Wallen, 27, apologized earlier this month after being caught on video saying the N-word. In an interview with CBS This Morning, Gill said "it was just sad."
"It was just disappointing because I knew that everyone was going to massacre country music," the 63-year-old explained on Wednesday. "White America, when they make the argument 'Well, I hear it in rap music all the time'… have you not been paying attention to the last 300 or 400 years how that word has been used by the white community? It's derogatory, dismissive and hurtful. It doesn't have a place."
Fallout for Wallen, on the industry side, was swift. The rising star will no longer be eligible for ACM Awards. He was dropped by his agency, William Morris Endeavor. Big Loud Records suspended Wallen's recording contract indefinitely. But his fans don't seem to care. Wallen, who previously competed on The Voice, has the No. 1 album for the fifth straight week.
Gill, a 21-time Grammy winner, understands there's an issue within the genre. It's why his new single "March On, March On" addresses the racial reckoning. The songwriter understands people believe country music "is extremely conservative," but cautioned, "I'm not sure if that's true."
"Maybe the audience might be predominantly conservative, but I don't know that the artistry is. I don't know that the community is, so there's a rub in there," he shared. Gill pointed to the positive reaction T.J. Osborne received when he recently came out as gay, which the country legend called "spectacular."
But racism in country music has always plagued the genre, and some artists have recognized how they've perpetuated historical racism. Country star Luke Combs apologized on Wednesday for his previous use of Confederate flag imagery.
"There is no excuse for those images," Combs said at a Country Radio Seminar event. "I think, as a younger man, that was an image that I associated to mean something else. And as I've grown in my time as an artist, and as the world has changed drastically in the last five to seven years [when the images were created], I am now aware how painful that image can be to someone else. ... I would never want to be associated with something that brings so much hurt to someone else."
The Grammy nominee added, "I apologize for being associated with that. Hate is not a part of my core values, and it's not something I consider a part of myself at all."
Combs said he hopes to serve as an example of how people can change.
"I'm here to learn," he explained. "I feel like I'm at this highly successful moment of my career, and I couldn't just sit back and not do anything. I couldn't not say, 'Hey, I want people to know that we, as a genre, care about this issue.'"
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