Luke Bryan Surprises Nashville Crowd With Jason Aldean, Tyler Hubbard — and Even Morgan Wallen [Watch]
"Only in Nashville."
Luke Bryan already had Jason Aldean and Tyler Hubbard onstage with him at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Friday night (July 30) when he pulled off one more surprise introduction: Morgan Wallen.
Technically, Aldean was the one to make the introduction, calling Wallen "a really good friend" (quote via the Tennessean). But Wallen was one of Bryan's originally announced opening acts for his Proud to Be Right Here Tour, which stopped in Music City for a sold-out show after being postponed from Summer 2020 to Summer 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dylan Scott stepped in in his place after Wallen announced in mid-April that he would not be touring this year, after being caught on video using a racist slur.
Wallen received a lengthy cheer from the arena crowd when he emerged from backstage — holding shot glasses for his fellow artists, nonetheless. With Bryan, Aldean and Hubbard behind him on the catwalk, he performed two songs: "Whiskey Glasses" and "More Than My Hometown."
"This is a song about staying true to yourself,” offered Wallen about the latter, "and that’s been a really hard thing for me to do lately, but here I am."
Prior to Wallen's appearance, Bryan introduced Hubbard for a performance of "This Is How We Roll." Written by Bryan, Hubbard, Cole Swindell and Hubbard's Florida Georgia Line duomate Brian Kelley, the song — which featured guest vocals from Bryan — became a No. 1 hit for FGL after it was released in 2014, as the fifth and final single from their Here's to the Good Times album.
Bryan's stage crew had set up four coolers at the end of the catwalk prior to Hubbard's appearance, though — a clue that there were more surprises to come.
After Wallen's two songs, all three guests stuck around onstage with Bryan to sing Aldean's "She's Country." That song became Aldean's second No. 1 hit in 2009, after its release as the lead single from his Wide Open album.
Wallen's surprise appearance at Bridgestone Arena wasn't his first time back in the spotlight since his on-camera use of the N-word led to an "indefinite" suspension from his record label, Big Loud, and more career consequences. In May, he surprised a crowd at Kid Rock's Lower Broadway bar — located just a few blocks from Bridgestone Arena — by getting onstage for a headling-grabbing two-song set on a Wednesday night.
A week prior to Wallen's time onstage with Bryan and company, Good Morning America aired an interview with Wallen, his first since February. In the segment, led by GMA anchor Michael Strahan and focused on Wallen's use of the slur, Wallen said that he does not use the N-word "frequently," and that he "didn't mean it in any derogatory manner;" he admitted that he's "not sure" why he thought the N-word was an appropriate word to use in the way.
"I was around some of my friends, and we say dumb stuff together," Wallen said. "In our minds, it's playful. That sounds ignorant, but that's really where it came from."
Wallen also told Strahan that he met with members of the Black Music Action Coalition, as well as gospel singer BeBe Winans, and donated about $500,000 — an estimation of the money he made when sales of his music spiked after the video's release — to BMAC and other organizations he did not name. Additionally, the singer says, he checked himself into rehab in San Diego, Calif., for 30 days.
The segment with Wallen concluded with Strahan asking the singer if he believes there's a race problem in country music. Wallen responded, "It would seem that way, yeah. I haven't really sat and thought about that."
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