Cole Swindell ‘She Had Me at Heads Carolina’: Lyrics & Story Behind the Song

by Lauren Boisvert
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Cole Swindell’s “She Had Me at Heads Carolina” pays homage to Jo Dee Messina and 90s music in a contemporary country song about falling in love at first karaoke. To set the stage, the speaker goes out to a bar with his friends and while he’s there, a girl gets up on the karaoke stage and starts to sing “Heads Carolina, Tails California” by Jo Dee Messina. The speaker is smitten. They talk all night, and you can probably imagine what happens outside the realm of the song.

But, while we know what it’s about at the surface, what’s the story behind the lyrics? What inspired this love of 90s country which in turn inspired this chart-topping song? Cole Swindell recently spoke with Music Row about “She Had Me at Heads Carolina,” explaining a little of what the song really means and how it came to be.

‘She Had Me at Heads Carolina’ by Cole Swindell

  • Best Lines: “Hey, I got a Chevy, she can flip a quarter / I’d drive her anywhere from here to California / When this song is over, I gotta find her / ‘Cause she had me at ‘Heads Carolina'”; “She’s got the bar in the palm of her hand / And she’s a ’90s country fan like I am
  • Release Date: April 8, 2022
  • Written By: Cole Swindell, Ashley Gorley, Thomas Rhett, Jesse Frasure; Tim Nichols and Mark D. Sanders for “Heads Carolina, Tails California” (1996)
  • Produced By: Zach Crowell

The Story Behind ‘She Had Me at Heads Carolina’

Swindell recently started working with Rusty Gaston and Anna Weisband at Sony and, as he tells it, they were talking one day about what songs inspired them and what he was looking for on his next album, which ultimately became Stereotype. “We got to talking about what if we took a ’90s song that I loved and put a different spin on it,” said Swindell. “That was how the idea came together.”

“Cole loves ’90s country music,” said Gaston. “He should be the face of the resurgence of ’90s country music.”

Gaston recalls that he was looking for a song in the Sony catalog. Additionally, he was thinking about how interpolations and sampling are coming back into mainstream music. Apparently, “Heads Carolina, Tails California” is one of the most popular karaoke songs. Knowing that, Gaston went to Swindell with the idea.

Cole Swindell Recalls Nervewracking Songwriting Experience, Not Wanting to ‘Mess Up’ His Favorite Song

Swindell got his writing team together but knew he needed the original writers’ blessings. “We knew that before anything, we had to reach out to the original songwriters,” Swindell explained. “They could have easily said ‘No’ and the thing would have never happened, but they were cool enough to want to do it.”

“It was a pressure situation,” said Swindell of the songwriting process. “You don’t want to mess up one of your favorite songs of all time.”

Just months after the song was released as a single, Swindell was incorporating it into his live shows. Usually, artists don’t rotate in new songs until the album has been out for a while, so fans have a chance to get familiar. But, according to Swindell’s manager Kerri Edwards, the fans “will sing it as if they’ve heard it a thousand times when he plays that song.”

The track not only catapulted Cole Swindell’s career to the top, it also brought about a renewed love for Jo Dee Messina and her work. “I was so excited when I got the chance to talk to Jo Dee and let her know that I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time. Now I get to call her a friend,” said Swindell. “We wouldn’t have this song without her.”

‘She Had Me At Heads Carolina’ – Lyrics

Verse 1
I was out with the boys, catchin’ up at a neon light
Didn’t know ’til we walked in, it was karaoke night
She was in a circle of girls, chasin’ a shot with a lime
She was laughin’, they were darin’ her to get on the mic
One of ’em walked up and turned in her name
Next thing I knew, man, she was up on the stage, singin’

Chorus
“Heads Carolina, tails California”
Maybe she’d fall for a boy from South Georgia
She’s got the bar in the palm of her hand
And she’s a ’90s country fan like I am
Hey, I got a Chevy, she can flip a quarter
I’d drive her anywhere from here to California
When this song is over, I gotta find her
‘Cause she had me at “Heads Carolina”

Verse 2
Yeah, she knew every word by heart, didn’t need no screen, no
I was raisin’ my glass up for her, I saw her smilin’ at me, yeah
She had me down in the front by the end of verse two
Like there wasn’t no-one else in the room, we were singin’

Chorus

“Heads Carolina, tails California”
Maybe she’d fall for a boy from South Georgia
She’s got the bar in the palm of her hand
And she’s a ’90s country fan like I am
Hey, I got a Chevy, she can flip a quarter
I’d drive her anywhere from here to California
When this song is over, I gotta find her
‘Cause she had me at “Heads Carolina”

Bridge
Yeah, I bought her a round, and we talked ’til the lights came on
I still see that girl every time I hear that song

Chorus
“Heads Carolina, tails California”
Maybe she’d fall for a boy from South Georgia
She’s got the bar in the palm of her hand
And she’s a ’90s country fan like I am
Hey, I got a Chevy, she can flip a quarter
I’d drive her anywhere from here to California
When this song is over, I gotta find her
‘Cause she had me at “Heads Carolina”

Outro
Yeah, she had me at “Heads Carolina” (somewhere greener, somewhere warmer)
(Heads Carolina, tails California)
Yeah (somewhere greener, somewhere warmer)
(Heads Carolina)
(Somewhere together, I’ve got a quarter)
(Heads Carolina, tails California)

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