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Cole Swindell’s “She Had Me at Heads Carolina” was originally supposed to be a duet with Thomas Rhett

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ABC/Connie Chornuk

Cole Swindell’s hit song “She Had Me at Heads Carolina” is a throwback to ‘90s country and a love letter to Jo Dee Messina’s original “Heads Carolina, Tails California.”

But the original concept for the song was even bigger. It was supposed to be a duet with Thomas Rhett, who is a co-writer on the track — an idea that emerged while Cole was on TR’s The Center Point Road Tour last year.

“Me and Thomas Rhett had talked about that on tour last year,” the singer explains. “The original plan was for me and him to sing a song. We didn’t really know what.”

Eventually, they landed on “Heads Carolina,” which Cole knows might have come as a surprise to some fans in terms of being the ’90s song he’d choose to tribute. “Of all the ’90s country songs we all love, I don’t think anybody would have thought we’d pick that one,” he says. “But I think that’s what makes it special.”

The most difficult part of writing it, Cole continues, was figuring out the right way to honor the original song — and ultimately, having to pivot away from their idea of singing it as a duet.

“That was a challenge, because we finally had to realize, ‘Hey, it might not work with me and you singing this,’” he says, adding that he and TR both quickly put their plans aside to focus on making the song as great as possible.

“Let’s just write it at the right angle, because this could be a massive idea,” Cole recalls telling TR during the write.

“She Had Me at Heads Carolina” comes off of Cole’s latest album, Stereotype.

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