As a songwriter and a singer, Cole Swindell is one of the linchpins of the breezy country-pop sound that became known as bro-country in the 2010s. Swindell first came to prominence as a songwriter for Luke Bryan, a fellow alumni of Georgia Southern University, but around the time Bryan took "Roller Coaster" to number one, Swindell began his own climb up the charts. Swindell racked up several big hits in the middle of the 2000s -- "Chillin' It," "Hope You Get Lonely Tonight," "Ain't Worth the Whisky," "You Should Be Here" -- that became emblematic of the sound of mainstream country of its era: friendly, melodic, and sunny, blending elements of rock and hip-hop with country. Born in Bronwood, Georgia on June 30, 1983, Cole Swindell began to pursue music while he was a college student. After spending time at Dawson's Terrell Academy, he transferred to Georgia Southern University, where he happened upon Luke Bryan, a fellow member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. Bryan returned to GSU to play a show while Swindell was attending the college and the two became fast and enduring friends. Once he left university in 2007, he entered Bryan's team, selling merchandise for the star and spending his spare time writing songs. Swindell signed with Sony/ATV Publishing in 2010 and soon began landing prominent placements. Bryan recorded a number of Swindell songs, including the hit "Roller Coaster," but the fledgling songwriter also had Thomas Rhett, Scotty McCreery, and Craig Campbell cut his tunes. As he gained a foothold as a songwriter, Swindell made tentative steps toward a performing career, releasing "Chillin' It" independently in 2013. It did well enough to earn the attention of Warner Music Nashville, who signed Swindell in July of 2013, then re-released the single to country radio. "Chillin' It" wound up climbing to number one on Billboard's Hot Country charts, crossing over to 28 on the pop Top 40. "Chillin' It" launched Swindell into the mainstream, setting up the release of his eponymous debut in February 2014. The album generated two number one hits on the Country Airplay charts that year -- "Hope You Get Lonely Tonight" and "Ain't Worth the Whiskey" -- and they shared space on the charts with "This Is How We Roll," a song he co-wrote with Luke Bryan, who recorded the tune with Florida Georgia Line. As he worked on a new album, Swindell released an EP called Down Home Sessions in November 2014; the Down Home Sessions would become a late-year tradition for the singer, who released an EP every November or October into 2017. Swindell's purple patch extended into 2015, when he won ACM's New Artist of the Year award and "Let Me See Ya Girl" was pulled from his debut; it went to number two on the Country Airplay charts. "You Should Be Here," the first single from the album of the same name, was released in December 2015 and worked its way to number one on the Country Airplay charts in early 2016. "Middle of a Memory" reached the same position a little after the May 2016 release of You Should Be Here. "Flatliner," a duet with Dierks Bentley, kept the album in the charts into 2017 -- it peaked at two on Country Airplay -- after which time, Swindell turned to recording his third album. Entitled All of It, the record appeared in August 2018, preceded by "Break Up in the End," which peaked at six on Country Airplay. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Country - Released February 18, 2014 | Warner Bros.
Cole Swindell's first hit single, "Chillin' It," sounds a bit like Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" as performed by Luke Bryan, and there's a reason for that: prior to taking a stab at a recording career, Swindell was a songwriter, penning songs for Bryan, FGL, and Scotty McCreery. He's a behind-the-scenes bro, responsible for crafting the sound and feel of contemporary country, and his eponymous 2014 album demonstrates the attributes of his craft. Swindell knows his way with a hook, whether it's coming up with a clever title ("Ain't Worth the Whiskey," "Brought to You by Beer," "Dozen Roses & a Six-Pack") and worthy hooks along with melodies that escalate nicely, and the production by Michael Carter and Jody Stevens is crisp and clean, designed to fit within the contours of modern radio. The one problem with the record is that Swindell sounds like a songwriter, not a singer. He has a guy-next-door voice that's ingratiating but not compelling, never pulling listeners into the song. This is where the sonic similarities to Bryan and FGL become a bit of a detriment; it's possible to hear either sing the songs on Cole Swindell with more personality than the man himself. Nevertheless, the album winds up pleasant enough: it's constructed by pros who know how to get tunes on the radio, so it goes down easy even if it sometimes seems like an overblown demo tape. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Country - Released November 6, 2015 | Warner Bros.
Following a breakout year, country singer and songwriter Cole Swindell caps it all off with a five-song digital EP release called Down Home Sessions, which includes a couple of songs left off of his self-titled debut album, which was released early in 2014, along with a trio of new songs written and recorded since. ~ Steve Leggett
Country - Released October 28, 2016 | Warner Bros.
It's called Down Home Sessions, but this 2016 EP is as bright and bold as either of Cole Swindell's albums. Indeed, "Does It Hurt" rides along on a hip-hop loop, the opposite of anything that could be called down-home, but Swindell still sings about six packs and Chevrolets, which is enough to signify that this is country. If the songs feel a little straitlaced -- they're so tight, they almost seem like publishing demos -- Swindell survives through his sense of craft. He knows the sounds, the hooks, and the themes that will rouse an audience, so these five songs all feel like hits in waiting. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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