By MARINA WATERS
Country star Morgan Wallen will soon have 200 shows behind him on the year. The next two years of his life are booked with shows opening for the likes of Luke Combs and Florida Georgia Line. But for Wallen, it’s never hard to fit an East Tennessee show in a busy tour schedule when it always feels like coming home.
“Sometimes we’ll have five shows a week,” Wallen told the Herald & Tribune. “This week we’ve got like nine shows in 11 days. It’s a lot but I’m enjoying it. It’s cool to see everybody across the country knowing and loving the music we put out. Anytime I get a chance to come back to home it’s special for me. Especially if I’m doing my job while I’m there. I love Tennessee. I don’t think I’ll every leave. I love to come back.”
This year, Wallen, who recently gained his second No. 1 with “Whiskey Glasses” after his first hit featuring Florida Georgia Line titled “Up Down”, will get his chance to come home to East Tennessee on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at the Appalachian Fair in Gray.
For the Sneedville native, it’s not only a Tennessee mountain silhouette that will welcome him home — it’ll also be memories of growing up going to the fair with a lit up ferris wheel in the distance.
“I enjoy it. I grew up going to the fair so it’s cool for me to be in that atmosphere,” Wallen said. “I think it’s a little bit more family oriented too. I remember growing up being with my family. Those are memories that they get to have forever and I get to be a small part of that. I take it just as seriously and enjoy it just as much as any other show. Any time I get to play my music and hopefully touch somebody with it is special for me.”
Playing music is something he’s done quite a bit in his career opening for artists such as Jake Owen and Luke Bryan. In October he’ll also join Luke Combs on the fall leg of his sold-out “Beer Never Broke My Heart Tour”.
“I’m looking forward to that,” Wallen said. “I’ve never actually played a show with Luke before. He’s obviously on fire. He’s the biggest thing in country music right now so I’m super pumped to be a part of that tour. Other than that, I’ve been writing songs a little bit, I’ve been fishing a little bit if I get a chance. But that’s about all I’ve got time for.”
Wallen’s music contains hooks that are heard through radio speakers and sung at live shows across the country, but for the 26-year old singer, who sports a mullet and a routine sleeveless flannel shirt, most of the songs from his debut album, “If I Know Me,” started with thoughts of home.
“Pretty much every song has some sort of small town memory of East Tennessee in it. It’s a huge part of who I am,” Wallen said. “My family is still there. I think about that often when I’m writing songs. I try to go back to those memories growing up. It’s very important. I notice that people really do relate to that. It’s honest and it comes from my heart and I think that’s what’s most important.”
Wallen has also written songs recorded by artists such as Dustin Lynch, Kane Brown and Jason Aldean who just celebrated his most recent No. 1, “You Make It Easy”, which was co-written by Wallen and Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley from Florida Georgia Line.
“I’ll have my version and it’s awesome to hear someone else put their spin on it, especially someone like Jason Aldean,” Wallen said. “I grew up listening to Jason Aldean. I never thought I would write a song for Jason Aldean. It’s cool that he loved it that much and decided to do it. At radio it’s been really successful. It’s been really cool to see that be one of his biggest songs of his career. I’m just happy to say I had a small hand in it.”
When Wallen makes his Appalachian Fair debut, he won’t be the only hit songwriter to take the stage; the county artist will be joined by HARDY (Michael Hardy), the singer/songwriter who has penned No. 1 songs like “God’s County” by Blake Shelton, “Talk You Out Of It” by Florida Georgia Line, “I Don’t Know About You” by Chris Lane and Wallen’s first hit, “Up Down”.
“HARDY is one of my best friends and not just in music but in life,” Wallen said. “Pretty much since the day we met, we knew we were pretty kindred spirits. He inspires me everyday and I hope I do the same. There’s no one more talented than him in my opinion. Right now, I’d have a hard time saying there’s a better songwriter than him in Nashville. I’m just glad life put us together. That’s something that I felt like I needed. I’m thankful for it.”
Writing songs and putting out songs like his latest single, “Chasing You”, is a big thing to Wallen. But for the East Tennessee country singer, the crowd staring back at him while on stage is a nightly reminder of why he does what he does and its importance.
“I give (shows) everything I’ve got every night. I just want people to have a good time,” Wallen said. “I want people to leave and feel like they experienced something they couldn’t have experienced anywhere else. I just try to go out there and be myself and give it hell. I just want people to know that I appreciate them being there and also I know that I’m there to entertain them. I feel like it’s a huge responsibility. They spent their hard earned money to be there to spend that night with me. It’s a big thing for me. I take it seriously.”