While country fans may think they haven’t heard of newcomer Morgan Wallen, they’ve probably heard the way he talks. The Tennessee native is gaining speed on country radio with his debut single “The Way I Talk,” which is an ode to his thick country accent and his small-town upbringings — something that is highlighted in the music video for the song.
The visual stars his sister and real-life friends and features the gang simply having “a really fun day,” as Wallen puts it. The video for “The Way I Talk” is available now on Wallen’s official Vevo channel, and Billboard has an exclusive look at just how much fun Wallen and his friends had on the video shoot.
As “The Way I Talk” continues to heat up on country radio, currently sitting at No. 30 (according to the May 6 Country Airplay chart), Wallen is on the road supporting Florida Georgia Line, whom he’s become friends with from several writing sessions as he’s gained his footing in the country world. Billboard chatted with Wallen about his song and video, as well as his experience touring with FGL.
Watch the behind-the-scenes video and check out our interview with Wallen below.
What would you say is the funniest, quirkiest, most unique thing about the way you talk?
A lot of people say I talk like “country-gangster” almost. I don’t know how that’s possible or how that happens, but some people say that. I guess we’ll go with that. I’m down to try it messing around with freestyle songs, I’m terrible at it, but I’ll try it. [Laughs]
When you were working on “The Way I Talk,” did you think it was special enough to get to the top 30 on country radio?
I kind of knew from the minute we got it that it was going to be the first single. We had not talked about it — it was kind of an unspoken thing that we all really loved the song. I wanted to put a song out there to let people know who I was and, at the same time, help me set apart from a lot of different people in country radio. I kind of have an interesting, unique vocal thing as well — I wanted to get a song that obviously people love, but at the same time I wanted them to stop and wonder who that was. We felt like that was the song from the moment we got it.
It seems like people from all over the country [relate to it and] have taken it as kind of like an anthem. Like, “Hey, this is who I am, there’s no reason for people to make fun of it or whatever it is. Who cares.” Who I really wanted the song to [reach] were people who didn’t really have an accent or really believe or love the same things I do. I didn’t want to make it a Southern anthem or anything like that. That’s why we did the video the way we did: I wasn’t trying to press dirt roads and trucks on anyone; I wanted it to just kind of be fun and be who I was, and hope everybody would enjoy it.
How did you come up with the video concept and what did your friends think of being involved?
We just wanted to let everyone know that I’m just a regular guy. I’m your neighbor. I didn’t want to act like I’m too cool for school or anything like that. I wanted people to feel like they could get along with me and, you know, throw other little quirky things in there. So, like the boxing match, my friends, that was kind of impromptu, almost got out of hand — I kind of wish they let it get out of hand. [Laughs] We kept it at a par, but my friends were so excited to be part of it. We goofed around the whole day and it ended up something I was very proud of, so it was awesome.
After we finished I was like, “Who would have ever thought people I grew up with and loved for a long time would have been around for that?” It was very special, for sure.
What have you taken away from your time on the road with the FGL guys?
Both of those guys are really dedicated to their craft, really students of the game, so to speak. And it’s really cool to see how much love they still have for it even after all of the success. I think that translates onstage, just to see how much fun they really have. You can tell that they’re just being themselves up there, showing their fans who they are. I think that’s what you gotta do.
I’ve talked to people who knew them from the beginning, before they had anything going, and they said that they’re the same type of guys that they always were. I feel like that’s my foundation and my roots, what I believe in — no matter where life takes me, I’ll always be the same guy and same person at heart.
They got their start in 2012, and five years ago I was just getting out of high school. I was listening to them on the lake figuring out who they were when they were getting their start, and now I’m out here doing shows and writing with them. It’s really kind of crazy to think about.
You just wrapped the first tour you’re doing with them — did you get pranked?
I didn’t have to experience any of the end-of-tour pranks because I was so fresh, it was just my second weekend out. So they told me at the end of the next tour that I better watch out. The fact that I know they’re going to do me that way, they’re gonna get it too. [Laughs] Since my song is “The Way I Talk,” they’ll probably just come out there and talk all redneck during my set. I definitely have some fear, but I love those guys and love everybody that’s a part of it, so I’m not too worried.