Cole Swindell: The Cover Story

Cole Swindell dishes on his third album, All Of It, his upcoming tour with Dustin Lynch and Lauren Alaina and why he loves country music

Written by Lindsay Williams
Cole Swindell: The Cover Story
Cole Swindell; Photo credit: Joseph Llanes

Cole Swindell just might be county music’s biggest fan. In fact, he admits that he was just as excited about Eric Church releasing his new single, “Desperate Man,” as the Church Choir.

“My fans are the reason I have a career. If they didn’t show up, if they weren’t excited about the music, I don’t know who would be,” the singer says, adding, “I’m just like them. I came up a country music fan. I know exactly what it’s like to be a fan of somebody’s music, and I can’t fathom that they’re a fan of my music like that.”

That’s the reason Swindell’s fans will be the first to hear songs from his third studio project, All of It (Warner Bros. Records). Following a performance on NBC’s Citi Concert Series on TODAY the day of its August 17 release, he boarded a plane straight to St. Louis, where he began an exclusive six-city trek of headlining shows, treating his Down Home Crew to All of It top to bottom.

“If you’re going to have an album release party, why don’t you play the dang album?” he laughs. “I believe in every song enough to play every one of them. It’s going to be like you’re watching the album unfold.”

Cole Swindell; Cover art courtesy Schmidt Relations

Swindell doesn’t just believe in his songs, he lives them. And All of It is perhaps the most accurate reflection of the songwriter-turned-artist to date. During an interview at his label on Music Row, he keeps glancing back at the fresh album cover on display behind him, clearly pleased, yet humbled, by the LP he’s about to release. “This is the most real picture of me I think I’ve ever seen,” Swindell says of the relaxed photograph, which captures him outside wearing his signature ball cap. “There’s nothing forced, fake or serious. That’s me walking down a dirt road, laughing. That’s it. All of it. That’s me right there in a picture, and I think it describes the album—everything you’re going to hear right there. I think it reminds me of my dad, so I like it.”

Swindell’s father passed away unexpectedly in 2013, inspiring one of his biggest hits to date, “You Should Be Here.” The song is one of seven No. 1 singles he’s earned as an artist, in addition to three chart-toppers as a songwriter for hits by Florida Georgia Line (“This Is How We Roll”), Thomas Rhett (“Get Me Some of That”) and Luke Bryan (“Roller Coaster”). In fact, it was Bryan who gave Swindell his big break as a writer. He sold Bryan’s merchandise on the road for three years after college while honing his skills as a songwriter on the road.

These kinds of songs are the ones that are going to stick with people forever.

Since signing his record deal only four years ago, Swindell has garnered two CMA Triple Play Awards, an accolade presented to songwriters who have penned three No. 1 songs in a 12-month span. He was also named Music Row’s Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year in 2015, the same year he released his full-length debut. In addition, he’s the only solo artist in Country Aircheck/Mediabase history to top the charts with his first seven singles.

With “Break Up In The End,” All of It’s lead single, he’s poised to continue his red hot streak at country radio. The reflective ballad—written by Jon Nite, Chase McGill and Jessie Jo Dillon—is one of the seven songs from the new album on which Swindell does not have a writing credit. In fact, the singer only contributed his pen to five of the fresh tracks.

“I don’t have to write everything,” he admits. “These songs are all me. I wouldn’t have ever recorded them if I didn’t believe every word of them.”

Swindell says he’s honored to record songs written by some of the best songwriters in Nashville. All of It includes credits from aces like Brandon Kinney, Dallas Davidson, Ashley Gorley, Jesse Frasure, Ross Copperman and Jessi Alexander, among others. “It’s pretty cool that they believe in me enough to let me record them,” Swindell says. “To know that they’re counting on artists to record their songs—that’s how they’re making a living—and for that to work out for me to find half of an album that I feel like I wish I would’ve written; as a songwriter, that’s a big statement.”

Credit: Cole Swindell; Photo credit: Robby Klein

Since he got his start writing songs for other artists, perhaps more than anyone he understands the blood, sweat and tears that are poured out daily on Music Row. “The ones that are successful are the ones that show up every day,” he says of the songwriters he admires. “They’ve got more number ones than I can even count, but they know the one day they’re not there, that could be the song that changes somebody’s life—maybe not even yours—but it’s a responsibility as a songwriter.”

“The Ones Who Got Me Here,” a song Swindell did have a hand in writing, honors all the people along the way who’ve made him the man he is today. “It’s probably my favorite song I’ve ever written other than ‘You Should Be Here,’” he confesses. “This song, to me, is about everybody. There’s been so many people—whether it’s teachers, preachers, my family, my friends, my college town, a church pew.”

The heart-wrenching “Dad’s Old Number”—a clear follow-up to “You Should Be Here”—could easily bear Swindell’s name as a songwriter. However, he was taking a nap when Jessi Alexander and Chase McGill started writing the track on his bus; and by the time he woke up they nearly had a full demo completed. “They played it for me, and I just knew that I wasn’t supposed to be a part of that song. As an artist, sometimes you overthink things, and I think I could’ve messed that song up somehow,” he reflects. “I know they had me in mind. These kinds of songs are the ones that are going to stick with people forever.”

The title track balances out the album’s more serious, emotional material with its feel-good vibe. “All of It” was a last-minute addition. The album was ready to go when Swindell heard the demo on his way to a West Virginia basketball game. He knew he had to go back into the studio. “I can’t imagine anybody else recording that,” he says. “That’s one of my favorite songs on the album, and I just thought it was a great title because I think we have ‘all of it’ from songs one through 12. I think it’s a little bit of everything you could feel as a human.”

I wouldn’t have ever recorded them if I didn’t believe every word of them.

Swindell will bring all of his human emotions on this fall’s Reason To Drink…Another Tour, alongside Dustin Lynch and Lauren Alaina. “This is a dream line-up for me being a headliner,” Swindell says. “Me and Dustin doing this thing together, having Lauren, it’s going to be big.”

The rising entertainer is taking headliner cues from some of the biggest superstars in the business, with whom he’s had the opportunity to tour—everyone from Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line to Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney and Dierks Bentley.

“I don’t have 90 minutes worth of number one songs. Before, I didn’t have much time and couldn’t really tell my story; but now, I’m getting to incorporate my story with my songs, and everything in the setlist has a purpose,” Swindell explains of his expanded set for the upcoming run of shows. “I want people to know more about me when they leave than when they walked in. I’m having to learn where the moments are in the show. It’s not just singing a song; it’s actually making moments.”

With All of It, he’s telling a story through song—his story. And with every moment Swindell creates on stage, he hopes he’s giving fans memories that will last a lifetime.

“I’m just a normal person, and I think that’s my message during my show, too. I want them to know that I’m just like you,” he says. “I know what it’s like for a song to mean the world to you, for an artist to mean the world to you. It’s not about me. This is about how I can tell my story so that it helps other people.”