Cole Swindell knew his single, "She Had Me at Heads Carolina," was a big hit at radio and with fans in 2022, but it was still an exciting shock to see all the recognition the song got at the 2023 ACM Awards, with nominations in three different categories and even a performance slot on the main stage.

Now, he's gearing up to hit the stage with the woman who inspired the song herself. Swindell and Jo Dee Messina will perform their remixed version of "She Had Me at Heads Carolina" during the broadcast.

It's not their first time performing the song together — Messina joined Swindell as a surprise guest during part of his performance at the 2022 CMA Awards last November — but the singer tells Taste of Country that this live rendition of the duet promises to be even more special.

"Last time it was a surprise. She came out and ended the song with me. I thought she deserved more time, but you know, it was a surprise," Swindell explains. "Now she gets to start the whole song off. You know — global, streaming, everybody's gonna be watching."

And he's excited to watch his '90s hero get the spotlight she deserves — but Swindell admits that the prospect of taking the stage for a televised performance is a little "nerve-wracking."

Fortunately for him, Messina's a pro, and she gave him some great advice during rehearsals that put all his stage jitters in perspective.

"I think she could tell I was a little stressed, because I'm trying to figure out my marks, where I need to be and [whatnot]," he details. "She's like, 'Look, just try to enjoy it. You wanna remember this.' I said, 'You're exactly right.'"

Swindell also notes how gracious Messina has been about sharing the spotlight with him over the life of "She Had Me at Heads Carolina."

"She was so sweet, saying, 'I don't wanna get in your way. This is your moment.' Like, 'No it's not!' This is our moment,'" he remembers.

"I would not have this song without [her.] So, like I said, it's a full-circle moment," he sums up. "I'm just getting through the performance ... and then no matter what happens with the nomination, I'm just gonna enjoy the rest of the night."

The 2023 ACM Awards are set to air from Frisco, Texas' Ford Center beginning at 8PM ET. They'll stream live on Amazon Prime Video. Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks are co-hosting the show.

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