"I was around some of my friends and we say dumb stuff together. In our minds it's playful, you know?" Wallen said of using the N-word. "That sounds ignorant, but that's really where it came from. And it's wrong."
Wallen claimed that he did not say the racial slur "frequently" but admitted that when he previously had used the word that it was around that "certain group of friends."
Strahan asked if he understood why the slur "makes Black people so upset," to which Wallen responded, "I don't know how to put myself in their shoes because I'm not. But I do understand, especially when I say I'm using it playfully or whatever, ignorantly, I understand that that must sound, you know, like, 'He doesn't -- he doesn't understand.'"
Following the incident, Wallen said he spoke with BMAC (Black Music Action Coalition) as well as Black men in the music industry, including record executive Kevin Liles, Eric Hutcherson, executive vice president and chief people and inclusion officer at Universal Music Group (UMG) and gospel singer BeBe Winans. He also checked himself into rehab.
"I went and checked myself into rehab for 30 days," he said. "I spent some time out in San Diego, California, just trying to figure it out. Why am I acting this way?"
Wallen told Strahan that the discussions he's had since the incident have opened his eyes to why this was such a serious matter.
"I heard some stories in the initial conversations that I had after that [incident], just about how people are treated even still today," he said. "I haven't seen that with my eyes, that pain or that insignificant feeling, whatever it is that makes you feel."
Despite backlash from fans, institutions and his peers in the music industry, Wallen's sales increased significantly following the incident, and he told Strahan that he and his team took the additional money, which he said amounted to $500,000, and donated it to civil rights organizations, including BMAC. ABC News reached out to BMAC but have not heard back.
"I'm not ever gonna make, you know, everyone happy," he told Strahan. "I can only come tell my truth, and -- and that's all I know to do."
When asked if the country music industry has a race problem, Wallen replied, "It would seem that way, yeah. I haven't really sat and thought about that."