Morgan Wallen Says ‘I Will Never Make an Excuse’ for Using Racial Slur, but ‘I’m Really Not That Guy’

In his first interview in two years, country superstar Morgan Wallen addressed the controversy that nearly derailed his multimillion-dollar career: His use of the n-word, which was captured on video by a neighbor without his knowledge as he shouted to a friend at the end of a long and possibly inebriated evening.
“There’s no excuse. I’ve never made an excuse. I never will make an excuse,” Wallen told Billboard of using the slur. “I’ve talked to a lot of people, heard stories [about] things that I would have never thought about because I wasn’t the one going through it. And I think, for me, in my heart I was never that guy that people were portraying me to be, so there was a little bit of like, ‘Damn, I’m kind of actually mad about this a little bit because I know I shouldn’t have said this, but I’m really not that guy.’ I put myself in just such a sh-t spot, you know? Like, ‘You really messed up here, guy.’ If I was that guy, then I wouldn’t have cared. I wouldn’t have apologized. I wouldn’t have done any of that if I really was that guy that people were saying about me.”
He’s referencing his subsequent meetings with with several Black leaders, including 300 Elektra Entertainment chairman/CEO Kevin Liles, Universal Music Group executive vp/chief people and inclusion officer Eric Hutcherson and gospel artist Bebe Winans, as well as with the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) and other groups in an effort to educate himself. He said his process “to learn and try to be better” is ongoing.
He also said the controversy, which followed a postponement of his appearance on “Saturday Night Live” after he was caught in a different 2021 video flagrantly defying Covid social-distancing protocol, taught him “how much my words matter… That person is definitely not the same person I am now.”
The article, a cover story on Wallen’s chart-busting 2023 — which saw him not only scoring the top single of the year with “Last Night” but topping 12 of the publications 28 year-end country charts — also references his charitable efforts in the wake of the incident, which include donating $500,000 to organizations including The National Museum of African American Music, Rock Against Racism and the BMAC. Three dollars from every concert ticket Wallen sells goes to the foundation, which primarily helps underserved communities through supporting music and sports youth programs, and has donated over $1 million in 2023, including $100,000 to the Atlanta Braves Foundation and $500,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville to help revitalize a baseball and softball complex.

More from Variety

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.