Daniel Chaney / Billboard
Morgan Wallen is arguably the biggest name in modern country music today. He was the top-winning artist at the Billboard Music Awards, had the top-grossing tour of the year, and had the most-streamed song of 2023 across all genres. But Wallen’s journey to the top was not without turbulence.
In early 2021, Morgan Wallen found himself engrossed in controversy after a neighbor sent a video to TMZ of Wallen using a racial slur while being dropped off at his Nashville home after a night on the town. Response from the industry was severe – radio stations pulled his music from their rotation, awards shows deemed him ineligible, he was dropped by his booking agency, and his label suspended him.
Recently, Morgan Wallen sat down with Billboard to reflect on 2023 and his career path so far. It was the country music superstar’s first interview with a major outlet in two years. Recalling the 2021 scandal, Wallen shared that the experience showed him “just how much that people listen to me.” He added:
“I don’t think I realized that, at least not at that grand of a scale at the time. I [learned] how much my words matter.”
Referring to the use of the slur, Wallen said, “There’s no excuse. I’ve never made an excuse. I never will make an excuse.” He added:
“In my heart I was never that guy that people were portraying me to be, so there was a little bit of like, ‘Damn, I’m kind of actually mad about this a little bit because I know I shouldn’t have said this, but I’m really not that guy.’ I put myself in just such a sh-t spot, you know? Like, ‘You really messed up here, guy.’ If I was that guy, then I wouldn’t have cared. I wouldn’t have apologized. I wouldn’t have done any of that if I really was that guy that people were saying about me.”
When Wallen alludes to doing “any of that,” he is referring to the efforts he made to better himself after the incident. He met with several Black leaders as well as with the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) and other groups in an effort to educate himself.
In addition, he has used the Morgan Wallen Foundation (formerly the More Than My Hometown Foundation) to support these efforts. By early 2022, Wallen had donated half a million dollars to organizations including Rock Against Racism, the BMAC, and more. Three dollars from every concert ticket Wallen sells goes to his foundation, which exists to help underserved communities through music and sports youth programs.
Ultimately, Morgan Wallen does not try to downplay the impact of his actions or argue with the response that followed. Now that three years have passed, Wallen says that the past version of himself is “definitely not the same person I am now.”