Julia Cole perched on the edge of her stool, her wavy blonde hair cascading over her shoulders with her guitar resting on her knees. She strummed the opening chords of her new single, "Thank God We Broke Up," for the packed house at Nashville's famed Bluebird Café and started to sing.
"Thank God we broke up, 'cause you wouldn't grow up, drink so much you'd throw up, and leave me at the party," the lyrics flowed.
The crowd chuckled at the line about vomiting, but the song resonated. When she shared the song on TikTok before it was finished, it garnered 1.4 million views and 67 million cumulative streams. The response pushed her to revisit the sing-along break-up anthem, and when she released it to streaming services, "Thank God We Broke Up" collected more than 200,000 streams and was added to a multitude of editorial playlists in its first weekend.
"I was really excited because you love when you write something that resonates with people, and there's nothing more obvious than whenever something is getting commented on and shared, which makes it go viral," Cole said. "But when people started saying things like, 'I'm gonna get back with my ex-boyfriend if you don't release this song,'… I was like, 'Oh no, all these people depend on me to save them from a toxic relationship. I've gotta get this out immediately.'"
Cole explains that it's not as easy as it sounds. First, she had to write the verses to the song. Then "Thank God We Broke Up" had to be recorded, mixed and mastered. After that's complete, it takes weeks for the music streaming services to be able to upload and adequately set up a song for success.
"People think you can just put something out on a whim," she said. "But you have to coordinate … so many pieces."
The song isn't a how-to guide on how to dump an immature love interest; it's a reminder of why to stay away when feelings of loneliness creep in.
"When you start to feel yourself falling into that rut, if you listen to this song, it can remind you of the key points of what so often happens in a toxic relationship," she said. "It talks about the other partner prioritizing partying and alcohol over you and your relationship, them not liking your friends, changing your behavior, changing who you hang out with, and changing the things that really make you happy to try and please this other person. I think it can trigger reminders to these women of like, 'Oh, this is why I left. Don't go back.'"
Cole is one of country music's most prolific new artists. She was named one of CMT's Next Women of Country in 2022, and she releases, on average, three new songs every month. Her next song, "Worst Day," is a duet with Charles Esten, available May 6. The pair recently performed it on the Grand Ole Opry.
The Texas native says the song is the first she and Esten wrote together and that she's "obsessed" with it.
"I'm in a relationship, and he's happily married, and we both wrote it about the person that we love," she said. "It's just a message of, 'I would literally rather go through the worst day in the world if it means you're by my side because that's still better than the best day without you.' I'm just so excited for people to hear the song and share it with the one they love."
Cole performed the show at The Bluebird, presented by BMI, alongside some of her fellow CMT Next Women of Country. Lily Rose, Camille Parker, and Jenna Paulette also showed up to give the sold-out crowd a memorable night of music. Cole said that being part of the 2022 CMT Next Women of Country class has already afforded her unforgettable opportunities – including walking the pink carpet at the 2022 CMT Music Awards.
"It really opened my eyes to the feeling that I belong here," Cole said. "I'm so grateful to CMT for that opportunity because so much of succeeding in this industry is believing that you can and believing that you belong there. The validation from a TV network that I grew up watching and have seen all of my idols perform on, that validation from them means the world to me."