Jo Dee Messina Makes 1st CMA Awards Appearance In 20 Years For Surprise Performance With Cole Swindell

Surprise! While performing 'She Had Me At Heads Carolina' during the CMA Awards, Cole Swindell brought out a special guest -- Jo Dee Messina!

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Jo Dee Messina returned to the CMA Awards for the first time in 20 years during the 2022 show on Nov. 9. The country singer surprised the audience when she appeared onstage during Cole Swindell’s performance of the show. Cole was performing his song “She Had Me At Heads Carolina,” which was inspired by Jo Dee’s 1996 hit “Heads Carolina, Tails California.” The legendary country singer belted out the final verse of her song to close out the performance, making for the ultimate duet. The last time Jo Dee attended the CMA Awards was back in 2002, so this was a big night!

“She Had Me At Heads Carolina” is a song about falling for a woman who took the stage during a night of karaoke. It features the melody of Jo Dee’s original hit, with Cole’s incredible songwriting storytelling woven in. Cole wrote the song with Thomas Rhett, along with Ashley Gorley and Jesse Frasure. The idea for the track came up when Cole and TR were on tour together and decided to put a spin on a song they loved.

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Jo Dee Messina and Cole Swindell performing. (Mark Humphrey/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

“The only angle that worked was the idea of walking in somewhere and the girl be singing that song,” Cole explained to Billboard. “Later, I got a chance to talk to Jo Dee and she was cool with it. I got to let her know what a fan I was and that I wanted her to be involved.” Jo Dee appeared in the music video for the song, and Cole also dropped a remix featuring the 90s singer earlier this month.

Cole also admitted that Jo Dee is one of the reasons that he fell in love with country music. “Just to honor that and 90s country music and now call her a friend, and even having her in the video, it’s hard to put into words,” he gushed. “After ten years of being in this business, it feels like a new beginning.” The song is featured on Cole’s album Stereotype and has reached No. 1 on the Country Airplay Billboard charts.