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Emerging as a prominent figure in the country music scene, Jelly Roll has achieved chart-topping success on the Billboard country airplay charts in the current year with his tracks “Need a Favor” and “Son of a Sinner.” However, the artist’s journey to country music stardom was marked by challenges, including his struggles with addiction and a period of incarceration.
“In the beginning, I did a lot of drugs. I drank a lot of codeine, a lot of cough syrup. I took a lot of Xanax, did a lot of cocaine, just really took it overboard. I’ve had years – dude, I don’t remember years. Also, addiction for me is more than just my problems.”
Jelly Roll, born Jason DeFord, faced a period behind bars when he was just 16, following a felony armed robbery charge for using a firearm to steal marijuana. However, he has since undergone a remarkable transformation, emerging as one of the prominent figures in today’s country music scene. Not only is he hot off the heels of a highly successful, sold-out headlining tour titled Backroad Baptism, but the artist is riding the wave of success with two #1 singles from his first country album, Whitsitt Chapel.
His duet with Lainey Wilson, a revamped version of his 2020 single “Save Me,” is making its way up the charts. Jelly Roll has also recently been featured on collaborations with Dustin Lynch and a new rendition of Craig Morgan’s 2002 hit “Almost Home.”
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LA Times pop music critic, Mikael Wood, expressed how Jelly Roll has become the unlikely face in country music. He said, “I think that’s part of what people are connecting to. He’s something different. People feel like they’ve never seen a guy like this before.”
In the bustling Nashville music scene, Jelly Roll is among the top artists everyone is eager to collaborate with. However, there are a couple of individuals on his list whom he’s keen on meeting.
“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. It’s way more gritty what I do and what Zach does — way more pitchy. But I think it’s filling a necessary void.”
Jelly Roll expresses a desire to meet Zach Bryan, primarily because he believes they share common backgrounds, comparing Bryan’s military background to his own time spent in jail.
“I’ve just gotta hug him. 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.”
Although Zach and Jelly Roll approach country music from different angles within the industry—Jelly Roll benefiting from Nashville’s support and a major label, while Zach chooses an independent path, distancing himself from Music Row—they have both risen as significant figures in their unique country music lanes.
Given their track record of collaborations, it wouldn’t be astonishing to witness a joint song from Jelly Roll and Zach Bryan in the near future.