Ever since Tennessee breakout artist Morgan Wallen got himself a newfangled mullet he’s been the talk of the town. The country music community — whose fashion sense is more upscale these days than down home — were a bit perplexed by Wallen’s new do.
“It’s just something I liked,” confides Wallen in his warm, Southern-friendly accent. “I ran into experimenting and stumbled upon it.” He adds sporting the hairstyle wasn’t any kind of branding initiative either, rather something that others “related to, not what record people thought was a focused identity.”
That type of shoot-from-the-hip DIY spirit defines Wallen right from the start. After graduating from the TV series, The Voice, his first single, “The Way I Talk,” set in motion Wallen’s small-town conviction reinforced with the rousing chorus line: “It ain’t my fault, I just live the way I talk.”
Even though Wallen is born and bred deep-woods Tennessee, country music wasn’t always at the forefront. While bluegrass and the Baptist church, where his dad is a pastor, crept in, Wallen reveals he was a regular rocker turning up Led Zeppelin, Marshall Tucker, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Eagles. But when he discovered the straight-shooter intensity of Eric Church, things took off in another direction.
“I respect his honesty,” says Wallen. “He’s convincing. It comes naturally.”
The exact same could be said of Wallen. It’s no secret the country music industry is saturated with songsmiths and sound techs trying to spin radio hits. While there’s no shame in that, the outcome is often a manufactured reflection of life instead of life itself.
Wallen’s talent, beyond a great voice, is his ability to deal out the real feel of how it is. When his sings about knocking back shot after shot after shot after shot in the my-life-is-a-helluva-mess “Whiskey Glasses” — you believe it, you know it, you feel it. Yeah it’s got a perfect singalong, but it also digs right into what being fucked-up over love is all about.
Just when he carved a name out for himself cultivating his roots and true-blue tradition, Wallen took a great big leap into the unknown, collaborating with EDM provocateur, Diplo. Producing a beat-driven, free-flowing slice of catchy country with “Heartless,” he’s become a runaway success overnight.
Although Wallen notes, “It’s way different than what I’ve ever done before,” he’s a fan of all types of tunes, and no stranger to hip-hop or trying on different styles (remember the mullet!).
“If it’s a good song, it’s a good song,” says Wallen, clearly happy the track has drawn a wider audience into country. “I’m thrilled to have it go global.”