There's a new woman in Cole Swindell's life, and she's all over his new Stereotype album. Actually, the "Never Say Never" singer's fourth studio album tributes a few women, one unintentionally.

Courtney Little and Swindell enjoyed their first official date in mid-2021, and it's getting serious. How serious? Well, keep reading, but he says that it's safe to assume any love song he records is about her, and that'll be the case for awhile. Stereotype includes several good ones — he tells familiar country stories over a mix that leans more traditional than ever before. This leads us to the second woman he paid tribute to: Jo Dee Messina.

"She Had Me at Heads Carolina" is the signature song on Stereotype, released last Friday (April 8) on Warner Music Nashville. It's a remake of sorts of Messina's 1996 hit "Heads Carolina, Tails California," but Swindell and his modern co-writers (Thomas Rhett among them) thrust him into an encore that finds a woman singing the classic song at karaoke night. Talking to Taste of Country Nights' Evan Paul, the 38-year-old Georgian revealed he's been in contact with one of his favorite '90s singers.

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"I told her, too, that I want her to be a part of it, as much of it or as little of it as she wants to, because she's because the original," he shares.

Taste of Country: There is that same old school vibe on songs like “I’m Gonna Let Her” and “Some Habits.” Can you name an ‘80s or ‘90s country artist that doesn’t get enough love in 2022?

Cole Swindell: I’m sure he gets plenty of love, but Randy Travis. I just think of some of those first songs that I remember hearing of his — “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “Deeper Than the Holler,” “On the Other Hand” — songs like that. Everybody talks about (Keith) Whitley, I don’t know that a lot of folks today know all of his stuff. That’s obviously somebody we lost too soon, and you just wonder what songs we would have gotten.

You didn’t write “Walk on Whiskey,” but that sounds like a song you recorded with your late mother in mind. Is this album release bittersweet?

Yeah, I think so. But I also think the things we go through, good or bad, we’ve got to get them out there. This song, I did not write this. Honestly, I think it can be taken two ways: It talks about the angel wings and all that stuff, but if you listen it can also be taken as a breakup. Somebody you let go and you shouldn’t have let them get away, and you’re in a bad spot. People are gonna take it however they want, but honestly, when I recorded the song I hadn’t lost my mom. That’s another thing about music — you never know how you’re gonna take things.

As a radio DJ, I can’t listen to old tapes of myself. I hate how I sound. Is it like that for you an artist?

Honestly I wouldn’t be here without those songs, but I think anybody — whether it’s a voicemail — nobody really likes hearing themselves talk. It took me awhile to get over that, get used to my voice and my singing voice but I think you obviously get better. For me, I heard “Chillin’ It” the other day and I’m just like as big as that song was, I was a lot younger. My voice has probably changed. I think about being a big (Kenny) Chesney and (Tim) McGraw fan growing up and listening to some of their first albums, they don’t sound the same. I think you just evolve as an artist.

Are there any songs about your new girlfriend on the album?

There’s a few that I didn’t write, “Some Habits,” “I’m Gonna Let Her.” I met her on the video set of “Some Habits.” That was our first date, pretty much. “I’m Gonna Let Her” — I pretty much feel like that’s me and her, too. “Miss Wherever,” that’s kind of a song I wrote. She was kind of in the pageant world growing up — any love song is going to be about her from now on.

Are you ring shopping yet?

(Laughs) Not shopping yet. That’s a good question. I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me that. But we’re doing good. It hasn’t been that long, but I’m really happy.

See 50 Essential '90s Country Songs

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