"I think, for me, in my heart I was never that guy that people were portraying me to be," the country singer says in a new interview.
Nearly three years after he sparked controversy for using a racial slur,Morgan Wallenis taking a look back at the scandal.
In a new interview with Billboard, the country singer reflected on the controversy and the backlash that followed after he used the n-word in a now-infamous video in 2021. Wallen opened up about how he moved forward, and shared how he's "not the same person" he was back then.
Looking back, the "Last Night" singer said the incident made him realize "just how much that people listened to me," admitting, "I don't think I realized that, at least not at that grand of a scale at the time. I [learned] how much my words matter."
"That person is definitely not the same person I am now," he added.
While Wallen didn't criticize how both the public and industry reacted and acknowledged that many considered his words to be hurtful, he noted that it was frustrating that many immediately labeled him as a racist.
"There's no excuse. I've never made an excuse. I never will make an excuse," he admitted of his comments. "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 an s--t spot, you know?" he continued. "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."
The "Thinkin' About Me" singer was referring to the steps he took to educate himself and "to learn and try to be better," which included meeting with Black leaders like 300 Elektra Entertainment chairman/CEO Kevin Liles, and groups such as the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC).
Wallen also used his platform for philanthropy, donating $500,000 to organizations, including BMAC, Rock Against Racism, and The National Museum of African American Music, and to underserved communities via the Morgan Wallen Foundation.
"Take care of this p---y-ass motherf--ker" he was heard saying at one point, shortly followed by, "Take care of this p---y-ass n-----.
In response to the video, Wallen told TMZ, "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."
A week later, he posted a lengthy apology to his YouTube channel, asking fans not to defend him.
"I was wrong," Wallen stated. "It's on me to take ownership of this and I fully accept the penalties I'm facing."
The incident briefly derailed the upward trajectory of the "You Proof" crooner's career, it also simultaneously catapulted him to the top of the album sales charts at the time.
Wallen found his music temporarily taken off from several radio and streaming services, had his recording contract suspended, and was pulled out of appearances at both the CMT and CMA Awards, as well as the AMAs, ACM, and Billboard Music Awards following the controversy.
However, at the same time, his 2021 album Dangerous: The Double Album saw sales surge on the back of the controversy, eventually becoming the top-selling album of 2021.