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As Morgan Wallen's popularity has exploded in the past year, he's attracted a lot of labels — "outlaw," "sex symbol," "superstar" — that have sometimes complicated his life. But there's one label, he says, that "I have the easiest time accepting."
His son, Indigo Wilder, was born July 10, and he now co-parents the baby with his former girlfriend, KT Smith.
Looking back, the 27-year-old Tennessean admits to PEOPLE, being a single dad "is definitely not how I imagined parenthood. I wanted to have a family like my parents. My parents are still together, you know. They raised [me and my sisters] together. That was my idea for what my life would look like. Obviously, that's not the way it turned out. And I struggled with that a little bit when I first found out."
But by the baby's arrival, Wallen was excited to welcome him, and he joyfully announced the birth to fans in a July 13 Instagram post. "I didn't know what being a dad would feel like, honestly have been a little scared," he wrote. "But it's the coolest damn feeling, and I'm ready for whatever God has planned for me and my little guy."
Wallen says he and Smith had broken off their years-long relationship before their baby — whom they call Indie — was conceived, but "obviously we still saw each other some." Now, he says, he's "thankful" to share his son "with someone I care about. We're doing our best to figure it out, just trying to do the best we can with the situation. I mean, a lot of people obviously have been in this situation before — having a kid with someone you're not with — but knowing that doesn't make it any easier."
The singer admits he and Smith faced "some difficulties" in the early days of their co-parenting, but "the most important thing is just he's in our life now. He's happy. He's healthy. He's incredible."
As Wallen has grown into his new role, he says he's leaned on his parents Tommy and Lesli, who've traveled from their home in Knoxville, Tennessee, to help with their grandson's care. "I'm still learning," Wallen acknowledges. "I would definitely not consider myself an expert by any means."
Now 6 months old, Indie is finally reaching an age for overnight stays, says Wallen. "We're just now starting that," he says. "We just got everything figured out. But KT's worked with me throughout the whole time, so I've been able to see him a lot since he was born. So if you walk in my house now, you think a baby lives here."
As he considers raising his son, Wallen admits to feeling a growing weight of responsibility. Indeed, in his Instagram birth announcement, he promised the boy: "I'll be the Dad you deserve as well as the co-parent your mother deserves. Since you were born, I know that every decision I make will be with you in mind. I promise I'll always protect you, and do my best to be an example of a good, godly man just like my daddy was for me."
That promise was put to the test last October when he was booted from the Saturday Night Live lineup after online videos showed him defying COVID-19 protocols when he kissed several young women during a weekend at the University of Alabama — an episode that underscored the power and pitfalls of his newly minted superstardom.
After retreating from the spotlight for a month of self-reflection, he confessed to broadcast personality Bobby Bones that, among his realizations, was that he'd set a poor example for his son. "I don't know that I'd be proud to show him those videos," he said in the podcast interview. "I gotta think about some things a little bit differently."
Today, Wallen is still holding tight to his high aspirations as a parent, knowing his role will soon become more challenging as Indie begins to talk and ask questions.
"I just hope to give him as sound advice as my parents gave me and just show him love and let him know that I'm here for him and that I'm his friend," Wallen says. "I'm here to help and I'm here to guide. I'm just gonna try to do the best I can."
That task, of course, will become more difficult when Wallen begins touring again. "My life will get a lot more hectic," he allows. "I'll probably have to hire a nanny or do something, because I know that sometimes I'm not going to be able to always be as hands-on as I need to be. Obviously, I still want to be as much a part of his life as I can, but I have obligations that I have to fulfill in order to take care of him. I know that that's on the horizon, so those thoughts are in my head, and I'm going to do the best I can to make sure that everything is as good as it can be."
In the meantime, he says he's simply happy for the time he gets to spend with his son. "I think he's going to be a great little dude," Wallen says.
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