Cole Swindell, Shane Minor Share BMI Spotlight for “Chillin’ It”

Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line's Brian Kelley Offer Thumbs Up

BMI, the performance rights organization, opened its sunny and spacious sixth-floor balcony overlooking downtown Nashville Tuesday afternoon (May 27) for a party to honor songwriters Cole Swindell and Shane Minor. The two composed Swindell’s recent No. 1 single, “Chillin’ It.”

This was the first No. 1 celebration of the year to take place on the balcony, a favorite partying space for the local music industry.

Light winds nudged fluffy white clouds and set flags and banners flapping. In the distance, a new skyscraper had inched its way into the Nashville skyline.

A food table in the passageway leading to the balcony welcomed guests. Outside — and safely in the shade — a bar stayed busy fuelling the festive enthusiasm.

BMI’s Clay Bradley served as master of ceremonies. He retold the by-now-familiar story of how Swindell got a foothold in music by selling T-shirts for Luke Bryan at his shows.

“But this was really an apprenticeship for writing songs,” Bradley explained.

Bradley noted Swindell is becoming a hot property as a songwriter with writing credits on three singles now on the charts — Florida Georgia Line’s “This Is How We Roll,” Thomas Rhett ’s “Get Me Some of That” and his own second single, “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight.”

He also has three songs on Bryan’s megaselling Crash My Party album.

“Chillin’ It” is Swindell’s first No. 1, both as a singer and a songwriter.

“We’re going to give you a guitar and a cup [for that],” Bradley told him — and proceeded to do so.

For Minor, it was his seventh chart-topper, Bradley said.

“He treats people the way he does songwriting,” Bradley continued, “with humility, joy, kindness and skill.”

Bradley also brought Jody Stevens to the stage. Stevens, who is the son of Bryan’s producer, Jeff Stevens, produced “Chillin’ It” and played all the instruments on it.

At about this point, Bryan walked into the party, leading his wife, Caroline, by the hand. They moved quietly through the crowd greeting friends while the presentations continued.

Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, an earlier arrival, stood some distance away, watching the proceedings.

Guests who looked up rather than at the stage would have seen an object resembling a giant mosquito zig-zagging across the sky before suddenly disappearing.

It turns out it was a camera drone taking video footage of the crowd to be shown during Bryan’s tour, for which Swindell serves as an opening act.

The drone was operated by a photographer who stood in an out-of-the-way corner of the balcony using joysticks and watching what the drone “saw” on a small TV monitor.

Kerri Edwards, who manages Bryan and Swindell, told the crowd Bryan called her several years ago to see if she could “find something” for Swindell, who wanted to move from his native Georgia to Nashville and needed a job.

At first, she could think of nothing, Edwards said, but finally decided there might be a place for Swindell selling merchandise for Bryan. And so a career was born.

She saw Bryan in the crowd and asked if he had anything he wanted to say.

“Yes, I do,” Bryan shouted as he bounded toward the stage.

He was both eloquent and funny in his praise of Swindell.

At some of his early shows in bars, he said, the merchandise table was placed near the door. This was also where the bouncers disposed of unruly customers, often with considerable violence and drama.

Bryan said Swindell would regale them after the shows with stories of particularly bloody encounters.

“He would sell maybe $120 worth of merch, and his beer tab would be $80,” Bryan said.

Minor thanked Bryan for “championing” “Chillin’ It” and spoke of the joy of writing with Swindell.

The last to speak, Swindell said he always wondered what it would be like to have his own No. 1 party. He saluted his mother and brother, who stood nearby reveling in his triumphs.

Life is pretty good these days, he concluded.

“I’m on tour with Luke Bryan, one of the biggest artists in this format, and I’m being produced by my best friend (Michael Carter). … It puts a good kind of pressure on me,” he said.

Swindell neglected to mention he’s also attracting drones.

View photos from the No. 1 party.
Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.