At the start of the poignant video for his new single “You Should Be Here,” there is a real-life clip from 2013 of Cole Swindell telling his dad via cellphone that he had just signed with Warner Music Nashville. His dad, clearly elated, whoops and says, “How about that!”
Since that call, Swindell has gone on to release his debut album, play the Grand Ole Opry, hit the road with heroes like Kenny Chesney and Alan Jackson, win the ACM for New Artist of the Year, headline his own tour, and score four Number 1 singles, including “Chillin’ It” and “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey.”
Unfortunately, his dad didn’t get to witness any of that, as the elder Swindell passed away in an accident shortly after his son signed that record deal.
“This will be my third holidays without him,” says Swindell wistfully, of the man for whom “You Should Be Here” was written and whom he credits with passing on his musical talent.
Although the single is not set to go to radio until early January, the Georgia native wanted to release it now because he understands how it feels to miss someone at this time of year.
The response to the song and the video — which includes an emotionally wrenching visit by Swindell and his brothers to their father’s grave — has been swift and overwhelming.
“It’s only been a couple of hours and the stuff I’m already reading, it’s unbelievable,” says Swindell, recounting several fan stories filling up his social media feeds before the end of the day. “This is a new experience for me. I’ve experienced four hit songs but nothing like this and it’s only been since this morning.”
Written with Ashley Gorley on the bus in the parking lot of Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, Swindell says he was thinking about his remarkable year, his dad, and all of his friends back home.
“All the guys I grew up playing football with dreamed of playing football one day and I never dreamed I’d be playing music [at a football stadium],” says Swindell. “So here I am writing a song about losing my dad and thinking about my buddies and how they would freak out if they were here. Ashley said the title ‘You Should Be Here’ and I looked at him and I said, ‘Ashley, I have to write that with you.’ It hit me so hard. That’s what music does. Everybody takes it their own way, so for me it’s very personal about my dad but also, I want everybody to be able to listen and think about somebody they’re missing.”
The song also allows Swindell, who has co-written hits for Florida Georgia Line and good buddy Luke Bryan, to share another element of his songwriting personality. “I think this is just such a statement. I have had four chances to release songs and y’all have been supportive of all of them and I’ve got that side of me out there,” he says. “[The fans] know I love fun and I love to be on that stage but amongst all that fun I lost my dad and this is my chance to show that side of me. Life ain’t about just ‘Chillin’ It.’ I’ve learned that.”
As for that initial cellphone clip, Swindell says, “The first time [director Michael Monaco] tried to show me that right when he started, I couldn’t even deal with it. Now it’s been a little time and it’s kind of set in and like somebody else told me today, I don’t think it ever gets better, you just maybe learn how to deal with it better. I’m already getting advice! I was excited about the song and to help folks but, honestly, I never really knew how much it was going to help me.”