Morgan Wallen is ready to explain himself.
Five months after a video leaked of the country star using the N-word while out with friends—an incident that threatened to derail his entire music career—the 28-year-old sat down with Good Morning America's Michael Strahan on Friday, July 23, to share what went down.
"It just happened. I was around some of my friends and you know, we say dumb stuff together," Wallen said. "It was, 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."
The singer added, "We were all clearly drunk and I was asking [my friend's] 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."
In the interview, his first since the scandal, he also revealed that after the controversy he met with leaders from groups like the Black Music Action Coalition and also checked himself into rehab.
"For 30 days, I spent some time out in San Diego, California, just trying to figure out why am I acting this way," he said. "Do I have an alcohol problem? Do I have a deeper issue?"
Wallen was criticized on social media, shunned by CMT, iHeartRadio and the Academy of Country Music Awards and dropped from booking agency WME and Big Loud Records.
However, despite those losses, many of his fans continued to support him and his music has continued to rank high on country music charts. In May, Wallen won three honors at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards despite being banned from appearing at the show because nominees are chosen based in large part on their performance on Billboard charts. In June, Variety reported that Wallen's songs recently returned to playlists at most country stations.
Wallen told Strahan that his music sales actually spiked after the controversy and that he and his team decided to donate the extra profit, estimated to be about $500,000, to some organizations, including BMAC. The group has not responded to GMA's request for comment.
When asked what made him think the N-word was ever appropriate to use, Wallen told Strahan, "I think I was just ignorant about it. I don't think I sat down and was, like, 'Hey, is this right or is this wrong?'"
Strahan told Wallen that he himself has been called the racial slur before, asking if he understood why it makes Black people so upset.
"I don't know how to put myself in their shoes," the singer responded, "because I'm not, you know, but I do understand, especially when I say that I'm using it playfully or whatever, ignorantly, I understand that that must sound like, 'He doesn't understand.'"