Cole Swindell and Jo Dee Messina Pull Off Major CMA Awards Surprise With ‘She Had Me At Heads Carolina’ Performance

Jo Dee Messina, Cole Swindell; Photo by ABC
Jo Dee Messina, Cole Swindell; Photo by ABC
Jo Dee Messina, Cole Swindell; Photo by ABC

Cole Swindell pulled off the biggest surprise of the CMA Awards when he shocked viewers with a very special guest during his performance: Jo Dee Messina. 

The Georgia native performed his multi-week No.1 single, “She Had Me At Heads Carolina.” In the midst of the song, Messina joined him on stage. The audience inside Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena went wild at the sight of the country hitmaker. 

The pair recently surprised fans with the release of the “She Had Me At Heads Carolina” remix earlier this week. 

Co-written by Swindell alongside Ashley Gorley, Jesse Frasure, Thomas Rhett, Mark D. Sanders and Tim Nichols, “She Had Me At Heads Carolina” finds Swindell tipping his hat to Messina as he reimagines her 1996 debut single, “Heads Carolina, Tails California.”

Jo Dee Messina, Cole Swindell; Photo by ABC
Jo Dee Messina, Cole Swindell; Photo by ABC

“Out of all the ‘90s country songs we all love, I don’t think anybody would have thought we would have picked that one, but I think that’s what makes it special,” Swindell explained to media outlets during a recent interview.

Swindell previously shared his desire to work directly with Messina admitting, “I hope someday I get to sing it with her or do something. I want her to be involved because we wouldn’t have the song without the writers and without her making it what it is.”

“She Had Me At Heads Carolina” is the follow-up to Swindell’s two back-to-back, multi-week No. 1 hits, “Never Say Never,” a duet with Lainey Wilson, and “Single Saturday Night,” the debut single from his new album, Stereotype.

The 56th Annual CMA Awards featured performances from Luke Combs, Morgan Wallen, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Cole Swindell, Cody Johnson, and Carly Pearce.

The show opened with an all-star tribute to the late Loretta Lynn from Underwood, Reba McEntire and Lambert. 

Carrie Underwood, Reba, Miranda Lambert; Photo Courtesy CMA
Carrie Underwood, Reba, Miranda Lambert; Photo Courtesy CMA

Underwood, Dierks Bentley, Jon Pardi, and Lainey Wilson joined together to honor the 2022 CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Alan Jackson. 

Additionally, the show included star-studded collaborations from Kelsea Ballerini, Kelly Clarkson and Carly Pearce, HARDY and Lainey Wilson, Elle King with The Black Keys, Brothers featuring The War and Treaty, Thomas Rhett and Katy Perry, Chris Stapleton with Patty Loveless, Zac Brown Band, Jimmie Allen and Marcus King as well as Ashley McBryde with Pillbox Patti, Brandy Clark, Caylee Hammack and John Osborne.

Mookie Betts, BRELAND, Jessica Chastain, Jordan Davis, Sarah Drew, Cole Hauser, Tyler Hubbard, Wynonna Judd, Lady A, Rex Linn, Little Big Town, Parker McCollum, Reba McEntire, Ben and Erin Napier, Jeannie Seely, Michael Shannon, and Lainey Wilson were on hand to present during the ceremony.

Co-hosted by Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning, the 2022 CMA Awards broadcasted live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena and aired on ABC (8:00-11:00 PM/ET). 

Luke Bryan, Peyton Manning; Photo Courtesy CMA
Luke Bryan, Peyton Manning; Photo Courtesy CMA

The CMA Awards will also be available for viewing on Hulu beginning Thursday, Nov. 10. 

The 56th Annual CMA Awards was a production of the Country Music Association. Robert Deaton served as the Executive Producer, Alan Carter as the Director, and Jon Macks as the Head Writer.