Cole Swindell remembers the first time he played a concert in Frederick. It was the Fourth of July and he vividly remembers watching the fireworks through the back window of his bus.
“Back then, we only had one bus,” Swindell said in a recent phone interview from Fredericksburg, Virginia.
A lot has changed for Swindell since that visit in 2014, including the number of buses he tours with. “Now we have three,” he said.
Those buses will be rolling into Frederick on Sunday, Sept. 17, as Swindell headlines the grandstand stage entertainment at The Great Frederick Fair. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $48 reserved grandstand seating and $53 general admission track, standing room only. Ticket prices include admission to the fair, but not parking.
Back in 2014, he also only had one No. 1 single, “Chillin’ It.” Since then, the singer/songwriter has been on a No. 1 roll with seven consecutive singles to top the charts at No. 1 and he received a second CMA Triple Play Award for penning three No. 1 songs within a 12-month period: “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey,” “Let Me See Ya Girl” and “You Should Be Here,” a very personal song he co-wrote with Ashley Gorley after the death of his father in an accident. That song is certified Platinum, surpassing 1 billion (yes, billion) impressions across all formats with more than 1 million equivalent track sales.
Not bad for a guy who never picked up a guitar or sang a song until he was college-bound.
“The past four years have been the best of my life,” Swindell said, “between awards and No. 1 songs, I’ve been extremely fortunate. I’ve been around the business long enough to know this is extremely fortunate and I’m relishing every minute of it.”
Born in Savannah, Georgia, Swindell’s family moved to tiny Bronwood, Georgia, when he was a kid. How tiny was the town? His high school graduating class had 23 people. “It’s the small town you hear about in a country song,” he said. Reba McEntire was about the only country music headliner to play near his small town, and he saw her shows, as well as Brooks and Dunn. Eric Church is also a musical influence for him.
His full name is Colden Rainey Swindell. “I know, it sounds like a weather forecast,” he said. “Kids would laugh about it but, especially now, I’m proud to have the family name.” Cold Rainey is his maternal grandfather’s name.
As a kid, he listened to a lot of country music with his granddad, but never sang in church, the school choir, anywhere, until the summer before college when he would get with friends who played their guitars while he sang. He got a lot of compliments on his singing and that got him to thinking that maybe he could be a country artist.
He headed off to Georgia Southern University and started playing music at local bars “singing whatever was popular,” he said. “I wasn’t writing, just singing.”
GSU alum Luke Bryan came to GSU to do a show. “I had to restring his guitar on the steps in front of the fraternity,” Swindell recalled. “Here I was just started playing bars and he played a song he had written in Nashville. That’s what fired me up. He was the first one to make me want to write songs.
“I love to make somebody else feel that feeling,” Swindell said. “That’s what I like about country music. I know what it feels like to have a song that crushes you, makes you feel good.”
It wasn’t long before he left college for Nashville, and connected with Bryan, this time taking a job selling merchandise for him at concerts for three years. “It allowed me to see what the business is like, how you should treat your crew, your band, they’re like family,” Swindell said, and it gave him time to start writing songs because he knew if he was going to make this work, he had to be a singer/songwriter.
“Now I’m up on stage with someone selling my merchandise!” he said. His first concert tour was with Luke Bryan. “It took a lot of work to get to where I am,” Swindell said. “There’s a reason I didn’t get into this until later. I was the guy tailgating out there in the crowd.”
While many artists say they started singing as a kid, he believes all the years of listening to music as a kid gave him “an ear for songs. You’ve gotta have that in your head, at least think you do.
He’s also toured with Jason Aldean, been on Kenny Chesney’s stadium tour, with Florida Georgia Line and just finished touring with Dierks Bentley’s What The Hell World Tour.
“I can’t pick four bigger tours be on,” Swindell said. “All those guys helped me.”
Bentley also “helped” him on his recent single “Flatliner.” It’s a song Swindell wrote a few years ago and thought it would be a fit for Bentley. He was surprised when he agreed to join him on the record.
Last month, Swindell released “Stay Downtown,” the fourth single from his second album (“You Should Be Here”). The song is not one he wrote, but “I knew the first time I heard it I had to have it,” he said.
It will be the last single from the album and it could be his eighth No. 1, joining “Chillin’ It,” “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight,” “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey,” “You Should Be Here,” “Let Me See Ya Girl,” “Middle of a Memory” and most recently, “Flatliner.” He expects to release new music in 2018.
“I take a lot of pride in my live shows,” Swindell said. “There’s a lot of energy. One of the biggest compliments I get on social media after shows is ‘you can tell you love what you do.’ Fans have your back.”