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Finding Friendship Through Significant Loss


by Bobby Markos


The relationship between country music and stock car racing has existed for decades. In fact, one of the biggest country stars of the 1960s, Marty Robbins, competed in 35 NASCAR Cup races from 1966 to 1982. There have been countless country songs about auto racing written by some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Brooks & Dunn, Alabama and the Charlie Daniels Band. While Dale Earnhardt Jr. is known for his affinity for rock music, he grew up a country fan and is close friends with some of today’s stars. This week on the Dale Jr. Download, Dale and his co-host Mike Davis welcome one of Georgia’s finest singer songwriters, Cole Swindell.


Dale and Cole Swindell’s relationship dates back to the first time Dale heard Swindell’s song “You Should Be Here”, which he wrote about the sudden loss of his father. The song touched Dale on a personal level and he wanted to reach out to Swindell to share how much of an impact it had on him. The two dive into the initial interaction and that common bond they share during the conversation. They chat about how losing a parent made them think about their own mortality and how fragile life can be.

The interview opens with Dale asking Cole about his songwriting process and what the hardest parts of the job are. Cole gives listeners a lot of insight in how his music is made and how he learned to craft a song. Mike and Cole speak about their common background of having both gone to Georgia Southern. They reminisce about life around the Statesboro campus and Cole recalls his early performances while still in school. He would never finish his degree, opting instead to move to Nashville and pursue a career in music.


Swindell’s rise to country stardom began on the road selling merchandise for Luke Bryan, who was a former fellow Sigma Chi member at GSU. He credits this relationship with helping him get his first publishing deal in Nashville, which came in 2010. Cole draws the contrasts between life as a musician while in school and after his move to Nashville, citing the number of venues and opportunities that exist in Music City.


The discussion also touches on Swindell’s history as a NASCAR fan and his connections to the sport. He recalls co-writing “Daddy, Jesus and Earnhardt” with Adam Sanders during a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Swindell explains that he grew up watching NASCAR and was a fan for years before attending his first race.


Listeners can expect an intimate conversation between friends and great insight into the world of country music. Just as the interview was wrapping up, Swindell and the Dirty Mo crew surprised Dale by bringing in his wife Amy and a birthday cake. After singing “Happy Birthday”, Amy explained she was taking Dale on a mini-vacation to Key West. It was one of the most special moments in Download history.


During the Ask Jr. segment of the show, listeners ask Dale about his big block square body Chevy truck, how Dirty Mo Media got started and Dale’s famous fish lassoing story from Lake Norman. All of this and more on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download - available on this website and all major podcast platforms.

Additional reading about our guest:

Born in Bronwood, Georgia, Cole Swindell has made a name for himself as a premiere songwriter and singer in the country music world. While attending Georgia Southern University to pursue a degree in marketing, Swindell began playing local shows in Statesboro. Around this time he met Luke Bryan, who was a fellow Sigma Chi member, when Bryan returned to town to play a concert. Soon after, Swindell left school to move to Nashville to chase a career in music and found himself selling merchandise for Bryan on tour. The time on the road and the relationship with Bryan would be formative, as Swindell would hone his skills as a songwriter and in 2010 would sign a publishing deal with Sony Music Publishing.


Swindell would go on to write many songs for Bryan, as well as Craig Campbell, Thomas Rhett, Scotty McCreery and Florida Georgia Line. In 2013, Swindell released his debut single “Chillin’ It”, which received heavy radio play. The success led to him signing a contract with Warner Music Nashville. He would release his debut album in 2014 and would go on to win the Academy of Country Music’s New Artist of the Year Award in 2015.


In 2016, Swindell released the follow up to his debut “You Should Be Here”. The album’s title track was inspired by the sudden death of his father in 2013, and would go on to win the iHeartRadio Music awards for “Country Song of the Year” and “Best Lyrics”. Two years later he would follow up with his third album “All of It”.


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