Just a few years ago, Cole Swindell made a few bucks selling merchandise for Luke Bryan’s tour while trying to break out as a country singer and songwriter. But this summer, the 33-year-old Bronwood, Georgia, native has graduated to arena shows of his own thanks to his hit “Chillin’ It.” It’s a catchy, turn-it-up summertime ode to driving around with “the good stuff iced up in the backseat.” While Swindell is no stranger to singing about fun times and beer—this is country music, after all—he takes a more emotional tone on his second album, “You Should Be Here,” which debuted in May. Catch him on tour with Florida Georgia Line all summer.
Talk about the relationship between your music and beer.
I think beer always leads to a good time. I had a song on my last album called “Brought To You By Beer” that I thought should have been in a commercial. It’s about all the crazy stuff we did in college. Beer’s even in my new song “You Should Be Here.” That one’s about how I remember sitting down and not getting crazy but sharing a beer with my dad. We could have had the memory without it, but having a beer was a part of life.
What’s the thing you miss most about home when you’re on the road?
Probably my couch. When I got my new place, that’s the first piece of furniture I got. I love that thing.
What sorts of things do you carry in your bag on tour?
I have a bag and I think it’s made for golf stuff, but I carry everything in that: wallet, vitamins to keep healthy, my Costa del Mar sunglasses, my iPad. And gym clothes.
You actually make it to the gym while you’re on tour?
I’m better about going when I’m on the road than when I’m home. You can have some beers the night before, but you still gotta get up to the gym in the morning. I see my buddies [in the band] going and I’m like ‘OK, I guess I’m going, too.’ I do some lifting, but a lot of it’s cardio, trying to get my breathing right to put on a high-energy show. You’re running around these big stages and you can’t sing if you can’t breathe.
What do you snack on in the bus?
One of the bus favorites is SmartPop popcorn; it’s 94% fat free, so you can see we’re trying to do better. Now, I’m gonna tell on him, but my guitar player, he has this thing where he puts M&M’s in the popcorn. We like to do that and find something good on TV to watch. One of my favorite guilty pleasures is Ben & Jerry’s; there’s one in the freezer right now.
Is there any sentimental piece of home you take with you?
If you’ve seen my newest video, there’s a picture of me and my dad from when I was a kid, and he’s playing his guitar and I’m looking up at him. I have a photo of him with me, because all these years later, I’m doing what he always dreamed of doing. It gets lonely out here, and it’s cool to know that I’m making him proud.