"I was wrong. I messed up. And I was so driven by this desperate desire to prove people right. I had these early investors, backers, employees and I think I was just so insecure that I thought the only way to prove myself to them was to succeed," he told Michael Strahan on Friday's Good Morning America. "And that led me down just this terrible path of bad decisions."
"But was it more to prove yourself, or was it more for money?" Strahan asked.
"It was to prove myself and, once again, I was totally wrong and I lied to investors to get money. But I put every dollar I had or could find to make this festival happen and I literally came back to New York after with $100 in my pocket," McFarland, 30, replied.
McFarland was convicted of fraud for throwing the infamous 2017 festival that left concertgoers stranded in the Bahamas. Instead of a luxury party on the beach, guests — most of whom paid thousands of dollars to attend the "exclusive" event promoted by the likes of Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber — arrived to disaster tents as shelter and limited food. The event was ultimately canceled. McFarland served almost four years of a six year sentence and is out of prison on supervised release.
"I started lying to get the money," McFarland, who defrauding investors using fake documents, admitted. "I was literally day-by-day doing whatever it took. And looking back, it was so incredibly stupid."
McFarland said he "should've listened" to his employees that encouraged him to pull the plug on the festival ahead of doomsday. Many of those employees shared their experiences in the competing 2019 documentaries FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, on Netflix, and Hulu's Fyre Fraud.
Fyre Festival co-founder Ja Rule was never charged in connection with the festival and was dismissed as a defendant in a civil lawsuit filed by attendees — but McFarland was not. The entrepreneur owes $26 million in restitution to pay back investors, vendors and concertgoers.
"I need to apologize. And that is the first and the last thing that needs to be done," McFarland added. "I let people down. I let down employees. I let down their families. I let down investors. So I need to apologize. I'm wrong and it's bad."
McFarland is hoping people have a short memory, though, as he's launching a new venture called "PYRT."
"I went way too fast before. So I need to do everything now in a manageable way that I can actually make work," he said, adding, "I hope I continue to change for the next 40 years. So I'm certainly not done changing yet."
MORE: Billy McFarland talks to Michael Strahan after prison release