Morgan Wallen made his first major concert appearance since he was filmed hurling the N-word back in February.
The country artist, 28, hit the stage at Luke Bryan’s concert in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday night and joined Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and sang his records “Whiskey Glasses” and “More Than My Hometown” before hanging out on stage while Aldean belted “She’s Country.”
“A really good friend of mine is here backstage tonight,” Aldean told a perplexed Bryan onstage. “I don’t know if you know this.”
“Do I need another tequila shot to get through this?” Bryan quipped.
It was then that the embattled Wallen waltzed down the narrow catwalk and greeted his country companions to a cheering sold-out audience as he handed out shot glasses.
“Only in Nashville,” Aldean said.
Wallen then played “Hometown,” introducing the record as “a song about staying true to yourself,” adding, “that’s been a really hard thing for me to do lately, but here I am.”
The incident in question stemmed from a video taken by a neighbor of Wallen’s on Feb. 2 in which he is heard telling someone to “take care of this… N-word,” as he’s being dropped off at his home.
It subsequently led to Wallen’s record label, Big Loud Records, suspending him and conglomerates like iHeartRadio pulling his music from their stations.
After the video of Wallen’s incident hit the internet in February, he told Fox News in a statement, “I’m embarrassed and sorry.”
“I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back,” he continued. “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.”
Speaking in a pre-taped interview on “Good Morning America” that aired shortly after, host Michael Strahan asked Wallen how he feels about people who may think his interview is just another “performance.”
“I understand that I’m not ever going to make everyone happy. I can only come tell my truth and that’s all I know to do,” Wallen said.
Wallen admitted he had been “partying all weekend” with some “longtime friends.”
He went on to say he and his friends “say dumb stuff together” and it isn’t a slur he uses frequently.
“No, I don’t think it just happened. I was around some of my friends and we just, we say dumb stuff together. In our minds it’s playful. It sounds ignorant but that’s really where it came from, and it’s wrong,” Wallen added. “We were all clearly drunk and I was asking his girlfriend to take care of him because he was drunk and he was leaving. I didn’t mean it in any derogatory manner at all.”
Strahan pressed Wallen why he would feel it was an “appropriate” word to ever use, to which the country crooner admitted he was “just ignorant about it.”
“I don’t think I ever sat down and thought, ‘Hey, is this right or wrong?’” he said.
Wallen was widely condemned by several country artists, including Maren Morris and Mickey Guyton, after the video surfaced. Asked by Strahan if he believes there is a race problem in country music, he replied, “I mean, it would seem that way, yeah. I haven’t really sat and thought about that.”
In April, the musician took to social media to issue a handwritten apology to fans and revealed he would be taking a break from performing this summer.
“I have felt a lot of love lately from so many people I haven’t gotten to know yet,” Wallen began, while thanking his fans who stood beside him. “I know my corner hasn’t been the most popular one to stand in recently, but many of you did anyway.”
Wallen maintained that he had “made some mistakes” in 2020 and called it a “tough year,” likely pointing to his public intoxication arrest in May and disorderly conduct charges in September.
The country star was also scratched as a performer on “Saturday Night Live” after he was spotted partying at a bar without practicing social distancing just days before his scheduled performance.
He went on to write that he always “strives to be better” and that his time away from the spotlight not only helped him identify the ways he wants to improve but also “reminded me that I am still very proud of who I am and the man I am becoming.”