Meet Morgan Wallen, Son of a Hell-Raising Preacher Man
It's true a rolling stone gathers no moss, but who pays good money to watch moss grow? For most of the last decade, Morgan Wallen has been rolling through and around life-changing obstacles and career-deciding encounters, eventually finding an unlikely path to becoming a certified country hitmaker.
Wallen — the third Taste of Country RISERS pick of 2018 — grew up singing with his sisters, his mom (who preferred Christian music) and his dad, a classic rock-loving preacher.
"I think that's one of the things I've loved about him," Wallen says, grinning that kind of grin fathers hope their daughters never fall for. "He's lived. Up until 25, he told me he was pretty wild."
It may surprise you none that Wallen didn't live strictly by the Bible. He got in typical East Tennessee country boy trouble. You know the kind that causes you to butt heads with a father who's doing his best to make sure you don't grow up like him? There was a lot of that until Wallen — now 25 himself — moved out and, "I was like, 'Dang, I know what Dad was saying.'"
They're very close now. In fact, drill down through Wallen's Instagram page and sure, you'll find a whole lot of what he's been up to lately. There's photos with Luke Bryan — they've been on tour together this year — and Cole Swindell and Florida Georgia Line, whose numbers he now has in his cell phone. You'll find pictures of the newcomer on his tour bus and onstage, performing for packed crowds. But you'll also find his family members. The Sneedville, Tenn., native has deep roots, and he hasn't forgotten where he came from. If he ever does need a lesson in humility, mom gives it to him.
"It is weird. If your mom asks you what you're doing last night and you're like, 'Hanging out with Luke Bryan,'" he says, relaying a recent conversation, "(She's) like 'Cool, you make it sound so nonchalant.'" (Laughs)
"Up Down" Is His Banger, But Morgan Wallen's "Whiskey Glasses" Is Art
A baseball injury ruined his professional dreams and a particularly forgettable semester in college forced Wallen to re-think his priorities, so he went back to that music thing. Growing up he'd sing three-part harmonies with his sisters at church and holiday gatherings, but it never dawned on him that he could make a career of it.
"I didn’t know if I could write," he admits, recalling his first days in Nashville. "I was writing all these songs at home and was like (grumbles), 'Maybe I can write?'"
He was smart enough to listen to those willing to teach him. Now signed to Big Loud Records with friends and mentors in Bryan, FGL and more, Wallen the rising country star is thriving. In recent months he has charted two No. 1 songs, one as a songwriter for Jason Aldean's "You Make It Easy" and the other for his own platinum-certified "Up Down." That followed up his gold-certified debut "The Way I Talk," both from a surprisingly dynamic debut album called If I Know Me.
"It’s definitely validation and it gives you credibility," he says of his success before admitting that until this happened, "I didn’t know what a radio chart was."
"Whiskey Glasses" — a drinking song with a shot of heartbreak that Wallen has lived, even if he didn't write it — is his new single. He's been playing it live for a bit now and it figures to be featured prominently when he begins his headlining tour in January.
"The way they (Ben Burgess, Kevin Kadish) put it together, almost like modern day beer goggles a little bit. That kind of thing really drew me towards it," he says of his chosen original performance for RISERS.
Over the next three months you'll learn more about Wallen's raising, his future and the origin of the one thing everyone is asking him about: that fine-as-wine-mullet. You'll also learn that there's a lot more depth there — something he's excited to share with fans who see him on the If I Know Me Tour.
"I definitely don't wanna be known as the 'Up Down' guy," he says. "I love singing that song, I love that song, but yeah, there's definitely more to me than just a party for sure."
Morgan Wallen's Jason Isbell Cover Is Soul-Stirring
Behind the Scenes of RISERS With Morgan Wallen: