Before Morgan Wallen became an internationally known country music artist, he was a student at Gibbs High School.
The 2011 graduate decided that just hours before his album came out, he would put on a free show for his alma mater after setting up a stage on the same baseball field he played on more than a decade ago.
“Everybody had some jitters and everybody was anxious,” said one Gibbs senior after word got around that Wallen was going to be at their school.
Before starting the concert, Wallen took time at the end of the school day to speak to the senior class in the gym. He shared words of encouragement and invited them all to come to a free show that night as a way to give back to his hometown.
“He could have done this any other place in the country and he chose to come back to where he went to school at and played at. So you know, we’re grateful to host the event and excited to have him come back home and… couldn’t be happier about the situation as it is now,” Davis said. “It’s neat to have him come back… back home where he played at and went to school and that just shows you the kind of heart he has… for him to come back and do this for us and let us host it, we’re super appreciative.”
Wallen has been in the news already for a free concert happening in Nashville at Bridgestone Arena Friday night for the surprise release of his new album.
Davis said the new album is titled “One Thing at a Time.” Thursday night, he took the field at Gibbs High School for the school’s seniors and staff, just before the album is released at midnight.
“A lot of people don’t realize, you know, Morgan was a competitor. He played baseball for me and he was a competitor, but everybody sees him on stage but they don’t realize, you know, he’s got a big heart. Like I said, for him to do this, that’s pretty special.”
The in-the-round show starts Friday night at 7:30 p.m. with doors opening at 4:30 p.m.
This follows a Marathon Music Works-hosted three-night “preview experience” of “One Thing at a Time from February 20-22, featuring three separately ticketed “sessions” each night.
“This record represents the last few years of my life, the highs and the lows,” Wallen shared via a press release. “It also brings together the musical influences that have shaped me as an artist – country, alternative and hip-hop. There are 36 songs on this album because we just kept exploring with fresh lyrics, music and production ideas and these are the songs that felt right to me. It was a blast to create, and I was so grateful to be back in the studio to lay this out for my fans.”
One Thing at a Time follows Wallen’s 2018 debut album If I Know Me, and seems poised to possibly dethrone the current No. 1 on the Billboard top country albums chart–Wallen’s own album, Dangerous: The Double Album, which has totaled 96 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s top country albums chart since its release in January 2021. Last year, the album broke the record for the most weeks spent in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 among albums by a solo artist. Meanwhile, two songs from One Thing at a Time are already atop the Billboard country charts: Wallen tops Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart with “Thought You Should Know” and the Hot Country Songs chart with “Last Night.”
Wallen added, “I just try to tell it how it is – the good, the bad, the love, the heartbreak. That’s all I know how to do,” says Wallen. “My hope is that this album makes my fans proud; makes ’em laugh, smirk, cry, and think – just like it did for me.”
After the release of his second album in January 2021, the 30-song Dangerous: The Double
, Wallen’s hyper-prolific strategy merged with his gruff, reality-show nonchalance (he first found an audience as a contestant on The Voice) to cement him as the crossover country star of the young decade. Then a month later he got caught on video using the n-word while stumbling home drunk over the weekend, and he quickly became something even bigger. Despite the public fallout and some short-lived repercussions (he was disqualified from the Grammys and placed on temporary hiatus by his label), Dangerous became the year’s most commercially successful release, tying a record set by Whitney Houston during the Reagan administration. As of this week, more than two years later, it’s still hanging around the Top 5 albums.
Through it all, Wallen’s attitude has been this: What is the absolute least I can do? There was, in quick succession, a requisite apology tour that included a direct-to-camera vlog posted on Instagram, some talk of charitable donations, an interview on Good Morning America, and a collaboration with Lil Durk. All the while Wallen seemed mentally fatigued and physically uncomfortable, as if the most important lesson he learned from his experience was that a lot of people are watching and it’s best not to make any sudden moves. Recently, the most engaged he’s seemed was an hour-long podcast appearance with his collaborator and friend Ernest Keith Smith, where they mostly talk about working out and their high school baseball careers. When Ernest asks what Wallen did as a teen to inspire his polarizing reputation on the ballfield, Wallen gives a knowing smirk as he chews his Skoal: “Just doin’ the same thing I would do today.”
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