The Man Who Couldn’t Be Canceled: Morgan Wallen

In 2014, the world was introduced to Morgan Wallen on Season 6 of The Voice. He said, “My name is Morgan Wallen; I’m twenty years old, I’m from Knoxville, Tennessee, and I’m currently a landscaper.” He was a small-town boy who had never been on a plane before auditioning for the show.

Morgan Wallen / Morgan Wallen / Morgan Wallen / Morgan Wallen.
Source: Getty Images

With his shoulder-length hair and beard, Wallen explained how his baseball dreams ended in high school after an injury, so he turned to music. Although he didn’t win, the rising country star’s talent boosted him to fame. However, his life in the spotlight has been clouded by controversy, but people still love him.

He Grew Up Around Music

Born to Tommy and Lesli Wallen in Sneedville, Tennessee, on May 13, 1993, Morgan Wallen was surrounded by music throughout his childhood. His father was a preacher, and his mother was a teacher, and both of them loved hard rock and contemporary Christian music. The music in his house influenced him to start singing.

Morgan Wallen performs on stage.
Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images

By age three, Wallen started performing at his church. He learned to play the violin a few years later. He then added the piano and guitar to his repertoire. Over the years, Wallen turned his attention to sports, and music fell to the back burner because he saw a different career path.

An Injury Changed Him

Wallen proved himself to be a talented baseball player and put all his efforts into being successful on the field. He saw himself playing ball in college and potentially going pro, but an injury during his senior year derailed those dreams. He tore his ulnar collateral ligament and couldn’t play anymore.

A portrait of Morgan Wallen.
Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Since his baseball dreams were ruined, Wallen returned to his first love, music. He began considering a career in the industry but didn’t know how to get his foot in the door. Although he lived close to the country music capital of the world, Wallen didn’t know where to start.

Taking a Chance

Wallen had seen The Voice, so he decided to audition when he heard the show was holding an open casting in St. Louis, Missouri. He made it through to the blind auditions in LA and boarded a plane for the first time in his life for a chance to make his dreams come true.

A picture of Wallen during an interview.
Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

When he first appeared on stage, Wallen was unsure what kind of singer he wanted to be. He performed a rendition of “Collide,” which impressed Shakira and Usher. He ultimately joined Usher’s team, advancing to the battles where he beat Brothers Walker while singing “Hey Brother.”

He Didn’t Make It

During the second round of battles, Wallen lost to Stevie Jo, but Adam Levine stole him. They sang One Direction’s “Story of My Life,” which wasn’t Wallen’s style of music. Luckily, he got a chance to redeem himself the following week. However, the playoffs didn’t go as he had hoped.

A still of Wallen during a performance in The Voice.
Source: YouTube

Wallen was eliminated from The Voice during Episode 17. His rendition of “Stay” wasn’t enough to keep him in the competition, but he went home with more hope. His appearance on the show gave him exposure and provided him with a few industry connections. Wallen also had a new direction.

Finding His Sound

While on The Voice, Wallen realized he had what others consider a thick Southern accent. It helped push him in the direction of focusing on country music. It wasn’t the biggest influence in his life, but once he started writing songs, they just sounded like country.

A still of Wallen during an interview in The Voice.
Source: YouTube

Wallen didn’t initially want to be a country star because he grew up listening to rock music and was a fan of bands like Breaking Benjamin and Nickelback. However, his voice and accent fit the role of a country star, so he went with it.

Meeting the Right People

After his appearance on The Voice, Wallen moved to Nashville, where he met producer Joey Moi. The like-minded producer was known for his work with Nickelback and reinvented himself into a country hitmaker. Moi was impressed with Wallen, who “didn’t know how good he was.”

A dated portrait of Wallen.
Photo by J. Merritt/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Wallen added bluesy notes to his country-rock style, and Moi loved the sound. In 2015, he recorded an EP with Panacea Records, catching the attention of Big Loud Shirt’s Seth England. Between Moi and England, Wallen was in the right hands.

Going to the Next Level

Seth England was impressed by Wallen’s talents and got the singer an audition with his partners at Big Loud Records. They signed Wallen to the label, which gave him more opportunities in the music industry. Shortly after signing, he released his debut single, “The Way I Talk.”

