Cole Swindell Talks Touring With Dierks Bentley, Appearing on 'Ellen' and the Value of Giving Back

Cole Swindell, 2016
John Shearer/Getty Images for ACM

Cole Swindell performs onstage during the 10th Annual ACM Honors at the Ryman Auditorium on Aug. 30, 2016 in Nashville, Tenn.

Since 2013, Cole Swindell has notched one hit single after the other -- with his first six solo singles all having been certified gold. In this past year, the Warner Brothers recording artist has seen his stock rise even higher, thanks to his duet with Dierks Bentley, “Flatliner,” as well as his spot on the singer’s recent What The Hell Tour. Swindell says he feels the momentum is as strong as ever before in his career, and he has his friend to thank.

“The Dierks tour was so huge for me,” he beamed to Billboard. “I’ve been on some great tours in the past during my career, and this year has been no exception. I’ve always been a huge Dierks Bentley fan, and everybody knows that, but what makes him so special is who he is off the stage, as well. He’s the kind of artist as I want to be. As long as I want to be around, I think you need people like Dierks Bentley to look up to, and call a friend, and that’s what I call him now -- is a friend.”

That exposure has led to some prime television gigs as of late, such as last month’s guest shot on Ellen, which he says was a career highlight. “Flying across the country to do the [show] was just amazing. Getting to go on there, and play [new single] ‘Stay Downtown’ was a huge moment for me. Being on television is such a big part of our world, and meeting her -- and Jamie Foxx -- was a great day not only for me, but for all the guys, who all work hard together. It might be my name on the dressing room, but we’re all in this together. There’s no feeling like knowing you’re going to be on television as soon as they say go. Your heart is just racing. I don’t know if that will ever stop for me, but I hope it doesn’t. It’s a one of a kind feeling, and one of those opportunities that, as a recording artist, you live for. It’s huge.”

Something else that is big for the singer is his participation in this weekend’s benefit for the JT Walk in Virginia Beach. Swindell and Jana Kramer will be performing a concert for everyone who participates in the walk. The event was started by Josh Thompson, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2006.  Since then, the community has rallied behind him, raising millions of dollars for the event, which benefits ALS stem cell research as well a twenty-acre activities camp called Camp Grom for wounded veterans, gold star families and families with kids who have disabilities. Swindell says he was honored to be asked to help raise funds and awareness for the organization and the event.

“I am always happy to help out organizations that help out the military and our children,” said Swindell. “The place cost 15 million dollars, and we’re trying to raise another $1.4 million to finish off the whole thing. Then, they will turn it over to the YMCA. I’m an ambassador for Diamond Resorts, and they’ve been a huge part of raising money for them. I just love good people, and the people at Diamond have been so good to me and have thought of me and Jana to do a concert and are trying to raise money for those who have paid the price for our freedom. Seeing everything they have put into making this whole camp is unbelievable. You’ve got to see it to believe it. I’m just proud to be a part of it.”

Just like with many of his contemporaries, Swindell says that giving back means a lot to him. He cherishes the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of his fans -- either through charitable works or his music. “There’s been several moments with the fans -- particularly with ‘You Should Be Here,' people have shared their stories of that one. There’s no better feeling to know that I wrote a song that has helped people the way that it has helped me.”

When asked about a certain instance of a fan interaction that touched him, the Georgia native didn’t hesitate. “There was a special person whose name was Chelsea. She was a med student at Louisville, and was hit by a drunk driver a few years ago. She was a huge fan before the accident, and had brain injuries and didn’t remember a whole lot, but they played her my music, and she remembered it. I met up with her and her boyfriend, who stuck by her side the whole time, and what a man that takes. That was one of the most inspirational fan moments. I still keep in touch with them. It’s amazing to think that music can be that powerful. She didn’t deserve any of that -- just a medical student going to school to try to help somebody else, and went through such an unfortunate event.  Now, she’s in speech therapy and is going to go back to school to help people in that position. It brings tears to my eyes to think of someone who is that strong. I’ve never had to deal with anything like that. So to know that someone like that is a big fan of mine, it means the world to me.”

All in all, Swindell says that it’s moments that like that make him savor every moment of his career climb -- regardless of how busy he gets. “It’s been a crazy four years, but sometimes you have to just stop and look at what you have done. There’s so much hustle that goes on in this business, and you’re always thinking about what’s next, but sometimes it takes my mama texting me, ‘Just think of what you’ve done over the past three months, or the last year,’ and when you think of it like that, it’s easy to be thankful. You dream of those opportunities like mine. As long as I can continue to live this dream, I’m gonna be happy -- and try to make other people happy.”


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