Cole Swindell Shares Story Behind ‘She Had Me At Heads Carolina,’ Reveals Jo Dee Messina’s Reaction to the Song

“I’ve never been under that much pressure,” Swindell admitted of writing the song under a strict deadline.


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

April 8, 2022

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Cole Swindell; Photo by Robby Klein

It’s been nearly four years since Cole Swindell released a studio album and that all changed on Friday with the release of his long-awaited project, Stereotype.

The 15-track collection is the follow-up to 2018’s All Of It and includes seven tracks co-written by the Georgia native. The tracklist also features co-writes from artists HARDY, ERNEST, Dustin Lynch and Thomas Rhett as well as famed songwriters like Luke Laird, Ashley Gorley, Jessi Alexander and more. 

Cole Swindell; Stereotype
Cole Swindell; Stereotype

Stereotype is, without a doubt, filled with hits from top to bottom, including the multi-week No.1 lead single, “Single Saturday Night,” and the current Top 5 and climbing “Never Say Never” duet with Lainey Wilson, however one quick glance at the tracklist will leave fans wanting to know more about track number four: “She Had Me At Heads Carolina.” 

The song finds Swindell tipping his hat to country hitmaker Jo Dee Messina as he reimagines her 1996 debut single, “Heads Carolina, Tails California.” 

Swindell says the idea came to him and co-writer Thomas Rhett while on tour together last year. While they originally planned to write a song to sing together, the idea shifted after rediscovering “Heads Carolina, Tails Carolina.” 

“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 Country Now and other media outlets during a recent interview. 

Listen To “She Had Me At Heads Carolina”

YouTube video

With album deadlines looming, Swindell and Rhett called upon Ashley Gorley and Jesse Frasure to help write the song, but there was one thing they had to do first – obtain the permission of the original songwriters, Mark D. Sanders, Tim Nichols. Luckily, they got the green light and hit the ground running. 

“I’ve never been under that much pressure,” Swindell admitted, as he revealed they were missing deadlines left and right. “I was like, ‘if we don’t write it today, this ain’t gonna happen.’ So that was a different feeling, going in knowing we got to write it and not only do we have to finish, it’s gotta be good.”

It appears they hit a home run as the track is already resonating with fans. “We played it live a few times and, obviously, people think they know it when it gets to that chorus and they’re screaming the song because it’s such a big hit from the ‘90s and when it gets to the line about South Georgia it kind of throws them off,” he laughed. “So, I’m ready for this to come out so people can learn the words to this one.”

The real question is, what does Messina think about the song? Swindell says she was “super cool” and that she gave him and the song her blessing. 

“I just got her number and just sent her a text letting her know that it was me and that I’ve been wanting to reach out and that I finally got her contact. [I] just let her know what a fan I was and that you know, the original song, without that, obviously, I would have never had this idea,” he shared. “I just wanted her to know I wanted her to be as much of a part of it as she wanted to be. Or if not at all, that’s fine too.”

Swindell said Messina told him she was glad he “chose that song.” 

While a collaboration between the pair has yet to be confirmed, the singer/songwriter is holding out hope.

“I hope someday I get to sing it with her or do something,” Swindell said. “I want her to be involved because we wouldn’t have the song without the writers and without her making it what it is.”

Cole Swindell will celebrate the release of Stereotype with a performance of “Never Say Never” with Wilson on ABC’s Good Morning America on Monday, April 11. That night, the artists will join together once again for a performance of the fiery duet at the 2022 CMT Music Awards. Swindell and Wilson are also nominated for the night’s most-coveted award – “Video of Year” for “Never Say Never.”

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Lauren Jo Black

Written by

Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for and her work being featured on She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.