Released on Friday (Mar. 3) via Big Loud / Mercury / Republic Records, One Thing At A Time serves as the follow-up to Wallen’s record-breaking sophomore project, Dangerous: The Double Album, which arrived in 2021 and debuted at No. 1 as well as broke the record for the most weeks spent in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 chart among albums by a solo artist.
Wallen recently opened up about One Thing At A Time while co-hosting Country Countdown USA alongside Lon Helton. Speaking with Helton, he revealed that he began building the album’s framework immediately following the release of his 30-track second studio album.
“We started immediately working on it as soon as Dangerous was done,” Wallen shared. “So it’s been a process over the last couple years. And man, we just got a bunch of songs we love again and just said ‘Why not?’”
One Thing At A Time Features 36 Tracks
The extensive set, produced by Joey Moi, features 36 tracks the East Tennessee native considers near and dear to his heart. And, while the number of songs seems like a lot, Wallen says he whittled down the tracks from 42 and afterward couldn’t find a reason not to include the ones that stuck on the project.
“We actually cut 42 songs and then after three or four months living with them, about six of ’em got old to me, so I threw them off,” Wallen shared. “But the other ones I never got tired of. And that’s with me spending hours and hours and hours with each song. So I figured if I’m not tired of ’em, then hopefully the other people won’t be either. That’s kind of the same approach we took with Dangerous. We threw a couple off of that album too, but we kept the majority. I’m aware that it’s a lot of songs, but I also got to experiment with some different sounds and different things that I love.”
By experimenting with sounds, Wallen is referring to the music that influenced and shaped him growing up, which includes everything from country music to alternative to hip-hop. He showcases that sense of creativity with interpolations of the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider” and Young Thug’s “Lifestyle” on the tracks “Everything I Love” and “180 (Lifestyle),” respectively.
“I’ve talked about my love for hip hop before, but I’ve definitely never gone to nine, ten songs that really lean heavily into that style,” Wallen told Music Mayhem, exclusively before the album’s debut. “So yeah, I think this is… I don’t know, I feel more comfortable about making music that I love. I just feel a freedom to do things that maybe I was a little bit more tentative to do in the past. So with this one, I included it all.”
“Born With A Beer In My Hand,” “Devil Don’t Know,” “Tennessee Numbers,” “I Deserve A Drink,” and “Keith Whitley,” named after the late Country Music Hall of Famer who died in 1989, are just some of the traditional leaning tracks on One Thing At A Time while “Sunrise,” “180 (Lifestyle),” “Neon Star (Country Boy Lullaby),” and “You Proof,” which already topped the charts, are some of what Wallen calls “beat songs.” He also coins five songs on the album, “dirt rock,” which are his interpretation of the indie rock sound he loves from bands like The War on Drugs. Those tracks are “Me And All Your Reasons,” “Single Than She Was,” “Whiskey Friends,” “One Thing At A Time,” and “Last Drive Down Main.”
With two-hour’s of listening material at fans fingertips, Wallen provided a consistent lead-up to the album’s release, previewing tracks – “One Thing At A Time,” “Days That End In Why,” “Ain’t That Some,” “Whiskey Friends,” “Keith Whitley,” “Me +All Your Reasons,” “You Proof,” “Don’t Think Jesus,” “Everything I Love,” “Last Night,” “I Wrote The Book,” and his current single, sitting at the top of Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, “Thought You Should Know.”
He Honors His Mom On The Album
The latter of those songs, which marks Wallen’s eighth career No. 1 on the Airplay chart, plays out like a letter to his mama, Lesli Wallen, with intentions of catching up on life. Wallen penned the emotionally-charged track with two females, country superstar Miranda Lambert and songwriter Nicolle Galyon .
“I wanted a woman’s perspective, you know, for this song ‘cause I don’t have that obviously,” Wallen shared of “Thought You Should Know,” adding that Lambert and Galyon, “Were all in, they thought it was great. I think it is not just a sweet song, it’s real. It comes from a very real place. So I think that that’s what they probably liked about it. And they immediately had ideas. They helped me change a couple things that I had already there. And then we wrote the second verse and did some other things, but they were inspired immediately and we got that done pretty quickly.”
“I’ve worried my mom plenty, especially when I was in high school and all that kind of stuff, and she’s always been so supportive and so good to me and such a just positive impact in my life,” Wallen added. “So I feel like a song was one of the least things I could give her.”
One Thing At A Time Album Art Pays Tribute To His Late Grandmother
In the process of creating One Thing At A Time, everything was intentional for Wallen, from the lyrics to the melodies to the organization of the tracks down to the cover art, which features the singer/songwriter photographed at the home of his late Grandmother whom he affectionately calls Mamaw Boots.
“My Mamaw Boots helped raise me. I had such a special bond with her, so I wanted to honor her with this new record,” Wallen previously shared in a press release.
That sense of home-life and deep connection to his roots is also highlighted in songs like “Tennessee Fan” and “‘98 Braves,” (Fun Fact: Wallen once dreamed of playing shortstop for the Atlanta Braves) which incorporates Wallen’s love for baseball and the Knoxville, Tennessee, where he grew up.
“It’s important for me to always include the things that mean the most to me,” Wallen shared. “I think I’ve done that on every album so far. This one is probably the one where I’ve got to include the most.”
