Cole Swindell is no stranger to a No 1 song! Gathering with friends, family and industry members, the country star celebrated his 12th No. 1 hit as an artist and 13th as a songwriter with the 5 week chart-topper “She Had Me At Heads Carolina” with a special party at the BMI HQ in Nashville, Tennessee earlier this month (December 4).
Interpolating Jo Dee Messina‘s iconic 90’s hit “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” it came to no surprise the song was one of the biggest of the year.
“I think that’s a lot of reason [it did so well] was because it was already a hit. I was playing it in my live shows and that might have been the only part they knew of the song, but they were ready when it said ‘Heads Carolina, Tales California,” Swindell laughed when asked about the track during a media session ahead of the celebration.
The huge song came together in an eerily similar way for both Cole and Jo Dee, barely making it on either of their albums. Already telling his label the album Stereotype was finished, Swindell was under immense pressure to finish the song as quickly as possible and was “scared to death” to see the public’s reaction to the interpolation.
“I’ve never felt that kind of pressure ever because you’re never under the gun like that. Like, “Hey you gotta finish it today or your album may never get out and it had already been three years. But I can’t imagine that album without that song.”
Though they were successful with their deadline, it didn’t come without running into several challenges along the way, including whether or not to include Thomas Rhett on the track.
“It was tricky because you’re trying to figure it out,” hit songwriter Jesse Frasure shared. “Originally we were like, “This is gonna be a duet with Thomas Rhett and Cole. Do you flip a quarter? Who gets to talk to the girl? How do we do this? And then that kind of started to feel forced and hokey.”
Songwriters Ashley Gorley, Frasure, Rhett, and Swindell decided that instead of rewriting the song, they would make a tribute to the original one to make sure it was featured on the upcoming project.
“The way it kind of flushed out being a tribute to the original song I just thought was so cool. If you’re gonna do an interpolation, rather than just rewrite the song, what a cool way to just honor the song inside the new song. So it was pretty amazing. And then to see Jo Dee do the surprise and remix, it kind of came together when Cole played it at the release party and people already knew the words I was like, “What is happening?,” he continued.
Interestingly enough for Messina, the original “Heads Carolina, Tails California” came to her in her mailbox after she’d already finished her album. Having spent much time and effort on her debut self-titled project Jo Dee Messina, which was produced by Tim McGraw and Byron Gallimore, she felt reluctant to give it a listen when original songwriters Tim Nichols and Mark D Sanders called with the freshly written future hit.
“I’m like, ‘We’re done.’ And Tim goes, ‘Well just listen to it. I’ll put it in your mailbox on the way home.’ she told Celeb Secrets Country. “He drove, put it in the mailbox, and then I listened to it and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to play this for Byron and Tim.'”
“The only day we could record it was July 4th because everything was booked and the album was done. And when you say the album is done, that sucker and all the parts gotta be turned in pretty fast. So that was kind of the same story that happened with Cole,” she continued.
Even though Messina recorded the song, getting it on the already finished album didn’t come without a fight. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and receiving a phone call from Gallimore and Sanders extending their love and positive thoughts, she realized she never got to thank them for how the hit song changed her life — and in turn — Swindell’s life. Breaking down into tears during the media session, Messina recalled their emotional “full circle” encounter.
“We did a show together this past summer and I got to say, ‘I got the call, I got the message, but I never got to say thanks for a great life,'” she shared. “It makes me cry because I was like, ‘We’re always in each other’s corner.’ But I never got to say, ‘Because he fought like that.’ He always fought for stuff, including the original version of this song. So that was just full circle. I get to say, ‘Thanks for great life, for knocking down doors for me, then, which opens the doors for Cole now.’”
Swindell fans will be excited to know the country star already has another batch of songs and a new album in the works, however, he isn’t sure when exactly it’ll be released. If his latest single “Three Feet Tall” is any indication of whats to come it’s obvious fans will not be disappointed.
Written by Jordan Walker, Trannie Anderson, and Trey Lewis the emotional song tells the story and struggle of a young child’s experience with his parents divorce.
“My last album took three years to get right. So hopefully this one isn’t gonna take that long but I do know the importance of every single song. There’s one about my mom I wrote called ‘Heads Up Heaven’ that I’m very excited to get out. But we’re not gonna have all sad songs, I promise. We’re gonna have the fun songs too,” he says.
The overall main goal for the Georgia native’s fifth album is finding the balance between helping fans through emotional hardship with songs like “Heads Up Heaven” and “Three Feet Tall” while making sure they still have a good time at his live shows.
“The older I get and every time I get to release a song like “Three Feet Tall,” I’m just reminded of why I originally fell in love with country music. You don’t know how long you’re gonna get to do this and you better help people while you get to do it.”
Let us know if you’re excited for new music from Cole Swindell by either leaving a reaction at the bottom of the post or by sliding into our DMs on Instagram at @celebsecretscountry.
LISTEN TO “SHE HAD ME AT HEADS CAROLINA” NOW: