Cole Swindell says he'll always be affected by criticism, but the sting disappears when he plays a live show. After all, thousands of fans screaming your song back at you is a more powerful statement than one person's opinion.

Like friend and mentor Luke Bryan, Swindell's commercial success hasn't come with universal critical acclaim. "You Should Be Here" — the 2015 hit ballad inspired by the death of his father — resonated with anyone trying to fill a hole in their heart. It's those kind of songs Swindell likes writing most. That's why he got into this business.

But as a live performer, the 34-year-old knows he needs uptempo country-rockers, and those usually have less lyrical depth. "Uptempo songs ain't for everybody," Swindell tells Taste of Country. "Some people just want to hear sad stuff all the time and that's just not me. I like a little bit of both of it, and I think there's a balance on this third album."

Swindell is working on his next full-length album, but he's currently focused on his fourth Down Home Sessions EP, Down Home Sessions IV out Nov. 24. The five-track project finds him cutting songs that he wrote, but that other artists made into hits (like Thomas Rhett's "Get Me Some of That," Craig Campbell's "Outta My Head" and Bryan's "Roller Coaster"). Four of the five songs for this release were penned before he had a record deal, but very little changed from his demo to the finished recording (Bryan added an introduction to "Roller Coaster" and a few words may have been tweaked).

Before the Georgia native even charted with "Chillin' It," he had a good feel for how to digest the good and bad of social media criticism. He hasn't gotten to the point where it's quickly water under the bridge, though. "I don't know if it every will," Swindell says. "That's just not the kind of person I am."

"It's not fun to read, but when you go out there and play a show with Dierks (Bentley) and sing 'Flatliner' and see people blowing up, it's like ... I wish someone would just come see it. If they don't get it after watching that — I didn't write that because it was a 'You Should Be Here' song, I wrote it because I could play it live and it's fun."

Swindell concedes that "You Should Be Here" is probably going to wind up being the signature song of his career, but he feels some pressure to top it on album No. 3. That's the goal, but that doesn't mean his next hit will be another reflective ballad. An uptempo rocker a la "Flatliner" could do it. He's excited to see what comes his way as he meets and works with more of Nashville's top songwriters. Expect the first single from that next album to be released when "Stay Downtown" peaks on the radio airplay charts, likely in early 2018.

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