Morgan Wallen said Friday in his first interview since he was caught on video shouting the N-word that he hasn't "really sat and thought about" whether country music has a race problem.
Radio stations dropped him and his label suspended his contract after TMZ in February published a video of him shouting to a friend: "Hey, take care of this "p---- ass motherf-----. ... Take care of this p---- ass n-----" while returning to his Tennessee home after partying.
Following coverage of the incident, Wallen almost immediately saw a 1,220 percent increase in digital album sales and a 327 percent increase in song sales.
"Before this incident my album was already doing well," he told ABC's "Good Morning America" co-host Michael Strahan. "It was already being well received by critics and by fans. Me and my team noticed that whenever this whole incident happened that there was spike in my sales."
But Wallen said he didn't consider what the correlation might mean about country music fans.
"Do you believe there is a race problem in country music overall?" Strahan asked him.
"I mean it would seem that way," he replied. "Yeah. I mean, I haven’t really sat and thought about that."
Wallen said he did spend 30 days in rehab following the alcohol-fueled incident. He has previously said he uttered the slur at the end of a "72-hour bender."
"I was around some of my friends, and we just, we say dumb stuff together," Waller said. "In our minds it’s playful. I don’t know if it sounds ignorant, but that’s really where it came from."
Strahan asked the musician if he realizes how hurtful the word is to Black people.
The word "goes back to slavery used by white people to dehumanize Black people, make them feel less than," Strahan said. "It’s also, as you dig deeper, is a word that a lot of Black people heard before they were terrorized, beaten or even possibly killed. So it’s a word that really — I’ve been called it — it makes you mad. It makes you angry. It doesn’t make you feel good at all. So do you understand why it makes Black people so upset?"
"I do understand, especially when I say that I'm using it playfully or whatever ignorantly," Wallen said. "I understand that that must sound you know like, he doesn’t understand."
Following the release of the video, Wallen posted an apology to his Instagram, asking his fans not to defend his actions.
Wallen said Friday that he has met with members of the Black Music Action Coalition and donated money from his spiked sales to the group and other organizations. The coalition did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
Wallen said his conversations led him to realize how much pain is embedded in the slur he so casually used.
"I've heard some stories in the initial conversations ... about how people are treated still today and I'm just like, I haven’t seen that with my eyes, that pain or that insignificant feeling," he said.