Wallen poses for the press.
Photo by Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images

The following year, he joined Florida Georgia Line on their Dig Your Roots Tour. Wallen was living his dreams, and he was quickly labeled as someone to watch in the country world. He also co-wrote Jason Aldean’s “You Make It Easy.”

An Ominous Sign

When Wallen released his debut album in 2018, the lead single, “The Way I Talk,” stalled at number 30 on the country-radio chart. It wasn’t a good sign for the new singer. Moi and Wallen worried that the album would be a flop since the first single wasn’t doing well.

A still of Wallen in the music video.
Source: YouTube

Luckily, the following three singles from the album were number one country hits. Wallen had help from another Moi client, Florida Georgia Line. The successful band gave Wallen the opportunities he needed for his career to take off.

A Hit Single

Wallen’s career was on the rise, but he didn’t make it big until the release of his single “Whiskey Glasses” in 2018. It was the third single from his debut album, If I Know Me, reaching number one on the country charts. The song became the top country radio single of 2019.

Wallen performs in a stadium.
Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

The music video featured a fictionalized version of Wallen’s transformation after The Voice. He went from a cardigan-wearing small-town boy to this “everyman” type of rockstar with his glorious mullet. Wallen turned into a character and, surprisingly, a sex symbol.

An Army of Fans

Many Nashville professionals were surprised by Wallen’s thirsty female fans. His army of admirers flocked to his social media pages to like and comment on his photos. He might not be one of the top names in country music, but tens of thousands of women are obsessed with him.

Wallen performs on a rooftop.
Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Many people declared their love for Wallen, and his fans ranged from all ages. His quirky style appealed to the female demographic. It also helped that Wallen’s music was catchy and fresh. However, he was about to take a few hits.

A Mullet Mugshot

When the pandemic began in 2020, Wallen worried because the live-music industry shut down. He was still new in the industry, so the pause threatened further growth. Luckily, his loyal fans stuck by him even though he wasn’t on his best behavior.

A mugshot of Wallen.
Source: Pinterest

On May 24, 2020, Wallen was arrested at Kid Rock’s Honky Tonk in Nashville. He was charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct, reportedly kicking glass at the crowd. Additionally, people called him out for partying during the pandemic.

New Music

A few days after his arrest, Wallen released the first single from his new album, “More Than My Hometown.” The arrest got his name in the headlines, helping him and his music gain attention. The song quickly became a hit on the radio and TikTok.

Wallen accepts an award on stage.
Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Fans reacted to clips of the song and recorded their own versions. Despite the controversy, Wallen didn’t lose many fans; he even gained some in the process. However, the drunken arrest wasn’t his last controversy of the year.

Breaking the Rules

More people learned about Wallen when he was announced as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live in October 2020. He got even more attention when SNL postponed his appearance because he violated the show’s COVID protocols. It wasn’t the attention he wanted.

Wallen records himself talking to the camera.
Source: YouTube

The show’s producers decided to postpone his performance because Wallen was seen on TikTok partying at an Alabama bar without a mask and kissing girls at a wild house party. Wallen was preparing for a rehearsal in Manhattan when he got the news.

Another Chance

Wallen was disappointed when SNL rescinded their initial invitation. His manager ordered him a steak dinner to help him process the news. He flew back to Tennessee, but the SNL producers gave him a second chance in December 2020, and he wasn’t going to mess it up.

A still from Wallen’s performance in SNL.
Source: NBC

Wallen was excited but didn’t pretend to be a regular SNL viewer. He promised not to do anything to violate the rules again and wanted to give everyone a good first impression. His performance went well, but it showed the gap between mainstream media and the country world.

The Butt of the Joke

During his SNL appearance, Wallen acted in a sketch with host Jason Bateman and cast member Bowen Yang. They played versions of Wallen from the future, sent to the past to stop him from partying away his chance at fame.

A still from the sketch.
Source: NBC

It poked fun at the cancelation of his October performance. The actors did perfect impressions of Wallen’s southern accent, but it didn’t seem like he enjoyed being the butt of the jokes. His final performance felt defiant, as if he was annoyed with all the teasing about his voice.

