Morgan Wallen held nothing back during an extensive sit-down conversation with Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan on Friday morning (July 23), opening up about his use of a racial slur, entering rehab and more.
In the pre-taped interview, he also detailed his ignorance surrounding the n-word and shared what he’s done to work on himself after the controversial video surfaced.
Recalling the night the video was captured, Wallen explained that he was partying with several friends.
“I had some of my longtime friends in town. You know, we kind of just been partying all weekend and we figured we’d just go hard for the two or three days we were there.”
Strahan then questioned: “How did this happen, out of nowhere? You just refer to someone with a racial slur?”
“No, I don’t think it was just… it just happened,” Wallen admitted. ”We say dumb stuff together, it was… in our minds it’s playful. I don’t know if…That sounds ignorant, that’s really where it came from and it’s wrong.”
“This is a word that you use frequently amongst your friends?” Strahan asked Wallen, in which Wallen replied, “I wouldn’t say frequently, no, not frequently… It was just around this certain group of friends, I would say.”
When Strahan questioned the context in which the word was used, Wallen admitted that they were all “clearly drunk” and said that he “didn’t mean it in any derogatory manner at all.”
“I was asking his girlfriend to take care of him because he was drunk and he was leaving,” the singer/songwriter went on to explain.
“I think I was just ignorant about it,” he said. “I don’t think I sat down and was, like, ‘Hey, is this right or is this wrong?'”
.@ABC NEWS EXCLUSIVE: “In our minds it’s playful. That sounds ignorant — but that’s really where it came from and it’s wrong.” @MorganWallen speaks with @michaelstrahan about being caught on video using a racial slur. https://t.co/PXMd3zA5En pic.twitter.com/FuJgcfl7vi
Wallen was then questioned on the history of the word, in which he responded, “I’ve heard some stories in the initial conversations that I had after that — just how some people are, you know, treated even still today. and I’m just, like, I haven’t seen that with my eyes — that pain or that insignificant feeling or whatever it is that it makes you feel.”
Strahan detailed the history of the n-word and admitted, ”I’ve been called it. It makes you mad. It makes you angry. It doesn’t make you feel good at all” and asked Wallen if he understands why the word “makes Black people so upset.”
.@michaelstrahan: “I’ve been called it…do you understand why it makes Black people so upset?”
“I don’t know how to put myself in their shoes because I’m not” he started, “But I do understand, especially when I say I’m using it playfully or whatever, ignorantly, I understand that that must sound, you know, like, ‘He doesn’t — he doesn’t understand.'”
Wallen revealed that he checked himself into a rehab facility after the video surfaced.
“For 30 days, I spent some time out in San Diego, California — you know, just tryin’ to figure it out … Why am I acting this way? Do I have an alcohol problem? Do I have a deeper issue?” Wallen explained.
He also shared that he took time to meet with various Black organizations and Black music industry leaders, including BMAC (Black Music Action Coalition), Kevin Liles, CEO of 300 Entertainment, label home to Megan Thee Stallion, Eric Hutcherson, Executive Vice President and Chief People and Inclusion Officer at Universal Music Group (UMG) and Gospel singer BeBe Winans.
Following the release of the video, sales of Wallen’s sophomore release, Dangerous: The Double Album, soared to new heights.
“Before this incident my album was already doing well,” Wallen said. “It was already being well-received by critics and by fans. Me and my team noticed that whenever this whole incident happened that there was a spike in my sales. So we tried to calculate what the number of — how much it actually spiked from this incident.”
“We got to a number somewhere around $500,000, and we decided to donate that money to some organizations — BMAC being the first one,” he added.
When GMA asked about his decision to speak out now, Wallen admitted, “I’m not ever gonna make, you know, everyone happy. I can only come tell my truth, and — and that’s all I know to do.”
He also addressed his thoughts on whether or not the country genre has an overall race problem, Wallen said, “it would seem that way, yeah,” and added, “I haven’t really sat and thought about that.”
.@ABC NEWS EXCLUSIVE: @MorganWallen reveals to @michaelstrahan he spent 30 days in rehab following the incident and he says he donated the money from his spike in album sales to Black organizations. https://t.co/PXMd3zA5En pic.twitter.com/BAZI4uFXXf
Wallen’s GMA interview comes nearly six months after TMZ obtained a video showing the country singer using the n-word outside of his Nashville area home. On February 3, one day after the TMZ video surfaced, his label, Big Loud, revealed that his recording contract had been suspended indefinitely.
“I’m embarrassed and sorry,” Wallen said in a statement after TMZ published the video. “I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back. There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever. I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better.”
His music was then pulled from hundreds of radio stations across the country and removed from major playlists across various DSPs, including Spotify and Apple Music.
Additionally, Wallen was prohibited from participating in the 2021 Academy of Country Music Awards and his content was removed from the Country Music Association and CMT platforms. Dick Clark Productions also opted to exclude Wallen from the 2021 Billboard Music Awards.
One week after the video surfaced, Wallen released a lengthy video apology urging fans to stop siding with him.
“I have one favor to ask… I appreciate those who still see something in me and have defended me but for today, please don’t. I was wrong,” he said. “It’s on me to take ownership for this and I fully accept any penalties I’m facing.”
The East Tennessee native then took an extensive break from the spotlight and social media. During this time, fans rallied behind him, continuing to stream and purchase his sophomore project, Dangerous: The Double Album, so much so that it reached a record-breaking 10+ weeks atop the Billboard 200 chart.
The singer/songwriter later returned to social media to share hand-written letter to fans, revealing that he used the time away to better himself.
“Not only has this time revealed to me the ways in which I want to improve, but it’s also reminded me that I am still very proud of who I am and the man I am becoming,” he shared in mid-April.
At the time, Wallen also revealed that he removed himself from his scheduled appearances throughout the summer, including his spot on Luke Bryan’s tour. Wallen closed his post by letting fans know that his “story is far from over” and promised, “you’ll be seeing me sooner than later.”
Several weeks later, Wallen resurfaced with a surprise public performance at Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk & Steakhouse and also attended Miranda Lambert’s Casa Rosa VIP grand opening.
Meanwhile, Dangerous: The Double Album has gone on to earn Platinum certification, just six months after its release. Wallen’s sophomore album has now surpassed Taylor Swift’s seminal release Fearless and is now the No. 1 country album with the most weeks inside the Top 5 of the US Billboard 200 albums chart this century.
With no tour dates on the books, it appears that Wallen is also using this time to work on new music. According to social media posts, he has been in the studio with HARDY. He’s also shared several unreleased tracks, including “Thought You Should Know,” “Drink U Back,” and more.
Wallen has also been leaning on his family throughout the past six months, including his son, Indigo Wilder, who celebrated his first birthday earlier this month. Wallen documented the occasion on social media with photos from his “first rodeo” themed party.
Most recently, Wallen’s music has been quietly reinstated to many radio and platforms. His label, Big Loud Records, is now releasing “Sand In My Boots” to country radio. According to Billboard, “Sand In My Boots” debuted on the Country Airplay chart at No.56, marking Wallen’s first time on the chart since the chart dated February 6.
Watch the full interview below.