By Brian Ives
Cole Swindell still can’t get over his good fortune: months after recording “Flatline,” the leadoff track off his new album, You Should Be Here (due out today 5/13), he still can’t believe that the song is a duet with one of his favorite artists, Dierks Bentley.
Of course, it hasn’t all been good times and laughs for the up-and-coming country star. The title track of his new album is inspired by his father’s passing. The song, however, has resonated with fans all over the country, and has led to a partnership with USO.
A good natured Swindell spoke with Radio.com about both songs, as well as other songs on his new album.
Last year, you told me about the song “You Should Be Here,” before anyone had heard it. Now it’s out and it’s a huge hit; talk about how it’s resonated with listeners.
I moved to Nashville to be a better songwriter, and I never thought I would have to write a song like “You Should Be Here,” but to see the reaction, and to hear the stories from fans… so many people know exactly how I feel. “Hey, man, I lost my mom,” or “I lost my dad,” and it’s heartbreaking. But it makes me feel good that I have a song out that, hopefully, can help people get through things [like that]. I put it out hoping to help other people going through what I’d been through.
But I honestly think it helped me more than I ever dreamed it would. Shooting the video, going back to my dad’s grave, it’s all powerful stuff. But I think it’s so relatable because it’s real. There’s nothing not real about that song. And it’s so close to me. When you open up and let people in, sometimes you find that there’s a lot of people out there who are just like you.
It’s cool that you’ve used it to work with the USO.
There’s families all across the country that miss people, but there’s nothing like military families. They know, better than anybody, what it’s like to miss somebody. I know they’ve lost people. But they also have people overseas who are missing holidays, weddings, births, real life moments. And they sacrifice so much for all of us here to live freely, while they’re over there missing family time. And if you think about it… why wouldn’t you want to be involved in something that helps to put a smile on their faces? Let them know that we’re thinking about them. I know that a lot of our troops like country music, I would love to do anything I could to just help them out. I have a thing with the USO where you can “gift” my album to an active service member for a special price, and a portion of that goes to the USO.
I’m just glad to be singing songs that touch people. That’s why I fell in love with country music: it made me feel something.
It must have been tough to decide what song you would release after that one; it seems like more than just a song.
Coming off of “You Should Be Here,” I don’t know how to top that song, we just wanted to go with another song that we thought was great, “Middle of a Memory.”
Some songs transcend being “just a song.” Then again, Alan Jackson eventually followed up “Where Where You When the World Stopped Turning.”
He probably never had a song like that before, and there’s only certain circumstances that you can write a song like that about. You’re glad that you don’t have to write [too many of] those. I still have my mom around, I don’t want to have to write another song like that. “You Should Be Here” for me, people tell me that’s a “career song,” and I’m fine with that. If “You Should Be Here” is as good as I can do, I’m fine with that.
Tell me about working with Dierks Bentley on “Flatliner.”
To have someone like Dierks Bentley on there, he’s such a big influence on me. In college, I covered every Dierks Bentley song, it didn’t matter if it was a single.
I tried to let him know what a big deal that is to me; I’ve told him several times, and I think he’s tired of hearing it. “I get it!” He’s such a good dude, and hopefully I can get him out on stage one day to sing it with me.
At some point, I guess you have to stop geeking out over it and say, “He makes records. I make record. Now we’re going to make a record together.”
I think I said that an hour or two after he left, so that was a bit late. But I remember I was doing a vocal for another song that day, and it was the last song on my album, it’s called “Remember Boys,” it turned out to be one of my favorite vocals that I’ve ever done. But I had to take a break after Dierks left because I was so amped up from the fact that I’d just recorded a song with one of my big influences, and ”Remember Boys” is a serious, sentimental song.
I didn’t want to try to play it too cool, I wanted to enjoy it. But you can’t completely geek out.
Tell me about the country version of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” that you sang on.
I just sang a bit of it. I know that that’s a huge song, but I had to listen to it a few times to do my part. Which is embarrassing because: who doesn’t know that song? But I’m just glad they asked me to be in it.