A Unique Album

With all his extra time at home, Waller wrote so many songs that he joked with his manager about releasing two albums. Their joke turned into a reality when they decided to release 32 songs. It was unheard of, so Wallen called it Dangerous: The Double Album.

A photo from the album cover.
Source: Pinterest

The 32-song album contains 100 minutes of music, a lot of music to digest. Still, Dangerous debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. It became the first country album since Luke Bryan’s Kill the Lights to top the chart for two consecutive weeks.

The Only One to Do It

One of the many songs from the Dangerous album was “7 Summers.” Wallen uploaded part of a demo to Instagram before the album was released. It had the breezy sound of Fleetwood Mac, and fans begged him to share the final version.

A still from 7 Summers’ music video.
Source: YouTube

Wallen’s fans were obsessed with the demo version, so he didn’t change it. When “7 Summers” came out a few months later, his fans pushed it to number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, making Wallen the first Voice contestant to score a Top 10 hit.

The Other Side of Dangerous

Because the album has so many songs, the record has two sides. The first side was gentler, while the second side “reminds listeners who he is and where he’s from.” Many mainstream country singers, especially men, are compelled to. But Wallen didn’t follow the usual standards.

Wallen plays the guitar.
Source: YouTube

While many country artists write about pickup trucks and women in cutoff jeans, Wallen’s song, “Blame It on Me,” was a mock apology to women who “go country” because of him. His other songs, “Somethin’ Country,” “Country A**,” and “Whatcha Think of Country Now,” star with a songwriter losing a bet.

Fans Worried

Dangerous included many party songs, so many that Wallen’s fans worried about him. After he was arrested for public intoxication, listeners thought the partying songs were a cry for help because he was out of control. Even though he wasn’t prosecuted for the charges, it didn’t look good.

Wallen attends an event.
Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

One of the songs, “Cover Me Up,” tells the story of a man recovering from a bender and giving in to sobriety. Wallen said he wanted to change his ways for his son, born in July 2020, but his next scandal contradicted that statement.

A Major Scandal

A month after the album came out, Wallen was hit with a huge controversy that threatened to end his career. On February 2, 2021, TMZ released a neighbor’s Ring camera footage showing Wallen drunkenly calling a friend’s girlfriend. He used several racial and gendered slurs.

Wallen speaks on stage.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The backlash was unsurprisingly strong, and with today’s harsh cancel culture, many thought Wallen was next on the list to be sent into the black hole of canceled celebrities. His music was pulled from iHeart and Cumulus stations, Sirius XM, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.

Not Looking Good

In addition to platforms pulling his music, Big Loud suspended his contract, and the Academy of Country Music said he was ineligible for its awards. Many people assumed Wallen’s career was over. But the country industry is very different than pop or Hollywood.

Wallen performs on stage.
Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images

Instead of being treated like an outcast, people considered forgiving the young artist. One industry insider wrote, “So, what is the penalty for using the N-word? Are you canceled forever, or is there a specified amount of time after which we bring you back into the fold? We don’t know.”

He Apologized

Wallen released a statement saying, “I’m embarrassed and sorry. 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.”

Wallen speaks during an interview.
Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Surprisingly, his album was number one on the charts for the fourth week in a row despite his controversial actions. Wallen’s collaborators were unhappy that people still supported him, with Jason Isbell saying he would donate his earnings to the NAACP.

Sales Kept Surging

Wallen also posted a five-minute Instagram apology. He explained, “The video you saw was me on a 72-hour bender, and that’s not something I am proud of. It’s on me to take ownership for this, and I fully accept any penalties I’m facing.”

Wallen performs playing the guitar on stage.
Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

He made sure to mention that he had met with Black leaders and organizations, who showed him “grace.” It seemed like he was trying to prove that people could forgive his actions. Still, his music sales kept surging. Dangerous stayed at the top of the chart for seven weeks.

Trying to Make Amends

With his album sales rising, Wallen used some of the profits to donate $300,000 to the Black Music Action Coalition. He donated the money in the names of 20 people who had counseled him after the incident. Wallen thought this would make up for what he said.

