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Q&A: Cole Swindell

Cole Swindell has graduated from selling tour merchandise for Luke Bryan, writing songs for Florida Georgia Line, and opening for Kenny Chesney, to “Chillin’ It” at the top of the charts on his own.

G.K. Hizer
August 29, 2017

When Cole Swindell arrives in town for a Sept. 21 concert at The Joint: Tulsa, fans will be getting to share a night with one of country music’s hottest rising stars. After starting out as the songwriter behind No. 1 hits like Florida Georgia Line’s “This Is How We Roll,” Thomas Rhett’s “Get Me Some of That” and Luke Bryan’s “Roller Coaster,” Swindell launched his own performing career and has charted No. 1 singles of his own, including “Flatliner,” a collaboration with Dierks Bentley.

His ride to the top has included supporting slots on major tours by Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Florida Georgia Line, and Bentley, setting the stage for Swindell to move on to bigger shows of his own.

Q: You've got quite a few friends in country music. How essential have they been to your career?

A: I’ve been lucky enough to make some great friends in this business, starting with Luke Bryan. I sold his merchandise. That was my first job ever. Getting to travel the country with him and seeing what a new artist has to do, it was helpful in launching my career and making me want to write my own songs. Everybody since then that I’ve toured with, I’ve tried to learn something from. They’re the best at what they do, and I’ve been very fortunate to hang around those guys. 

Q: You had a publishing deal first and wrote songs for a number of country artists to get started. How much of a leap was it to branch out and become known for performing material yourself?

A: When I moved to Nashville, Tenn., it was all about songwriting for me. I’d been playing bars and singing cover songs; songs that I wish I had written. When I made that jump and went after a record deal, I’d kind of forgotten what it was like to be on a stage. After that first show, I knew that was what I was supposed to be doing. I’m just thankful I get to write, perform those songs, and see the reaction. 

Cole Swindell
‍Swindell won the ACM New Artist of the Year Award in April 2015.

Q: Although the music industry is shifting toward a more independent movement, country music (and radio, in particular) is still very label oriented. Even so, you released your first single independently, which ultimately landed you a record deal.

A: Without a record deal, it’s hard to get your music played, and for me, we had a song out that was on satellite radio called “Chillin’ It.” And that’s what landed me my record deal. The song blew up and the support was incredible. I’m thankful for “Chillin’ It” and for the Warner label for giving me a chance. 

Q: Although you'd already written hit singles for other artists, you basically came out of the gate with No. 1 singles.

A: I always put pressure on myself, but I think it motivates me and it just means that I care. I want to do the best I can. I want to have the best songs I can. Trying to follow up a debut album (Cole Swindell, 2014) with four No. 1 songs, there was pressure, but I knew I had songs like “You Should Be Here,” “Middle of a Memory” and “Flatliner” to keep things rolling. I just want to be saying something different every time. Now, thinking about a third album coming out sometime next year, there is always pressure, but I think it’s a good kind of pressure; it keeps you motivated and going on. 

Q: You've been fortunate enough to be part of some really big tours. How cool or intimidating was it to be in front of such large audiences?

A: Well, going from not having a record deal to playing in front of 20,000 people every night with Bryan on tour and more folks in football stadiums, there was a lot of adrenaline. It took me a while to realize I had to calm down. I’ve got to thank all of the artists who have taken me on tour. I was learning from the best in the business, and that gave me the confidence to get where I am now. 

Q: In between such large tours, you've struck out on your own. How do you approach those shows differently?

A: Yeah, a headlining show is a different game. As the support act, you only play anywhere from 30-60 minutes, but the headliners are usually up there for an hour and a half. These people paid money to see me, and it’s my job to make sure they have a good time. For people to spend their time and money with me, letting me sing some songs that I wrote, it’s always a huge privilege. I just want everybody to come out and get ready to have a good time. 

Q: So what's next?

A: We’ve got a new single coming out next, called “Stay Downtown” from You Should Be Here. That will be the last single we release from that album, and then I’m back in the studio. I’ve got some songs and I can’t wait for people to hear them, because I’m so proud of them. Some I’ve written; others have been written and sent to me. I think with the next album, maybe we’ll have a big powerful duet with a female artist. I don’t have any plans, anybody locked in there yet, but that’s something that I really think would get me on another level.

Cole Swindell
The Joint | Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa
777 W. Cherokee St. | Catoosa
Sept. 21: 8 p.m.
Must be 21 or older to attend

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