Cole Swindell Says Hearing Himself on the Radio the First Time Is When His Career 'Felt Real'

Cole Swindell
Jim Wright

Cole Swindell

If you find yourself in the company of Cole Swindell, there's one thing you might notice about the Warner Bros. recording artist: He's always smiling.

"I try to live every day and realize that there are so many folks working hard to try to get to where I am and how fortunate that I am. When I'm getting a chance to do my job or make somebody's day, and be on stage where I love, and see all the fans having fun, you can't help but smile. I want people to know that I am having fun. That's the biggest compliment I can get is when people tell me I'm having a blast out there -- if they only knew. I'm having the time of my life every night."

Friday night (Feb. 27) is no exception for the Georgia native: He's performing as part of the Country Radio Seminar's annual New Faces Show, which wraps up the event. To be voted on by radio as one of the artists on the show is an honor, and something he doesn't take lightly.

"The outside world might not know what CRS is, but we do as artists, and this is huge," he tells Billboard. "There are so many great new artists out there, and for me to be in that group, and play my music for country radio, you don't get that opportunity. You play shows all over the country and hope that radio gets a chance to get out to see you, but that doesn't always happen like that. For me to get a chance to play in Nashville for all the folks that have given a chance to this dream of mine, it means the world to me that they would include me in that."

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We've asked each of this year's New Faces artists for memories of their first radio tour. Once again, Swindell smiles, and says he found it nothing but fun. "Everyone at the label tries to prepare you for what you're walking into, but I enjoyed it. The traveling was a little bit intense, but getting a chance to meet folks that have given careers to all the folks that you've grown up listening to and start forming relationships with them is a very cool feeling. I'm just thankful I got to meet all these folks, and become friends with them. It's an awesome feeling."

In March, Swindell topped the Hot Country Songs charts with his debut release, "Chillin' It." He recalls exactly where he was when he first heard the track on the radio. "I was in Nashville at the parking lot of Sony/ATV, which is my publishing company," he recalls. "I was in a buddy of mine's truck and got to hear it, which was great. I wish I could go back to that moment and relive it so I could tell you exactly what it felt like, but that's when it felt real to me. It still sometimes doesn't feel real, but that was the first time I thought 'I'm really getting a shot."

Swindell's follow-up, "Hope You Get Lonely Tonight," topped the Country Airplay chart, and his latest, "Ain't Worth the Whiskey," is currently sitting at No. 7 on Hot Country Songs. He has also tasted considerable success as a songwriter, penning "Outta My Head" from Craig Campbell, Thomas Rhett's "Get Me Some of That," Luke Bryan's "Roller Coaster," and "This Is How We Roll," a hit for Florida Georgia Line and Bryan. Regardless of whether it's one of his own records as an artist or one that he was written for someone else, he says he's just grateful for the success.

"It's so cool to be recognized for that, because I moved to Nashville to be around the best songwriters and get better, to be able to sing songs that my buddies have recorded who are great songwriters themselves."

Swindell is looking forward to an exciting spring while opening for Jason Aldean on his 2015 Burn It Down tour. "It's been a blast," he says. "We're out on our second week. From being out with Luke to another huge superstar that I've come up listening to, and I have every album he's put out." This past Saturday, the tour hit Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, which Swindell said was a special night. "I got to play it back in 2013 with Dierks [Bentley] and Luke, but now getting to come back and be a part of the tour is really cool. It's also cool for me because of the band. They all played on Broadway, moved to town and tried to make it. For me to watch them to get to play that arena after working so hard for tips downtown just down the street is also a great feeling, for sure," he said, with that famous smile very much intact.