Morgan Wallen Will Try to Repeat as Male Artist of the Year at the ACM Awards

morgan wallen smiling as he plays guitar and stands in front of a microphone
Morgan WallenGetty Images
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Morgan Wallen News: Singer Receives 6 ACM Award Nominations

Country music star Morgan Wallen had a newsworthy April between starting another leg of his massive One Night at a Time World Tour and his arrest at a bar in Nashville, Tennessee. More news—the good kind—could arrive in the form of new trophies from the 2024 ACM Awards on May 16.

Wallen is nominated in six categories—tied for second-most of any artist with Megan Moroney—at the annual awards show, which will be hosted by “Queen of Country” Reba McEntire. He’s in the running for major awards like Male Artist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year, as well as Album of the Year for One Thing at a Time and Single of the Year for his No. 1 hit “Last Night.” The 31-year-old’s other nominations include Artist-Songwriter of the Year and Music Event of the Year for his “Man Made A Bar” collaboration with Eric Church.

At the 2023 ACM Awards, Wallen won Male Artist of the Year but canceled his performance and didn’t appear at the ceremony after injuring his vocal cords while on tour. The three-time ACM Award–winner also previously took home Album of the Year honors for Dangerous: The Double Album (2021).

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Who Is Morgan Wallen?

Morgan Wallen is a country singer known for hit songs like “You Proof,” “Last Night,” and “Whiskey Glasses.” He first rose to prominence with his appearance on the sixth season of the NBC singing competition The Voice in 2014. Wallen’s music has since garnered mass appeal, with his 2023 album One Thing at a Time rising to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and Top Country Albums charts. At one point, he simultaneously held half of the top 10 tracks on the Billboard Hot 100 with songs off the album—something only five other artists, including Taylor Swift and The Beatles, have accomplished. However, the singer has also stirred controversy with his offstage behavior, including using a racial slur in a 2021 incident caught on camera.

Quick Facts

FULL NAME: Morgan Cole Wallen
BORN: May 13, 1993
BIRTHPLACE: Sneedville, Tennessee
CHILD: Indigo Wilder
ASTROLOGICAL SIGN: Taurus

Early Life and Family

Morgan Cole Wallen was born May 13, 1993, in Sneedville, Tennessee, to parents Tommy and Lesli Wallen. He has three younger sisters: Ashlyne, Mikaela, and Lacey, whom Tommy and Lesli adopted in 2021. The family later relocated to nearby Knoxville when Morgan was a high school freshman.

At age 3, Wallen started singing at the local Southern Baptist church, where Tommy served as pastor and eventually sang three-part harmonies with Ashlyne and Mikaela. He received a violin for Christmas at age 5 and began taking lessons. He also played and trained on the piano growing up. His father was a rock ’n’ roll music fan and introduced him to artists such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Fleetwood Mac, and the Eagles.

However, Wallen first believed his path was baseball. Playing for Gibbs High School in Knoxville—which also calls Kenny Chesney an alumnus—he became a star shortstop and pitcher. During a game his senior year, he suffered a torn UCL in his elbow that required surgery. Colleges lost interest following the injury, and Wallen took a few months off following his graduation in 2011 to figure out his future. “I prayed and tried to figure out what was my plan and my purpose. That’s how I started writing songs and playing guitar just to get my feelings out,” Wallen told LancasterOnline in 2017.

Wallen began his music career by playing for his mother and friends, who told him he had talent. However, it would be his appearance on a popular reality TV show that truly set him up for success.

Contestant on The Voice

morgan wallen singing with a microphone in front of bright white and purple stage lights
Morgan Wallen performs during his blind audition for the judges on the NBC singing competition The Voice.Getty Images

In 2014, Wallen boarded an airplane for the first time to fly to Los Angeles and audition for the sixth season of The Voice, the popular NBC singing competition show. He performed Howie Day’s 2003 pop hit “Collide” and impressed celebrity judges Shakira and Usher. “I think that there are no voices like your voice on today’s radio—that’s why I turned [my chair],” Shakira told him. “It’s as manly as it gets.” Wallen chose Usher to be his mentor.

