Just a month after Cole Swindell toasted the chart successes of three singles with a pub crawl to three separate bars, he was back at a fourth Nashville saloon Thursday afternoon (Oct. 13) to celebrate the No. 1 status of “You Should Be Here,” the song he co-wrote to honor his late father.
Sharing the spotlight at Swingin’ Doors was Swindell’s co-writer Ashley Gorley. “You Should Be Here” is the singer’s fourth Billboard chartopper and Gorley’s 26th.
The party sponsors — BMI and ASCAP — apparently chose the hole-in-the-wall bar because it was only a block away from Bridgestone Arena, where Swindell was to perform later that evening on a bill with Florida Georgia Line.
By the time the party began, the celebrants were packed shoulder to shoulder in the tiny, dark room with its postage-stamp size stage. A mountainous security guard stood at the door checking credentials.
Cris Lacy, vice president of artist and repertoire at Warner Music, Swindell’s record label, opened the proceedings by reading the full text of the “Dear Nashville” letter Swindell had published a few days earlier in the Huffington Post.
In it, the Georgia-born artist expressed his gratitude to his adopted city for accepting and nourishing him as an aspiring songwriter and consoling him when his father died suddenly in an accident soon after he had signed his record deal in 2013.
“To Nashville, the [music] industry, the fans,” his letter concluded, “thank you for letting me live this dream. Thank you for giving me a place to write a song like ‘You Should Be Here.’ I will always be here for you like you’ve been there for me.”
The crowd remained uncharacteristically quiet as Lacy read the letter.
BMI’s Bradley Collins announced that the party was being streamed live, a first for a No. 1 party, he said.
Josh Van Valkenburg, Swindell’s publisher, praised him for turning his pain into music.
“In a moment of darkness,” he said, “you allowed yourself to be vulnerable enough to give us so much light, so much peace.”
He noted that Swindell had performed the song — which speaks to all mourned absences — at Freedom Tower near where the destroyed World Trade Center once stood in New York City.
“I just can’t believe I’m here talking about the most special song in my life,” Swindell told the crowd. “You’ll never hear another song that means more to me than this one.”
He recalled how songs had emotionally sustained him growing up. He said that as a kid he had clashed with a friend for refusing to loan him his tape cassette of Tim McGraw’s “Indian Outlaw.” On another occasion, he said, he looked all over town for a copy of George Strait’s “Check Yes or No,” only to finally find it in a boxed set he couldn’t afford. Clay Walker’s “This Woman and This Man,” he said, had comforted him through his parents’ divorce.
“After getting a taste of what music can achieve,” he said, “I think that’s what I’m here to do.”