Long before Cole Swindell was a singer, he was surrounding himself with artists who were already living his dream. The Georgia native sold merchandise on the road for three years for then-rising star Luke Bryan while working on his songwriting craft and learning the ropes of performing by watching some of his favorite artists.

"For me, it was Luke and Dierks [Bentley] and Eric Church -- that’s who made me want to write songs, and I think that ultimately changed everything," Swindell recently told The Boot and other reporters. "When I got to town, I had to write my own stuff and had a lot of help getting to the people that I wanted to write with. It just took a little while. You’ve got to work your way there."

In 2010, Swindell signed a publishing deal, penning songs such as Bryan's "Roller Coaster," Craig Campbell's record-breaking "Outta My Head" and Florida Georgia Line's "This Is How We Roll," among others. But it was watching Bryan sing night after night that instilled in Swindell a desire to perform his own songs.

"He was the first one to play me some stuff he had written in Nashville," Swindell shares. "I was in bars singing cover songs, and people were singing back; I was learning to entertain, I think. That’s what I loved at the time: being up there, having fun, watching other people having fun. But when I recognized that, I wanted to start writing my own stuff."

It was those early years as a struggling musician that made Swindell the artist he is today.

"I’ve already thought now: ... People will always love my first album, because I think that’s what turns folks on to you," he says. "I feel like you’re always trying to top that to some people, just because of the impact it had on that time of their life."

Swindell's latest album, You Should Be Here, is available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.