Wallen made it through the first and second battle rounds, performing Avicii’s “Hey Brother” and “Story of My Life” by One Direction. Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine even “stole” Wallen for his team of performers. However, Wallen was eliminated in the playoff portion of the competition.

Still, the experience increased his profile and allowed Wallen to pick up industry connections. He also zeroed in on country music as the genre that best suited him. “It may not have been the biggest influence in my life, as far as musically,” he told The New Yorker in 2020. “But once I started writing songs, it just sounded country. And I was like, well, I guess I’ll sing country music, because this is the life I know.”

Breakthrough: “Whiskey Glasses” and Other Songs

Following The Voice, Wallen moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to advance his career. He formed a temporary band called Morgan Wallen & Them Shadows with Serg Sanchez of the group Atom Smash. Sanchez introduced Wallen to executives at Panacea Records, which signed the artist in 2015 and financed an EP called Stand Alone and the single “Spin You Around.”

In August 2016, Big Loud Records announced it had signed the then-23-year-old Wallen, who continued working with music producer Joey Moi. Wallen released his debut single with the label, “The Way I Talk,” that same year.

Next came his debut studio album, If I Know Me, in April 2018. It rose into the top 20 on the Billboard 200 and contained the songs “Up Down” featuring Florida Georgia Line and “Whiskey Glasses.” The latter reached No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart and peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2019, marking his biggest success to date. Wallen went on tour with Florida Georgia Line that same year. When the Country Music Association named Wallen the New Artist of the Year at the November 2020 CMA Awards, it cemented his status as one of the rising stars in the genre.

Wallen continued to surge in popularity with his second studio album, Dangerous: The Double Album, in January 2021. The release debuted at No. 1 and had the largest streaming week ever for a country album, according to Billboard. It contained songs like “7 Summers” and “Wasted on You,” which peaked at No. 6 and 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Superstardom with One Thing at a Time

morgan wallen playing guitar and singing while sitting on a stool for a stage performance
Morgan Wallen performs at the Billboard Music Awards in May 2022.Getty Images

Dangerous proved to have staying power, as the album reached its 86th nonconsecutive week in the Billboard 200’s top 10 in September 2022—the most ever. Peter, Paul, and Mary held the previous record, which dates back to the early 1960s, for their self-titled album.

But Wallen wasn’t resting on the success. In May 2022, he released the single “You Proof.” The song became Wallen’s top chart performer, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Thought You Should Know” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 that same month and reached a high point of No. 7 almost a full year later.

By then, Wallen had already released his 36-track album One Thing at a Time and embarked on a (since-extended) 65-show world tour. The March 2023 album was an immediate success, quickly topping the Billboard 200 and placing the song “Last Night” atop the singles chart. Four other songs—“You Proof,” “Thought You Should Know,” “Thinkin’ Bout Me,” and the title track—simultaneously reached the top 10, making Wallen accountable for half of it. Only Taylor Swift, The Beatles, 21 Savage, Drake, and Juice WRLD had accomplished the feat.

Unsurprisingly, Wallen won the Academy of Country Music Award for Male Artist of the Year in May 2023. Months later, in September, he was nominated for three CMA Awards—Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and Album of the Year for One Thing at a Time—but left the ceremony empty-handed.

In April 2024, Wallen began a months-long extension of his One Night at a Time World Tour from the previous year. He also received six ACM Award nominations, including in the categories for Entertainer, Male Artist, Album, and Single of the Year.

Racial Slur and Other Controversies

While Wallen has generally made headlines for his music, the singer has also gained notoriety for several offstage incidents. He was arrested in May 2020 on charges of public intoxication and disorderly conduct following an incident at a bar and steakhouse owned by Kid Rock in Nashville, Tennessee.

