There’s a certain level of arrogance revealed when the battle horses manning the sides of “real” country music versus “pop” country music face off in a debate over the truer of the two formats.
One group bows to the classic country gods, “Outlaws” like Waylon Jennings, George Jones and Billy Joe Shaver. The other camp gravitates more towards Alan Jackson, Randy Travis and Reba McEntire. These artists may be more flashy and accessible the outlaws, but there’s no denying the legions of fans that adore that brand of country music from coast to coast.
It’s a machine, the pop country format, a perfectly presented package of good times layered with catchy hooks and choruses that dig right into the heart of those that ache for some easy to ride, hot-blooded nostalgia.
Regardless of your stance, I am willing to bet that 34-year-old country singer named Cole Swindell from Georgia knows a song or two by Waylon and Willie and the boys. He would have to know his way around the guts of a traditional country song in order to write for such acclaimed powerhouse country acts like Luke Bryan.
GSM caught up with Swindell as he prepares to headline his first arena tour called the “Reason to Drink Tour” which comes to SNHU Arena this Friday night.
Q. Do you find yourself writing more or less during times of trouble? Or do you operate best when everything is cool?
CS: You know it just depends. Sometimes when you’re going through a hard time it’s easier to write songs, there’s extra motivation to work through the situation. But, then again, when things are going good it’s nice to be able to write a fun song as well. It just kind of depends on the mood you’re in and what kind of song you want to write. I’m just thankful I get to write songs for a living!
Q. When you are on tour, is your main focus on the performance, or taking the time to write in hotels and seeing what the country has to offer as far as inspiration?
CS: A little bit of both I think. On tour, you want to be ready for the show especially when it’s the first of the year. We’ve been doing some rehearsing and I will be focused mainly on the show. As we get more comfortable, I like to go see some of the cities and explore a little bit, and do some writing every now and then.
Q. When you have seemingly begun to “make it” in music, what is one thing that you dreamed it would be like – but it’s not?
CS: Being a fan of country music growing up, I dreamt of going backstage and meeting some of my favorite artists. I thought there would always be some big, crazy party and it’s just the coolest thing ever. But really, backstage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s just a bunch of people sitting around waiting to go out there where everybody is. Sometimes, sitting backstage, we wish we were out there tailgating with everybody and they wish they were back there with us, so it goes both ways.
Q: If you were to form a band with some of country music greatest acts, who would you ask to be your band mates?
I would probably have Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, George Strait … there’s too many to name! We’ll throw Reba in there, too.
Q. Where do you need to improve as a musician? As a performer?
CS: Just being a writer, I wish I took time to play the guitar a little more – it’s easier when you’re playing the guitar. As a performer, just learning how to get people’s attention and holding it for ninety minutes. You know, we’re used to playing a little bit shorter of a set, so now being a headliner, we have to keep everybody’s attention and make sure they’re having fun for an hour and a half. Both of those areas I could probably improve in.
Q. If there is someone in Manchester debating on buying a ticket to your show at SNHU Arena, how would you sell them on the idea? What separates you, Cole, from all the other country artists?
CS: I would just tell them that they’re going to get more than their money’s worth. Between myself, Lauren Alaina and Chris Janson it’s a great lineup. This is my first headlining tour so I know we’re going to be having a blast and bringing everything we’ve got, so grab a ticket and come on out. It’s the Reason To Drink Tour, I can guarantee you we’ll be having a good time!
Tickets to the Cole Swindell can be purchased at www.coleswindell.com