It was a bittersweet celebration for Cole Swindell on Monday night (March 27), as he claimed his award for Country Song of the Year at the 2023 iHeartRadio Awards for his hit, "She Had Me at Heads Carolina."

Despite the fact that he'd just won a trophy, Swindell took the stage in a relatively somber mood. He began his acceptance speech with a mention of the school shooting that had taken place in Nashville that day, claiming the lives of three elementary school children and three adults who were staff members at the school.

"Before I say anything else, I just wanna send my prayers and lots of love back to our community in Nashville, Tenn., that's hurting beyond belief right now," he said from the stage. "So I just wanted to say that."

From there, Swindell went on to express his gratitude for everyone instrumental in the release of "She Had Me at Heads Carolina," including his co-writers Ashley Gorley, Jesse Frasure and Thomas Rhett — as well as Mark D. Sanders and Tim Nichols, who wrote Jo Dee Messina's original version, "Heads Carolina, Tails California."

Of course, he also tipped his hat to Messina herself, whose original song is a direct predecessor to Swindell's hit. "Without her original song, 'Heads Carolina, Tails California,' I wouldn't be standing here," he offered. "As a kid growing up listening to country radio, I'm living proof that you can achieve your dreams."

"Heads Carolina, Tails California" was Messina's debut single in 1996, and it was a massive radio success, cresting at No. 2 on the country radio charts just behind Brooks & Dunn's "My Maria." Since the release of Swindell's hit song, he and Messina have performed together, and she also appears in the music video for "She Had Me at Heads Carolina."

"Thanks for letting me live my dream," Swindell said at the conclusion of his speech. "There's so many people, like I said, that I could stand here and thank, but I don't have all night. This is amazing, to be standing here. Thank you for letting me do what I love."

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