around the best writers in town a little more, you start writing more, and that hopefully makes you a better songwriter.
BC: The title cut to the album, You Should Be Here, holds a special meaning to you in a lot of ways because it was inspired by your late father? (Swindell’s dad died in the summer of 2013 when a truck he was working on fell on him.)
Swindell: Yeah. There’s obviously been songs before about losing folks. Me and (hit songwriter) Ashley Gorley wanted to write this one, where other people could also relate to it. It’s more about the moment than just loss. We all have somebody that I think we wish we were there to witness those things and make it that much more special. That’s why people relate to the song.
We’re all kind of in this club where we’ve lost somebody special to us whether it be a mother, father, brother, sister, and the list goes on. It’s unbelievable what this song has changed for me personally, as well as knowing that I’m not alone in feeling that way. I always dreamed of writing a song that would help people. I never could have planned it this way—losing my dad to have to write that song.
I’m thankful that other people have shared their stories with me. Honestly, it has helped me as much as anything else, I think.
BC: What’s coming up next for you?
Here’s the video of Cole Swindell’s new single “Flatliner,”
featuring Dierks Bentley.
Swindell: We haven’t started working on the next album other than writing. I’ve written a couple of songs out here on the road this year. We put [my second] album out back in May, and I’ve been focused on promoting that. It’s my favorite album so far. I wanted to [promote] this one as long as we can. There’s still so many songs I want to release off of it. We have to see what the timing is like. I’m sure by the end of the year, I’ll be back in the studio getting new music ready for next year.
I’m going to enjoy the rest of the Dierks’ tour and see what this single does and enjoy it, man. Hopefully, we’ll get to headline soon enough, but right now, I’ve still got a little learning to do from Dierks.
Bill Conger is a freelance writer for various publications including Bluegrass Unlimited, ParentLife, Homecoming, and Singing News and is currently writing a biography on The Osborne Brothers with Bobby Osborne. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is also on Google+