Indeed, Wallen continues to do what he’s best known for, which is sharing his hometown pride and highlighting his East Tennessee upbringing. But, the record overall digs deeper as it represents the last few years of his life, which includes some major highs and considerable lows – what he calls “the good, the bad, love, and heartbreak.”
His Son Inspired “Dying Man”
Wallen’s personal world was permanently shifted in 2020, when he became a dad to son, Indigo (Indie) Wilder, whom he shares with ex-girlfriend KT Smith. His role as a father deeply changed his perspective on life, and gave him reason to be a better man and fulfill his life’s purpose. That is evident on One Thing At A Time, which begins with life and ends with death, laying out who Wallen was with his confessional “Born With A Beer In My Hand” opener to who he wants to be in the poignant “Dying Man” closer.
“The person who saves ‘Dying Man’ in the song is a woman, but for me, in my real life, it’s my son because I don’t know how many times I should have died,” Wallen shares of the album closer, and of his son, who played a significant role behind the scenes of the project. “There’s plenty of times. And for some reason it never really scared me. I don’t know why. I should have been terrified the next day, but I never was. And then he was born, and it gave me something different to live for.”
“I’m a lot more honest about my real-life struggles on this album, and really more so than anything I’ve ever done,” Wallen continues in the bio for his album of learning from the hard lessons and focusing on becoming the best version of himself. “I’ve screwed up some in the past few years. I’m honest about that. I think my songs tell the truth. And I tell the truth.”
Wallen’s Sister Ashlyne Sings Harmonies On “Outlook”
Wallen’s focus on growth, maturity, and positive change is also highlighted in “Outlook” – a song written with Rodney Clawson and Jeff Hyde that features harmonies by the country singer/songwriter’s sister, Ashlyne.
“I used to think that it was me against the world / But it wasn’t / Drinking from a glass half empty made it better / But it doesn’t / Funny all the things you realize / When that 20/20 hindsight opens up your eyes / Now my outlook on life / Is different than it used to be / Now my outlook is someones out there looking out for me,” Wallen sings the lyrics of the track.
“I Wrote The Book,” an introspective tune that dropped ahead of the album, also underscores Wallen’s intentions to do better as a man. On track No. 9 track, penned with Michael Hardy (HARDY) and Cameron Montgomery, Wallen is sincere as he informs that while he’s good at some things, he hasn’t always been on his best behavior.
Referencing a book on the nightstand, presumably, the Bible, Wallen sings: “But there’s one that lays by the lamp on the nightstand / One that says don’t cuss and don’t fight / Or let the bottle turn you into a different man / But damn if I don’t do it every Friday night / Those get you into Heaven letters in red / Ain’t gettin’ read enough to / Keep me on a straight line / I’m a Jack of all trades / But man I gotta say / That’s one book I didn’t write.”
Morgan Wallen Also Highlights His Spirituality Throughout The Project
Wallen sprinkles in his spirituality throughout the 36-track album with songs like “Wine Into Water” as well as “Man Made A Bar,” a duet with his musical hero Eric Church, about bars being built by men for heartbreak after falling in love with girls, made by the man upstairs, and “In The Bible,” featuring his good buddy HARDY, about feeling closer to a higher power when getting into everything country like “back roads” and “cold beer.”
ERNEST, another good friend of Wallen’s, is a collaborator on the project in the track “Cowgirls.” HARDY and ERNEST, preparing to join Wallen on his massive One Night At A Time World Tour, had a hand in co-writing several songs on the album. ERNEST co-wrote 11 songs while HARDY helped pen 3 of the 36 tracks. Overall, the project included 49 writers.
“HARDY and ERNEST, we all have a special bond just based on music, I think,” Wallen gushes over his pals. “But luckily, we like a lot of the same things. We know when we’re around each other. It’s a good time. We goof off. We give each other a hard time. I mean, it’s a pretty natural friendship. And then, not to mention their talent. I think I’m biased for sure, but the numbers speak for themselves. They’re definitely two of the best songwriters this town and the world has seen in a while.”
“For me to be able to share in that creativity and hopefully inspire them, I know they inspire me. It’s a no-brainer to include people like that,” he continued. “And in our work, me and HARDY, this will be like, I don’t know, three or four songs that we’ve done together already. And anytime there’s a project of work, I think we’ll have a song together. Then ERN was another no-brainer to have on here. He’s done a lot for me. We all do a lot for each other. And that’s just what friends do.”
Wallen Will Soon Embark On A Massive Headlining Stadium Tour
Additionally, Wallen will soon take his new album on the road.
Wallen’s One Night At A Time World Tour, aptly named after his third album, kicks off on Wednesday, March 15, in Auckland, NZ, at the Spark Arena. The U.S. leg of the 63-date/30 stadium show tour begins on April 14 with back-to-back nights at Milwaukee’s American Family Field. Bailey Zimmerman will also join Wallen on all dates of the trek, with Parker McCollum appearing on select dates.
As he gears up to hit the road and prepares to play his new set of songs for fans everywhere, Wallen, who continues to stay humble despite the unwavering success.
“I don’t expect this album to do what Dangerous did. I don’t. I’m a realist. Because that damn thing is still in the Top 5,” Wallen reflects. ”That just doesn’t happen. But I don’t set goal sheets. I make music that I like, and I hope my fans like it.”