In October 2020, Wallen was scheduled to be the musical guest on an episode of the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. But in the days leading up to the performance, videos emerged on social media showing Wallen drinking shots, kissing fans, and failing to follow social distancing guidelines after a football game at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Because of show protocols instituted amid the COVID-19 pandemic, SNL replaced Wallen with The White Stripes frontman Jack White. Wallen owned up to his behavior and, two months later, made fun of himself and the incident during his rescheduled appearance on the show in a skit with actor Jason Bateman.

morgan wallen smiling and singing during a segment with snl actors

Then, in February 2021, TMZ posted a video of Wallen calling his friend the N-word and using other profanities outside his Nashville home following a night out with friends. Wallen quickly apologized for using the slur, but some radio stations and streaming services dropped him from their playlists. He was also disqualified from the 2021 ACM Awards and temporarily dropped by his label, Big Loud.

That July, Wallen gave his first interview following the incident to ABC’s Good Morning America and said he didn’t mean to use the term in a derogatory manner. “I was around some of my friends, and we say dumb stuff together. In our minds, it’s playful. That sounds ignorant, but that’s really where it came from. And it’s wrong,” Wallen said, adding that he and his friends had been drinking leading up to the exchange. Wallen said he had donated $500,000 from his album sales—which spiked following the backlash—to organizations such as the Black Music Action Coalition and spent a month in rehab in San Diego. “I spent some time... you know, just trying to figure it out… why am I acting this way? Do I have an alcohol problem? Do I have a deeper issue?” he explained.

Wallen disappointed fans in April 2023 when he canceled a show at the University of Mississippi minutes before taking the stage because he had lost his voice. A couple of weeks later, the singer revealed doctors had ordered him to go on extended vocal rest because of injured vocal cords and vocal fold trauma. He subsequently canceled six weeks of shows on his One Night at a Time World Tour. He returned to performing in late June at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

Most recently, Wallen was arrested again in April 2024 after allegedly throwing a chair off the roof of a bar in downtown Nashville. Metro Nashville Police charged the singer with three felony counts of reckless endangerment and one misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct. Wallen waived his right to appear in person at a preliminary hearing, and he is slated to appear in court on August 15. “I’m not proud of my behavior, and I accept responsibility,” Wallen later posted on social media.

Personal Life and Son

Wallen reportedly began dating Katie “KT” Smith in 2017. The pair dated off and on through 2019, even becoming engaged, but ultimately split. They share a son, Indigo Wilder.

Indigo, or “Indie,” was born in July 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. Although the singer and Smith had split by that point, Wallen has said the two do their best as co-parents. His parents also traveled from their home in Tennessee to help care for Indigo. “I just hope to give him as sound advice as my parents gave me and show him love and let him know that I’m here for him and that I’m his friend,” Wallen told People in January 2021.

In June 2023, Indigo was taken to the hospital after being bitten in the face by Smith’s dog, Legend. He received stitches but was okay, according to Smith, who looked to re-home the animal.

Wallen also quietly dated model and influencer Paige Lorenze starting in 2021. According to reports, the couple broke up in February 2022, only weeks after going public with their relationship.

As of June 2023, Wallen was rumored to be dating fellow country singer Megan Moroney. However, Moroney didn’t confirm or deny a relationship in an interview with People, saying the dating gossip made her “really uncomfortable.”

Net Worth

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Wallen’s total net worth is estimated at around $12 million as of July 2023.

Quotes

  • I always kinda thought that I was going to have to scrap around and live paycheck to paycheck. I didn’t know exactly what I was gonna do. I had no clue… Obviously, that’s not the case anymore.

  • I don’t necessarily speak my feelings a lot. Yeah, definitely writing and singing is damn near the only way I can get my feelings out.

  • I got my little boy, I got my family. I don’t know, man—everything is really good for me right now, so gratitude is at the top of my vocabulary.

  • Awards are awesome, but my true measure of success is my fans.

  • I just try to tell how it is—the good, the bad, the love, the heartbreak. That’s all I know how to do.

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