Talent Recap

How Jelly Roll Turned His Life Around Following Drug Addiction, Jail Time

Jelly Roll attends 'American Idol'Photo by: ABC/Stewart Cook

Reading Time: 3 minutes

After years of addiction issues and life in prison, Jelly Roll is claiming his well-deserved fame in country music. The breakout star knows he’s filling an empty space in the industry, and he’s passionate to do so now more than ever.

Jelly Roll Embraces Role in Country Music

Born as Jason Bradley DeFord, Jelly Roll was raised in the Antioch neighborhood of Nashville, Tennessee. Growing up, he had Johnny Cash, Bob Seger and James Taylor as his musical influences alongside Three 6 Mafia and the hip-hop duo, UGK.

His background wasn’t exactly the ideal or conventional one. Years back, he battled drug addiction and spent time in prison for aggravated robbery and possession. Later, due to this bizarre experience, he decided to claim his path to redemption — through music. He kicked off his career with rap and hip-hop and now, surprisingly, he is country music’s newest deal.

Nonetheless, despite his blockbuster stardom, Jelly Roll is not one to say he’s the most excellent vocalist. In fact, he said his musical talent is not on par as other country singers. Nonetheless, he recognizes the value he offers to the industry.

According to him, he belongs to the pack of what he calls “where-they-are-in-their-life-right-now songwriters.” He particularly likens his style to Zach Bryan and Oliver Anthony.

“We’re not the best singers, you know what I mean? We’re a long way from the beautiful voices of Chris Stapleton or Chris Young,” he said. “It’s way more gritty what I do and what Zach does – way more pitchy. But I think it’s filling a necessary void.”

When he sang at the Grand Ole Opry, he effortlessly commanded the crowd with his emotional runs. From there, Jelly Roll knew it’s “gonna be home” for him.

“When I walked out of the building, I looked at my wife and I said, ‘We’ll be coming in and out of this parking lot for the next 30 years,'” he said.

He Wants to Meet and Talk with Zach Bryan

Regarding the country crooner that he wants to chat with, Jelly Roll says he’ll be thrilled to talk to Zach Bryan. For the country singer, he shares a lot of similarities with the “Oklahoma Smokeshow” performer.

“I’ve just gotta hug him,” he said. “As different as our stories are, they’re actually very similar. The military is not extremely different from jail in the aspect that you give away certain freedoms, and one of them is choosing who you’re around. He never got to pick his squad or platoon in the Navy, and I never got to pick my unit or my cellmate. So we just learned to love people.”

Jelly Roll score his first No. 1 song with “Son of a Sinner,” his debut country single. This song landed him the titles of Male Video of the Year, Male Breakthrough Video of the Year, and Digital-First Performance of the Year at the 2023 CMT Music Awards. For the upcoming 2023 CMA Awards, the singer has received five nominations.

Jelly Roll has just finished headlining his first arena tour, Backroad Baptism. Touring for 80 days, he trekked five shows a week and even had three national TV appearances.

Furthermore, while on tour, he visited jails, rehabs, and homeless shelters to “spread love.” He also announced that Live Nation agreed to collaborate with him to raise $590,000 for at-risk youth.

“I never even dreamed this would be possible,” he wrote. “My gratitude is at all time high. I got emotional every night on stage — seeing the impact of these songs. Seeing people laughing, dancing, crying together was something I’ll never forget.”

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