Wallen poses for the press.
Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

The 20 individuals could use their respective $15,000 to donate to a charity of their choice or keep the money in the BMAC. While he couldn’t take back what he said, Wallen hoped to turn his reputation around. Money doesn’t always speak louder than actions.

Taking a Step Back

While most artists were excited to get back to performing on stage by the summer of 2021, Wallen announced that he would be bowing out of all performances, including festivals and Luke Bryan’s Proud to Be Right Here Tour. He said he needed time for personal growth.

A still of Wallen during an interview.
Source: ABC News

However, a month later, he tested how audiences would react to him at Kid Rock’s Honky Tonk. Wallen went on stage with a house band to perform “Whiskey Glasses” and “Wasted on You.” It looked like he was back in everyone’s good graces.

Steps Towards Redemption

Not long after his impromptu performance, Pandora and other platforms lifted the ban on his music. Wallen also won three Billboard Music Awards. He then had to prepare for his first interview since the incident. In July 2021, Wallen sat down with Michael Strahan on Good Morning America.

Wallen performs on stage.
Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images

Strahan grilled Wallen about the incident, with Wallen saying, “I was around some friends, and we say dumb stuff together. It was, in our minds, playful. That sounds ignorant, that’s where it came from, and it’s wrong.” He stayed out of the public eye for a few months after the interview.

He Went Into Hiding

After the interview with Strahan, Wallen stayed out of the public eye until October. Most believed he went into hiding because he was banned from the CMA Awards, where he was initially nominated. He fell off the radar, giving people time to forget about the controversy.

A view of Wallen and his fans during a concert.
Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images

But when Wallen returned, he announced he would be headlining three Country Thunder festivals in April 2022. His loyal fans were delighted to hear that they could see their favorite artist perform live again. The announcement caused 36,000 tickets to be sold in 90 minutes.

Did Everyone Forget?

Wallen ended 2021 with the top album of the year. That’s pretty good for someone who almost got canceled. He also announced the 54-city Dangerous Tour, set to open in the Midwest. Unfortunately, winter storms caused show cancelations. Wallen ended up in Manhattan for the opening of Madison Square Garden.

Wallen performs on stage.
Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images

His set opened with the song “Broadway Girls,” a collaboration with rapper Lil’ Durk. Rolling Stone noted that there were no protestors outside, and people were simply in the crowd to support Wallen. It seemed like everyone had forgotten about the racial slur.

A Rocky Relationship

Wallen and his ex-girlfriend Katie Smith started dating in 2017. The two were on and off but frequently appeared on each other’s social media pages. The two first met on Snapchat, and they got engaged within a few months of dating.

A picture of Katie Smith and Wallen with their son.
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But the relationship turned sour as Wallen got more famous. Smith wrote on her blog that she and Wallen broke off the engagement but continued to date while he was on tour. She claimed that Wallen wasn’t “the most faithful.” However, Smith didn’t hate him for cheating.

They Had a Son

As Wallen rose to stardom, he and Smith officially ended their relationship. Although they were both single, the two welcomed their son, Indigo Wilder, in July 2020. Co-parenting was initially challenging, but the two found a better balance in caring for their son.

A video still of Wallen / A photo of Smith with her new boyfriend.
Source: YouTube

Smith said, “It will always have tough times, but the most important thing is that we put our little angel first.” She and Wallen are focusing on their individual careers but remain connected because of Indigo. Having a child made a major impact on Wallen’s life.

Promising to Change

In July 2021, Wallen and Smith celebrated their son’s first birthday together. It came just five months after the incident, giving him time to reflect on his actions. In a birthday post for Indigo, he promised to be the dad his son deserves and to make better decisions.

A picture of Wallen at home with his son.
Source: Pinterest

Additionally, Wallen wrote, “I promise I’ll always protect you and do my best to be an example of a good, godly man just like my daddy was for me.” He claimed his son made him see the world differently, so we hope he can continue on the right path.

