Ever heard of a little-known country group from Leesburg, Ga., called Neyami Road? Cole Swindell sure has.

In fact, back when he was a college student, they helped him make the decision to pursue country music professionally, thanks in large part to their guitar player — a guy named Luke Bryan.

Specifically, Swindell remembers meeting Bryan and the rest of Neyami Road at a frat house at Georgia Southern University, where he was attending college. They played a song called "Small Town Favorite Son," which inspired Swindell to start working on writing some country songs of his own.

It was a dream that, in 2007, led Swindell to Music City to pursue a career as an artist. When he did, one of his earliest jobs in the business was at Bryan's merch table: Swindell spent three years selling merchandise for the singer, who by that point had released his breakout album, I'll Stay Me, which includes his Top 5 debut single, "All My Friends Say."

"I just remember thinking, like, 'Wow, this guy's gonna be a huge star,'" Swindell recalls of those early days with Bryan. "I remember seeing him play live and thinking, 'This guy's an unbelievable entertainer.' It took a while to catch on for him ... but where he is now, I [knew] he was a star from the first time I saw him."

Of course, Swindell's star was just beginning to rise, too. He'd eventually graduate from merch table duty to an opening slot on one of Bryan's tours, 2019's Sunset Repeat Tour in 2019. That same year, Swindell was also part of the singer's Farm Tour lineup for the third time.

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