Cole Swindell

Success of Georgia native's independent debut single leads to pact with Warner Bros.

Country newcomer Cole Swindell recently recalled his first concert experience was Randy Travis. The singer was one of his earliest influences, as he recalled yesterday to Billboard.

"Growing up, it was 90s country that really inspired me. He was recording such great songs. I had all of his tapes, and he was my first concert. My grandparents took me," he said. Swindell now shares something in common with the country legend – a recording deal with Warner Brothers, signing a pact with the label yesterday.

"When I moved here, that's what I moved here for – a record label like that," he said, beaming. "It seemed so far away and unattainable. It's crazy to have them believing in me this much. I've had a chance to meet with every department there, and I know in my heart that I made the right decision. It was a tough choice, and very stressful, but this was where I felt most like home."

Swindell's situation is quite different than that of most newcomers -- as he was courted by several of Nashville's top labels for his services, and with good reason. Without the help of a label, his debut single, "Chillin' It," has sold over 100,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. He attributes the success to word of mouth and a heavy dose of promotion through social media.

"I think that's why so much is happening so fast. To have a song that we believe in that the fans took control of, and the word started spreading, it's crazy. For the label to see those numbers and that it's already working, it's not such a huge risk for them. I think that's what led to me getting multiple offers. It's awesome."

The Bronwood, GA native is very aware of the odds of his story taking place. After all, Travis and Garth Brooks – two of his heroes – were both turned down by every label in town twice before being signed. "It's crazy to think that your heroes went around town and were turned down. Just think if they had given up, and country music wouldn't be the same. It's crazy to think that I have a record deal. There are so many talented people in town. I just believed I could do it, or else I would have never moved here." 

Swindell arrives at Warner Brothers with his debut album just about complete. "We've pretty much cut all the songs. That's one of the perks of writing the last few years. I've had a publishing deal, and that's all I've been doing." One of the songs he penned, "Water Tower Town," was a recent single for Scotty McCreery.

He says that the album will contain many different musical flavors. "'Chillin' It' is one that we felt was a great song to introduce us with, and I think you will be able to listen to some of my other stuff and tell who I am and where I'm from, I'm all about having fun, and there's a lot of fun stuff on there, but there will be a different side of me on the album too."

A key group of people who will be awaiting that release are the ones that have helped to get him where he is so far – the fans, and he says they have been very vocal with their support. "I've been getting messages and tweets from people who are wanting to hear more music. It's a good thing they're excited about it. I'm just as anxious as they are to get it out there."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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