It may seem like success has come quickly for Cole Swindell, whose debut single, “Chillin’ It” is atop Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart for the second straight week, but he’s no overnight success.

Swindell came to Nashville more than six years ago, and, like many struggling singer/songwriters, got a job that allowed him to sponge up information about the music industry and make contacts while he worked on his craft: He sold t-shirts out on tour for Luke Bryan, and— just as Garth Brooks did for Martina McBride, who should his merchandise— Bryan took Swindell under his wing, even allowing him to open for him on occasion during Swindell’s 2007-2010 stint on the road.

Swindell then signed a publishing deal and started getting his songs cut by the likes of Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and Scotty McCreery. But with the good-timing swagger of  “Chillin’ It,” he knew he had something special. The song sold more than 100,000 copies on iTunes before Swindell even signed with a major label, ultimately choosing Warner Music Nashville.

Though Swindell was already experiencing success on his own, a label deal was always the holy grail. “I know that there’s been people who have been successful being independent, but it’s always been a dream of mine to be on a label and just have the whole team behind me,” he says.

Now, he’s officially got the opening slot on Bryan’s arena tour and he’s putting into practice what he learned from the upbeat Bryan. “He always said to me, ‘Just enjoy it, enjoy it.’ He knows it can be stressful. You dream of this and then your perspective changes. You’re responsible for a lot of things,” Swindell says. He’s also tried to learn from Bryan’s loving-every-minute stage presence. “From the first time I saw him play, way before I moved to Nashville, he wasn’t scared to have fun. To me, that’s the biggest compliment I can get: ‘You look like you’re having the time of your life [on stage],’ because I am. Luke taught me not to be afraid  to be goofy.”

Swindell is enjoying “Chillin It’s” success, but he’s happy that his self-titled album is now out so people can see that his range extends the bro-country feel of the hit track. “Cole Swindell” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 last week, behind the “Frozen” soundtrack and fellow country star Eric Church’s “The Outsiders.”

“I just knew I had other songs that people relate to, not just about chilling,” he says. “We’ve got the feel good songs, the missing you songs, we’ve got the true blue ballad on there,” Swindell says, referring to “I Just Want You,” co-written with Bryan.  His next single, “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight,” is a sexy booty call co-written with Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelly, as well as Michael Carter.

Swindell grew up in Bronwood, Ga., a town of around 600. “You can’t imagine what’s going on there right now,” Swindell said of his home town celebrating their local boy done good and his first No. 1 as an artist. “My family is enjoying it right now. They might be enjoying it more than me.”

He longs to go home and celebrate, but there’s no time on his schedule for that since he’s very busy on the road opening for Bryan’s arena tour right now.  In March, “we’ll be in Panama City in March, and that’s only 3 hours away. Maybe I can at least swing through and hug my mom and my grandma’s neck.“