The rising star is blown away by his reception on the road, including many male fans adopting his trademark mullet and women wanting to touch his hair. "It was really, really, really amazing," he says of the 27-show tour
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Line ’em up, line ’em up, line ’em up, line ’em up! Knock ’em back, knock ’em back, knock ’em back, knock ’em back! How can you not sing along with Morgan Wallen’s current top 10 single, “Whiskey Glasses”?

It’s downright impossible, Wallen himself discovered on his just-completed headlining tour when his rowdy crowds shouted back every lyric of the wildly infectious song.

“Honestly, it seems like that song has really taken over and is like the signature moment in my set,” the 25-year-old Tennesseean tells PEOPLE. “I did not know that was gonna happen.”

It wasn’t the only surprise for the rising star on his “If I Know Me” tour. He also didn’t expect all but three of his 27 shows to sell out; crowds knowing every word to the If I Know Me album cuts as well as the radio hits (which include No. 1 “Up Down”); many of his male fans showing up wearing his trademark mullet and sleeveless flannel shirts; and a lot of his female fans asking to touch his hair or throwing their bras (and even a pair of panties) onto the stage.

Morgan Wallen
Morgan Wallen at his New York City show in February
| Credit: Nicholas Hunt/Getty

“I didn’t really know what to expect honestly,” he says, “but it was really, really, really amazing. I mean, everybody was there singing every song. We had some really special moments, too.”

One such moment occurred during his show at Las Vegas’ House of Blues. “After ‘Whiskey Glasses,’ people cheered, I mean, for 10 minutes straight,” Wallen recalls. “I just stood there and tried to soak it all in. It’s overwhelming, you know. I started writing songs in my parents’ garage probably five or six years ago, and I just never thought that it would lead to that.”

He offers an incredulous chuckle. If Nashville is famous for being a “10-year town” for launching careers, he knows he’s unusually ahead of schedule.

Morgan Wallen
The crowd at a West coast Morgan Wallen show
| Credit: David Lehr

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Wallen says his small headlining tour last year didn’t come close to evoking the reaction of the one that just ended March 30. And while he’s also supported big-name artists, including Luke Bryan and “Up Down” collaborators Florida Georgia Line, he knew those concert crowds probably weren’t coming to just see him.

“You’re almost auditioning for those people a little bit,” he says, “and I think I made a lot of new fans through it. But when they do buy the ticket for you, you know they’re there for you.”

And that, Wallen says, allowed him to feel even more at home on stage for this headlining tour, which in turn helped him connect even more to his audiences.

“I go out there and I don’t have to watch what I say,” he says. “I just get to go out there and be myself. And people really enjoy that, and I think that comes across, too. I think being authentic is one of the most important things [about] being an artist. People are smart and they can sniff out if you’re not.”

Morgan Wallen
Morgan Wallen at his Los Angeles show in March
| Credit: Timothy Norris/Getty

To Wallen, a big part of his authenticity is embracing his redneck identity, which he earned the old-fashioned way by growing up in the countrified hills of east Tennessee. In case it needs to be said, the mullet he’s rocking isn’t a put-on. He really likes his hair that way.

“The mullet started because of my dad,” Wallen explains. “I was looking through my parents’ photo albums, and my dad had a mullet when they got married and me and my dad are very similar looks-wise, personality-wise, everything. And my mom and him got married when they were 25, so I’m 25 now, and I told him, ‘Man, if you could pull it off then, I think I can pull it off now. Whaddya think?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ So I started growing it pretty much immediately. It fits my style. I know some people would probably feel uncomfortable if they woke up with a mullet, but it makes me happy to start my day.”

For the record, his mom “thinks I look better without it,” he says, adding, “but she understands.”

Morgan Wallen
Morgan Wallen’s famous mullet
| Credit: David Lehr

The flannel shirts — liberated from their sleeves and collar — became part of his style in much the same way.

“I’m not sure of the exact moment when I started,” he says, “but one night I cut off the sleeves and cut off the collar and just pretty much everything else that you can cut off. And I thought it looked cool and I felt good in it. I think I’m going to keep that style for a while.”

People Magazine ACM Portrait Studio
Morgan Wallen in the ACM Awards PEOPLE photobooth in April
| Credit: Ben Trivett

So that means fans will probably be seeing it this fall when Wallen joins Luke Combs on his recently announced arena tour. Combs, who grew up next door to Wallen in North Carolina, obviously thinks the Tennessean is a good match for the tour, and Wallen eagerly agrees.

“We come from a lot of the same things and love the same things, so we hit it off pretty immediate,” Wallen says. “He’s just a good ol’ boy, and I love how he doesn’t really give a crap, and I’m kind of the same way. You know, you just do what you do and you hope people love it. And I think that’s one of the main reasons that people do love him, and there’s obviously no one really hotter than him in country music right now. It’s insane, the growth that he’s had. So I’m honored to be a part of it, and I cannot wait to get out there.”