When his self-titled debut album arrives Tuesday (Feb. 18), it’ll be just one more goal to cross off his list for the likeable, baseball-cap wearing former-fraternity brother.
He’s been accumulating co-writing credits like Craig Campbell‘s “Outta My Head,” Thomas Rhett ‘s “Get Me Some of That” and Scotty McCreery‘s “Water Tower Town,” and his debut single, “Chillin’ It,” has been certified gold and has climbed to No. 3 on Billboard‘s country airplay chart. Last but not least, his alma-mater Georgia Southern University is struggling to keep that dark blue cap in stock.
But there’s one piece of the puzzle that looms larger than all the others for Swindell — the live show he’s been perfecting as the opening act on his friend Luke Bryan‘s That’s My Kind of Night tour.
“The live show is big,” Swindell said during a recent visit to CMT’s offices in Nashville. “I want people listening to the album to be like, ‘Man, wait until you see him live.’ We have worked hard and [the album] sounds great, but live is when you get to see their reactions.”
In this interview with CMT.com, Swindell shares his perspective on his incredible rise, how much he values his friendship with Bryan and the un-real nature of his “day job.”
CMT: Everything is happening so fast for you. You’re even going to play at some football stadiums this year. How are you preparing for that?
Swindell: The only thing I can do to prepare is to play these arenas right now. We are out there, and Luke lets us use the whole stage, but I can’t imagine what that’s going to feel like running out there with thousands of people.
I know your background with Luke is often mentioned, but how did you get to the point in your music where you had the opportunity to meet him?
We went to the same college [Georgia Southern University] just at different times, and when I went to college I had just started singing. … I was playing at bars and, at that point, it was just cover songs. Then the day I met Luke, he played something he had written, and it made me want to write my own songs. That’s how we got started, and we kept in touch when he moved to Nashville. I always promoted his music down in Georgia and was just a fan of his music. When I got up here [Nashville], he needed a merch guy. That’s kind of how it happened, and it’s been crazy. He’s been good to me.
“Chillin’ It” is the debut single and also a Top 5 hit right out of the gate. You’ve mentioned in other interviews that it doesn’t really seem real to you, so what are you doing to try to appreciate it?
I think you have dreams, and when things start happening, it’s just hard. Especially for me, everything is the best that it can be for me right now, and it’s hard to believe that it’s happening like this. But I think I put myself in the position to make sure I was ready for it when the opportunity would happen.
To do what I love every day and have the support of the fans, it does not happen like this all the time so it is important to be thankful. … I know it doesn’t last forever, and we have to get it while we can.
What can you tell me about your latest single, “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight”?
I wrote it with Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, and it’s one of my favorite songs on the album. I can’t wait for people to hear it. I think everyone has been in that situation when it’s late at night and you’re just hoping the girl is missing you back.
A lot of the songs you have written are very modern in language but still have that everyday feeling — titles like “Outta My Head,” “Get Me Some of That” and “Chillin’ It.” Are you pulling from a new, more youthful style of country speaking?
I don’t think so. I just kind of go with what I am feeling and don’t think I have any kind of recipe for it. … I mean, that’s what drew me into writing. It’s fun, and sometimes you don’t get a great song. Sometimes you do. But the days you’re in there writing with people you love and it’s like a “guy’s day” — just writing and laughing — it’s hard to think I am doing this for a living … making stuff up.