A Secret Relationship

In the summer of 2021, Wallen and Paige Lorenze started secretly dating. As he took a break from the spotlight for many months, he and Lorenze were able to keep their relationship private. The two didn’t officially announce their relationship until February 2022.

A picture of Wallen and Paige Lorenze.
Source: Pinterest

Lorenze posted a picture on Instagram kissing Wallen and a series of videos showing her dancing at his concert. Unfortunately, the two broke up two weeks after going public. He was reportedly cheating on her, and once they went public, Lorenze received messages from girls about him.

He Was Criticized

While many have forgotten or forgiven Wallen since the 2021 incident, others still hold onto it. In January 2022, Wallen and Ernest performed together at the Grand Ole Opry. It was exciting for Wallen because the Opry is legendary in the country music world.

Wallen and Ernest perform on stage.
Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images

Unfortunately, Wallen’s performance was criticized by some fans and musicians because it came six months after the Grand Ole Opry released a statement against inappropriate things Wallen said. People commented that Wallen hasn’t significantly atoned for his actions and felt the Opry gave him a free pass.

Giving Back

Wallen is trying to show the world that he is a changed person by using his fame to do good. In July 2022, Wallen generously offered to pay for the Humphreys County Dixie League baseball team to attend the World Series. He said he would cover travel expenses and provide new uniforms.

Morgan Wallen and Lesli Wallen pose for the press.
Photo by Bryan Steffy/WireImage/Getty Images

He surprised the little league team, which their coach, Steve Wilson, said meant so much. Many of the players were affected by the horrible floods in August 2021. The schools were severely damaged, and they had to attend class in a refurbished factory.

Doing His Part

Before funding the little league team, Wallen held a benefit concert to help those impacted by the Tennessee floods, raising over $725,000. The stories hit close to home because Wallen grew up in a small town in Tennessee, and his family could have easily been affected.

A portrait of Wallen during an event.
Photo by Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images

Wallen wanted to help in any way he could, and the concert was the perfect opportunity. He touched many people’s lives with the funds from the concert. He is trying to be a better person and use his platform to give back to his community.

His Biggest Supporters

Wallen has three sisters, including his adopted sister Lucy. They are huge supporters of his music career and have stuck by his side through the ups and downs. His sister Mikaela said, “Family is there for you no matter what, so I’m here to love and support you through your mistake and wins.”

A photo of Wallen with his sisters.
Source: Instagram/ @mikaelawallen_

Besides his sisters, Wallen has always been extremely close to his mom and grandmother. He said, “My mom and grandmother, they’ve always been my biggest supporters in whatever I do.” Family is everything to Wallen.

The Pressure of Fame

Although Wallen enjoys the fun parts of his job, like playing live shows and making music, there have been negative sides to fame. He explained that he loves getting up to perform and record most days, but other times, he doesn’t want to be “Morgan Wallen.”

Wallen accepts an award.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

He has tried not to let fame get the best of him because he feels that “a lot of people get too caught up in trying to be Hollywood.” Wallen frequently reminds himself of where he came from and how his upbringing shaped him.

How Much Is Morgan Wallen Worth?

As of 2022, Wallen is reportedly worth about $4 million. It’s a modest amount for a singer, but he is still new to the industry. Luckily for him, controversies haven’t brought him down. Even after the scandal in 2021, his album sales increased by 327 percent.

Morgan Wallen accepts the Album of the Year award.
Photo by Arturo Holmes/ACMA2022/Getty Images

Though the incident didn’t have too many negative effects, Wallen wants to leave that part of his life behind. He recently sold his Nashville home, where he was caught cursing on camera. Wallen’s house sold for $835,000. He treated himself by buying a luxury truck.

He’s Still Young

Wallen is 29 years old, and he still has a lot to learn. His twenties were spent learning lessons the hard way, but he has grown from those tough situations. Wallen is still getting used to his fame and will most likely make more mistakes in the future.

A portrait of Wallen.
Photo by Frazer Harrison/ACMA2019/Getty Images

He was quickly thrust into the spotlight, which was a huge adjustment. Wallen has a lot more to offer, and people are finally seeing the better side of him. He can’t change what he did in the past, but he can improve and continue to do good in the world.