By Ryan Mayer
Music and sports often intersect. Often, our sports stars wish they could be musicians and vice versa. That mutual level of admiration stems from the level of confidence and dedication necessary to make it to the top of either world is the same.
Cole Swindell is no different. He’s a rising star in the country music world after spending years behind the scenes as a writer for Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line. But, Swindell, a Georgia native, is also a huge Atlanta Braves fan, and he took a couple of minutes to chat all things Braves, his love of the game of baseball, and who his biggest athlete friend is.
As a native of Bronwood, Georgia, is it just born into you to be an Atlanta Braves fan?
Cole Swindell: (Laughs) Yeah I’ve always been a big Braves fan, I’m sure a lot of that comes from me being from Georgia, but a lot of my favorite memories are of watching them with my dad on TV. I got to go to a couple of games growing up, but most of the time we were just watching them on TV.
You talk about watching those games with your dad, your latest song “You Should Be Here” is about your relationship with your father who unfortunately passed away a couple years ago. Did watching those games make you even closer as father and son?
Cole Swindell: Yeah, man. This song “You Should Be Here” means so much and means so many different things to other people. But, to me, it’s about losing my dad a couple of years ago right when everything was happening for me, when I got my record deal. I never thought I would have that kind of material to write, but, things happen. All I know is the fans and everybody that shares their stories with me it helps me more than they even know. I think I set out to put out a song that would help other folks and it ended up helping me more than I could have ever imagined.
When you were growing up watching this team, it must have been a lot of fun to be a fan especially in the mid-to-late 90’s with that dominant pitching staff. What was it like being a fan of the Braves in those days?
Cole Swindell: Oh gosh, you know it was the best because there’s nothing like being a kid and being a fan of sports, music – I was a fan of all of it, but I was a huge Braves fan. To grow up in the heyday back when they were winning division titles every year it was pretty fun. Looking back, I’m glad that when I was a kid they were that good because it was fun to watch. Now, you know, they’re having a little bit of a slower year this year. You look back and you appreciate those 90’s years when we had the pitching staff we did.
Do you have a favorite memory that sticks out from going to the games with your family?
Cole Swindell: Man, one of my favorites was Jason Heyward’s rookie year, Opening Day at Turner Field. I remember we took a bus down, me and some buddies, and we were sitting in right field. I bought tickets out there since Heyward was a rookie and he was what everybody was hyped up about. So we were there and he hit a home run in his first at-bat off of Carlos Zambrano, I’ll never forget how electric that stadium was. That was one of the coolest moments I’ve ever been a part of at a Braves game.
In the past we’ve talked to you about Chris Johnson, a former Brave, using one of your songs “Chillin’ It” as his walk-up song. Did you ever talk to Chris and get a chance to ask him why he chose that song?
Cole Swindell: (Laughs) I’ve talked to him about it and I don’t think I asked him any questions about it. I just said thank you for walking out to that one. But I did get to go back down to the Braves game a couple weeks ago and Jeff Francoeur, he started with the Braves and he’s back with them now, he walks out to one of my songs, too. It makes you feel like a kid, man. If you had told me that this stuff would be happening, that I would be able to do the things I’m doing right now, I would have never believed that. I’m just so glad to be doing what I love every night and I’m glad to be friends with some Braves.
You mention Jeff Francoeur, are there any other guys that you know of currently using your songs for their walk-up music?
Cole Swindell: Oh, man, I don’t know. We need to get in touch with some of them, tell them to get on it. But, not that I know of. I’m friends with Craig Kimbrel, he was in Atlanta of course now he’s with the Red Sox. It’s just funny, you see these people, you’re friends with them and the next day they go on and they’re on another team. I’m a diehard Braves fan, but I’m also just a sports fan so it makes it kind of tough when you have friends that are on different teams because you automatically want to pull for them. I can’t imagine not doing that because that’s what they love. I’m glad to be able to go to games and do what I get to do around baseball because I honestly think the entertainment business and professional sports, especially baseball, have some things in common. Once you get your chance, you’ve got to prove yourself.
You’ve talked about some of the friends that you’ve gained in the sports world, who’s the biggest name that you’ve picked up as a friend?
Cole Swindell: It was Chipper Jones for a while, but I’m probably going to have to go with Peyton Manning now. I got to play his charity event and he got up and sang an old David Allan Coe song with me and it was like, the coolest moment of my career. I mean, it’s Peyton Manning. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to do.
I have to ask the follow-up question here, how’s Peyton’s singing voice?
Cole Swindell: Well, we had to audible. We Omaha’ed and we warmed it up a little bit. (laughing) I’ll tell you what, I think he’s better at reading defenses and all that than he is at singing, but hey, it’s Peyton Manning, I ain’t going to stop him. He can sing with me any time that he wants.
Final question for you, I know your alma mater Georgia Southern is near and dear to you. I see you wearing the hat repping the school all the time. What do you think of what they’ve been able to do as a football program since stepping up to the FBS level a few years ago?
Cole Swindell: Man, I’m just excited. We’ve got a brand new coach (Tyson Summers) this year and I’m just excited. We’ve already got baseball going now (31-22 5th Sun Belt Conference) and before you know it football will be here. Our first year when we stepped up, we won the conference. But, that’s a rule, you can’t go to a bowl game in that first year of FBS football. I think they need to make a new rule and call it the Georgia Southern rule. If somebody steps up to a bigger lead and wins their conference, they ought to be able to go to a bowl game. But, hey, we got to go to our first one last year, the GoDaddy bowl in Birmingham and we played a pretty good game. So that was just a cool memory to be able to say we made it to a bowl game. For years, I grew up going to Georgia Southern games, and it was all playoffs (FCS) and it just wasn’t the same type of deal. So I’m just glad that Georgia Southern is taking that next step.
Cole Swindell’s latest album, entitled You Should Be Here is available in stores and on iTunes now. His summer tour is underway and you can find a full list of dates and locations by going to his website, coleswindell.com.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.