Just less than six months after a video emerged of Morgan Wallen saying the N-word, the country star returned to the national spotlight with his first interview, on Good Morning America. Speaking to Michael Strahan during July 23’s broadcast, Wallen said he “was just ignorant about” his use of the word, which he claimed came after days of hard partying with friends. After the video of him using the racial slur came out, Wallen was “suspended” by his label, his music was pulled from major radio stations, and he was deemed ineligible at the Academy of Country Music Awards. Yet Wallen’s just-released album Dangerous spiked in sales, topping the Billboard 200 for seven more weeks after the video and becoming the best-selling album of the year so far. During the GMA interview, Wallen claimed he and his team calculated the amount of money the album made after the video — “a number somewhere around $500,000” — and donated that to groups supporting Black people and Black musicians, like the Black Music Action Coalition. Wallen further said he met with representatives from that group and others in the Black community, such as record executives Kevin Liles and Eric Hutcherson and gospel singer BeBe Winans, after previously promising to do so in an apology following the video.
Further, Wallen said he spent 30 days at a rehab facility in San Diego, “just trying to figure it out: Why am I acting this way? Do I have an alcohol problem, do I have a bigger issue?” He’d previously blamed his use of the slur on being drunk, but also told Strahan it had to do with the friends he was with. “You know, we just, we say dumb stuff together,” he said. “In our minds it’s playful, you know. I don’t know if that sounds ignorant, but that’s really where it came from, and it’s wrong.”
Curiously, Wallen’s GMA interview comes between first- and second-round voting for the Country Music Association Awards, where he is ineligible in individual categories of Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year, but eligible for Dangerous and its songs in categories like Album, Song, and Single of the Year. The November awards will be the first major country ceremony where Dangerous is eligible, and a test of whether the industry is willing or ready to welcome him back. Strahan concluded the interview by asking Wallen if he believes “there is a race problem in country music, overall,” given some responses that his use of the slur is evocative of rampant racism in country. “I mean, it would seem that way, yeah,” Wallen said. “You know, I haven’t really sat and thought about that.”