Twenty-five-year-old Morgan Wallen is a rising star currently taking the country music world by storm. After his hopes to play college baseball were sunk due to an injury, Wallen turned back to songwriting and making music.
Just two years ago, Wallen signed a deal with Big Loud Records, with his first single, "The Way I Talk," releasing that same year, reaching number 30 on the charts. Truly a good start. But in 2017, Wallen collaborated with Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, the guys from Florida Georgia Line, on "Up Down." Released in late 2017, the single has been RIAA-certified Gold, hit number one on the Country Airplay chart and is quickly becoming this summer’s "It" song.
To boot, he’s headlining his own tour – almost unheard of for someone so fresh – has been named as one of Rolling Stone’s "10 Artists You Need to Know" and has already performed at the Grand Ole Opry.
The singer-songwriter has achieved a lot in a short-time, and while Wallen’s music is fun for sure, he doesn’t just keep it on the surface. He writes a lot and not just poppy little ditties. His music is sometimes raw and painful but also hopeful.
OnMilwaukee had the chance to sit down with him during Country Thunder in Twin Lakes to learn a little more about the one of the freshest faces in country music today.
OnMilwaukee: Good things are happening for you in the last couple years. What’s it like knowing you’ve gotten where you want to be?
Morgan Wallen: I wouldn’t say I got where I wanna be yet. But I feel like we’re on a good path that’s for sure. I kind of have a theory that things don’t necessarily sink in until, like, I think later. And 'cause I’m just still working so hard. I’m always playing shows and writing. I’m always super focused on, you know, what’s next. So it’s kind of hard to just sit back and take in what’s happened so far.
But there are those moments where you do that – you know, like, you have a team dinner or things like that where you actually celebrate. And those moments are really cool. I just moved to Nashville three years ago, and to think how far we’ve all came together as a team in that span is really cool.
Your career hasn’t been typical. You didn’t play dive bars to get your music heard, so you’ve truly been blessed. How do you keep it real?
I grew up in the country, you know? And as soon as I was old enough to drive, or actually as soon as I was old enough to just get a job, I had one. I was always raised to believe that you work for what you got. And I’m very glad I was raised that way.
My parents didn’t have like a lot of money or anything, so it was also necessary. It wasn’t just a principle. It was kind of like, "You know if you want something, we wish we could help, but you’re going to have to get it yourself" kind of thing. And they always sacrificed so much for me. I played baseball growing up. It’s expensive. I played on a lot of travel teams and things like that, travelling all around the country. They made sure that I was able to do that. I think I learned a lot from my parents as far as keeping it real, too. I think it’s just all about people and how you treat them. And how you feel about everything that goes with it.
I’ve heard you say that your dad is your best friend. How has he influenced your life and career?
Well, I think it goes to a lot of the sacrifices that I’ve seen them make together, him and my mom. We’re very similar people, me and my dad. We’re very similar, so when I was growing up, a lot of times, we’d butt heads. I wasn’t as close to him growing up as I am now, as I have been in the past four or five years. I think he just saw a lot of himself in me, and he didn’t want me to make the same mistakes he did and all that kind of thing. Se we’d butt heads. I was a kid, a smart alec little kid. My dad has always done everything it takes to make sure the people he loves are taken care of. And I think that’s probably the biggest thing that learned from him.
Cool. What are the two most important things you want people to know about you?
Oh. That’s a good question. Only two things?
I guess one is I still feel like exactly the same as when I moved to Nashville. You know when all this stuff (happened for me). It’s all crazy and awesome to me, but I still have a lot of the same friends back home that I still talk to. I still am a very family-oriented type of person. I guess I just try to make sure I keep that so I can stay down to earth.
And two ... I don’t know what the second one would be. I guess how important my faith is to me. I have a lot of faith. My dad was a preacher growing up, as well. I didn’t necessarily get it just because of him being a preacher. I went through a phase in my life where I rejected it all. I wanted to find my own way, you know? And my own way led me back to that. It’s something that I consider important to me.
What have you learned from working and touring with Florida Georgia Line?
Those boys, they’ve kind of taken me into the family, you know? Pretty much ever since I met them. We have a lot of the same connections and same people that we work with. I met them six months after moving to Nashville. I feel like their drive grows everyday – even though, with all the success they’ve had, I feel like they could easily kind of coast through and (just be) it is what it is kind of thing and do whatever they want. But I still both of them having so much focus and so much love for writing still, and for just growing their brand. You know, they’re doing all kinds of things with their whiskey, with their FGL House, with everything that they’ve got going on. I think if you ever get to that point, just keeping that focus, you can just tell how much they love it. I’ve learned a lot of things from them, for sure.
Can we do some really rapid fire getting to know Morgan Wallen questions?
What’s your favorite southern food?
Biscuits and gravy. Sausage and gravy.
How do you flavor your grits?
I don’t like grits.
Uh-uh. I grew up on Cream of Wheat instead of grits. They’re kind of similar things. Probably grits are better for you, I don’t know. Actually no. They’re all bad.
What would your trucker CB handle be?
Probably Bo Wallace. That’s like my alter-ego. Like if we’re partying. I don’t really get into it that much anymore. When I was first doing a radio tour, I went to a radio station and they had my name as "Bo Wallace." Instead of like my actual name, they had put that on the thing, like "We’re welcoming Bo." I don’t know who or how they did that, but I was like, "Yeah, I’m using that!" So I’d probably use that.
Do you have any tattoos?
To play, right now, golf. To watch, I’d probably go with basketball.
Favorite sports team?
Favorite sports player … Tom Brady.
Last one. Have you named your mullet?
Nah. Well, actually some people in my camp have started throwing around nicknames. So far the one I like the best, it’s called Tennessee Waterfall. Wait. Ain’t that what it’s called, Phil? (Calls to tour manager Phil Haney.)
Phil Haney: What?
Morgan Wallen: She said have I named my mullet? Don’t y’all call it the Tennessee Waterfall?
Phil Haney: Tennessee Waterslide.
Morgan Wallen: Tennessee Waterslide! That’s it!
In all of her experiences, time was focused on writing which has been a passion since junior high school. A series of food service industry jobs both before and after law school taught her that bringing out the human side in any story is key to great storytelling and good writing.
A die-hard east side girl, you'll usually find Lora down by the lake or on the Oakleaf. She's an avid photographer, and sometimes storm chaser.
Hobbies include biking, gardening, cross country skiing, swimming, blogging, and of course working on her fictionalized autobiography--fictionalized, because whose life is really interesting enough to fill 400 pages?
She's in IMDb. Look her up.