Cole Swindell has penned an open letter to Nashville and the country music industry, thanking those he's met and worked with since moving to town for their support -- most especially following his father's unexpected death.

Swindell begins his letter, which was published on the Huffington Post, by recalling the day he moved to Nashville: Aug. 23, 2007, his father's birthday. "I was breaking my mama's heart leaving Georgia," the singer writers, but from the beginning, he felt welcomed in Music City.

"Almost everyone I met that first day in town all said these words: 'Welcome to Nashville!' It reminded me so much of the folks back home, and that was comforting," Swindell remembers. "I had no clue if I’d ever be able to write a song like the ones I fell in love with as a kid or if I’d ever get a record deal, but I did know how much I loved music and how much I really wanted to be a part of the industry. I didn’t care what my job was as long as I got to be in Music City."

Swindell talks about getting and signing his first publishing deal, writing songs for friends such as Thomas Rhett and Luke Bryan and, finally, signing his record deal on July 13, 2013, and promoting his first single, "Chillin' It," on his radio tour. "It was the best year of my life," Swindell admits -- and then, during his radio tour, his dad died "in a freak accident."

"How could that possibly be in the master plan? He was the best guy in the world, my biggest fan and was the first person I ever heard play the guitar and sing," the artist says. "I was in shock and lost. Who did I turn to?"

The answer, as it turns out, was Music City, where "everyone had my back no matter what media partner, label, publishing company or PRO they worked for." Swindell notes that "some of my heroes," such as Dierks Bentley, had also lost their fathers, and they supported him.

"'Country' means a lot more to me than the sound coming out of your speakers. To me, it’s a big family," Swindell continues. "It’s how you treat others, how you were raised. It’s lyrics that can change your life. All that."

Back in March, Swindell earned his fifth consecutive No. 1 song with "You Should Be Here," which he co-wrote with Ashley Gorley about his father's death.

"Although I don’t like the circumstances of why I had to write the song, I know for a fact if my dad knew leaving this world a little early would inspire a song that would help so many, he would’ve had no problem with it," Swindell says. "That’s the kind of guy he was. That’s the kind of guy I want to be. Every night I sing that song I know he’s there, best seat in the house no doubt."

On Sunday (Oct. 9), Swindell received the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame's Songwriter / Artist of the Year honor. He is currently wrapping up his time on the road with Florida Georgia Line, as an opening act on FGL's Dig Your Roots Tour.

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