Back in February, right after the video of Wallen using a racial slur dropped, Isbell called the behavior “disgusting and horrifying” and said that his spot in country music should be “given to somebody who deserves it,” while also noting that “there are lots of black artists who deserve it.”
Wallen’s behavior is disgusting and horrifying. I think this is an opportunity for the country music industry to give that spot to somebody who deserves it, and there are lots of black artists who deserve it. https://t.co/14B77zLgMR
He also later said that he didn’t think Morgan should be “tarred and feathered,” but that he should be held accountable, and that not holding him accountable would show black people how little the country music industry cares about them.
I didn’t say “tar and feather the boy.” If he makes real change, his life will be just fine. But if he isn’t held accountable, black people in the industry will know how little country music really cares about them, even now. And that’s much sadder to me than alcoholism. https://t.co/G1wVwpzI6V
Jason is also in an interesting position here, because one of Morgan’s biggest hits is “Cover Me Up,” a deeply personal song that was written and originally recorded by Isbell.
And since Isbell’s initial comments on the incident, Morgan has been getting back out on the road and playing shows in front of sold-out crowds, with his 2022 The Dangerous Tour selling over 700,000 tickets. He also had the best-selling album of 2021 – and not just in the country genre.
Isbell, meanwhile, recently played a staggering 8-night run at the Ryman Auditorium – and for 7 of those 8 shows, he chose a black woman as his opener (the 8th was his wife, Amanda Shires).
And in a recent interview with Buzzfeed, Isbell again discussed the controversy surrounding Morgan Wallen, and the fact that Morgan’s star power has only seemed to grow since the racial slur incident:
“I think it’s hilarious that people assume that making somebody less famous is like cutting their fucking dick off!
We’re not calling for the man’s head! We’re just going, ‘This guy is an idiot. And he does not deserve to be put on a pedestal. So let’s take him off the pedestal and put him back down on the sidewalk with everybody else.’
That’s all anybody asked for.”
Isbell also gave his thoughts on why Wallen didn’t face a harsher punishment from the industry itself:
“The mistakes that he made were enough to warrant giving somebody else that spot.
The problem was they had already invested so much money in Morgan that when he made those mistakes, they didn’t want to lose that investment.”
And he also compared Wallen’s fall and rise to that of another country legend, George Jones:
“Listen to how they talk about George Jones.
There’s a lot of shit that George did that was not cool, shit that you really should not be able to be completely redeemed from.
But everything ended well, according to the country music’s narrative.”
Isbell blames that recurring narrative from the country music industry on white male nostalgia:
“Excuses have been made over and over to try to craft that same white male narrative. It’s just part of the story.
It’s like, ‘Yes, sometimes, as white men who’ve been put upon, we slip and we make mistakes, but we can rise again! And that’s country music, folks.
For people who already believe it’s true in their life, it gets reinforced when they hear it on the radio. And they don’t have to question it, they can just enjoy the nostalgia of it.”