Cole Swindell Tells Moving Story About How Working for Luke Bryan Gave Him a ‘Chance’ in Country Music

by Matthew Wilson

Cole Swindell may be a very much in-demand country singer today. But he has superstar Luke Bryan for helping crack the door to fame. Back when Swindell was just a college student with dreams of Nashville, Bryan gave him a “chance” to follow his dreams.

Fans may not know this, but Swindell worked for Luke Bryan selling merchandise years before he became a singer. He would sell T-shirts, adorned with Bryan’s face to adoring fans. Luke actually helped Swindell land the gig, keeping him afloat sot he could pursue songwriting in Music City.

Stopping by Outsider Studios on The Marty Smith Podcast, Swindell discussed his early days of selling T-shirts with host Marty Smith.

“He gave me a chance. He knew that’s not why I moved to Nashville. I think that’s why some people find my story so crazy. The Merch guy getting the record deal and all,” Cole Swindell tells Smith. “I knew I wanted to be around the business. I didn’t know if I would ever write a song good enough, I didn’t know if I would ever get a record deal. But I knew I had to be around the music.”

Cole Swindell Meets Luke Bryan

But Cole Swindell actually knows Luke Bryan from years back. Back then, Bryan hadn’t shot up to superstar status just yet. As a songwriter, he had just penned “Good Directions” for Billy Curington, a first stop to becoming a singer himself. And Bryan toured Statesboro, Georgia playing for colleges.

“I started playing the bars in Statesboro. He had already moved to Nashville and had a publishing deal. [Bryan] may have gotten ‘Good Directions’ by Billy Curington recorded at this point. He didn’t have a record deal yet,” Swindell says.

Swindell says he actually met Bryan while at his fraternity house. Bryan was playing a show there later that evening and sat down to practice. A young Swindell listened to Bryan play an unreleased song and felt spellbound by the performance. He realized how much he loved music.

“[Bryan] came in for a show with his band he always played with and changed his strings,” Swindell says. “He sat down and played a song that he had written. It blew my mind. A song called ‘Small Town Favorite Son.’ It’s unreleased. It’s about a small-town football player that ended up having to stay at home and settle down with a girl. I remember thinking something this guy wrote made me feel like that.”

Fast-forward and Bryan partnered with Swindell to perfect his music. He would send Swindell songs to play at Georgia bars to see how they performed. When Swindell decided to move to Nashville, Bryan helped him land a gig there as well.

“By the time I moved to Nashville, I was more star-struck by the songwriters than the artists. Because we wouldn’t have the songs without them,” Swindell says.