“Sand in My Boots” marks the first country radio release for Wallen since his music was temporarily banned from country radio stations, after TMZ posted a video Feb. 2 of Wallen uttering a racial slur outside his home in Nashville. Country radio station conglomerates, including iHeartMedia, Cumulus, Cox Media and Beasley, yanked Wallen’s music from the airwaves shortly after the video surfaced.
Several country stations quietly added some of Wallen’s hits back this summer, including “Whiskey Glasses,” and then began playing “Boots” several weeks ago, prior to its official release. “Boots” stands at No. 39 in its seventh week on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart dated Aug. 21 and gained 6% over the previous week, reaching 2.3 million audience impressions, according to MRC Data.
Currently, 29 of the chart’s 149 reporting stations are playing the song — the fewest number of stations playing any song on the 60-position chart. “Sand in My Boots” is in the top five most-played songs on four reporting stations (in the week ending Aug. 15) and sits at No. 1 on Johnson City, Tenn.’s WXBQ, a station near Wallen’s East Tennessee hometown of Knoxville. “Boots” earned the most airplay in the tracking week — with 59 spins — from Knoxville station WCYQ.
Following the February incident, Wallen was also temporarily suspended from Big Loud’s artist roster and dropped by his booking agency, WME. Wallen was disqualified from this year’s CMT Music Awards, as well as this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards. Wallen is eligible for this fall’s Country Music Association Awards, though only in categories where other collaborators would also be eligible, such as song and single of the year.
Shortly after the incident, Wallen issued a video apology, saying, “My words matter. A word can truly hurt a person and at my core, it’s not what I’m OK with.”
Last month, Wallen made his first media appearance on Good Morning America, telling GMA’s Michael Strahan that he was donating money from the sales of Dangerous to organizations, including the Black Music Action Coalition.
“Before this incident my album was already doing well,” Wallen told GMA. “It was already being well-received by critics and fans. Me and my team noticed that whenever this whole incident happened that there was a spike in my sales. So we tried to calculate what the number of — how much it actually spiked from this incident. We got a number somewhere around $500,000, and we decided to donate that money to some organizations — BMAC being the first one.”
As radio is quietly adding Wallen music back into rotation, Wallen himself has also been not-so-quietly making the rounds in Nashville: He joined Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard onstage during Bryan’s concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on July 30. On May 19, he made a surprise performance at Kid Rock’s downtown Nashville bar.
In June, fans got a hint of what was ahead when Wallen posted an Instagram video of himself performing an acoustic take on “Sand in My Boots” with one of the track’s writers, HARDY, as well as Eric Church and Darius Rucker. Notably, Wallen’s manager and Big Loud label head Seth England commented on the post with the telling question, “Next single?”
Representatives from Big Loud and Wallen did not return a request for comment.