Jelly Roll journey from jail to singer

Jelly Role’s story really motivates us. From staying behind bars to winning a Country Music Association Award for the New Best Artist and being a Grammy Award Nominee two times, his story of struggle inspires many souls. 

Just at the age of 39, he has had three No.1 country hits. How did Jelly Role managed to manage to gain success? Jelly went through multiple hardships and transformation, let’s take a little peek at his journey. 

Jelly Roll’s Troubled Past & Jail Time

Jelly Roll, also known as, Jason DeFord, was never destined to be in the spotlight. Jelly comes from the Metro-Davidson Country Detention Facility in Nashville. And since when you might ask…

He has been in the facility since he was 14 years old for multiple reasons; drug dealing, drug possession, aggravated robbery, and shoplifting. 

Jelly Roll recalled his moments; “There was a time in my life where I truly thought … this was it. And then coming here, you know, just after getting nominated for two Grammys, it just hits different. … I didn’t think I’d get emotional, to be honest.” 

“Even when I left here, I didn’t have a plan,” he said. “I knew that I loved music, and I knew it was the only thing I had any skill set [for], I can’t believe I’m crying.” (via CBS News) 

Although Jelly faced many challenges during his teen years, that became the ultimate reason why he got into music, and music was what made him change for the better. 

Jelly Roll’s music journey 

 Jelly Roll

Jelly never knew that he would once come into the spotlight. His dad used to book bets and his mother was also a drug addict, and he chose to follow the same footsteps. 

Although going through such a troublesome habit, he had a deep love for music. Whenever he had free time, he would write music. He started to make hip-hop CDs and gave them away. 

“I’m just like, ‘Yo, here’s a sack of weed. Here’s a gram of coke. Here’s a mixtape.’ Know what I’m saying? ‘I rap, too!’ It was like my business card. Even my drug dealing, to me, was always a means to music.” 

Jelly Roll wrote hundreds of songs during his cell time. When Jelly Roll left the prison he was 24 and during his departure, a prison guard delivered him a message which changed his entire life. 

Jelly recalled; “He said, ‘DeFord, you had a kid today.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Yeah, yeah, you had a child.’ And I was like, ‘What’s her name?’ And he said, ‘Hell, I don’t know.'”

Later he found out that her name was Bailey. Since his mother was also a drug addict, Jelly and his wife are taking care of her. 

Jelly Roll finally started to smell success in his music career with his first hip-hop hit “Pop Another Pill.” Jelly recalled the story behind the song;  “I have a line in that song to show you where I was at in my mental space – how insecure and how much I didn’t believe in myself: I ain’t got no single, no potential for the radio.”

Jelly Roll only made his first hit after 10 years. In 2020, he released “Save Me.” a ballad song that was recorded in acoustic. Auditions loved his song and his video has more than 221 million views. 

After his hit in 2021, he performed at the Grand Ole Opry. “I knew the moment I did it I made at least a small piece of history in this town. Unreal, man. This place is holy ground.” he told on the Opry stage in Nashville. 

On his latest album, “Whitsitt Chapel”, there’s a song “She” which is about a woman fighting with her drug addiction “It shows what God can do, what you can’t,” said Jelly. “It shows how much change can happen in your life.” 

Read Also: Facts About Graceland

Jelly Roll Transformation  

Jelly Roll

Jelly really peaked in his performance in 2023. Although jailed more than 40 times, he hit three No.1 Country hits, scoured two Grammy nominations, and won Artist of the Year at the CMA Awards. 

To make such hit songs, Jelly needed to come clean from his old habits. “I had to learn that you could drink alcohol without doing cocaine. It took me a long time to learn that,” he told to PEOPLE in December. 

 “I’ve never said that, but that’s real. There was a long time where I just assumed, when people told me they drank without doing cocaine, I was like, I thought we only drank to do cocaine.”

Jelly never went to rehab to come clean. He fought the battle on his own and now, he often visits the center and helps others. 

“I always said that if I ever got in this situation, I would do everything I could to give back,” he said. “The fact that just me showing up places can make people happy is such a gift, and I feel like if God gave me that gift, I should show up.” 

Now, he only visits the bar to bring and give a message to everyone: “The windshield is bigger than the rear-view mirror for a reason, because what’s in front of us is so much more important than what’s behind us,” he said to inmates graduating from Genesee Country Jail’s Ignite Program

“For you it might be welding, for you it might be barbering. Whatever it is, find that thing. And it might be just starting with simply being a good father.”

In an interview with “Sunday Morning,” he expressed how he wants to treat people facing the same problems; “I’m trying to just encourage, inspire and entertain. I’m just trying to get you free for a minute. When I go to juveniles, I’m trying to get you to understand that you’re loved.”

Jelly Roll on his success 

When Jelly Roll was asked about how he felt about his success, he said; “I’m starting to [deserve] I didn’t at first. And I’m still dealing with imposter stuff. I’m still dealing with talking to my therapist about that: Do I really deserve this?  I’m still a guy that’s haunted by my past. There’s a very dark hallway between my ears.”

Jelly even recalls an emotional moment when he phones his mother and never got to express his greatest moment; “I’ve called her addicted, I’ve called her homeless, I’ve called her from rehab facilities, I’ve called her from halfway houses, broken down on the side of the street. Never got to call her and say, ‘I’ve been nominated for two Grammys!’ One of the coolest moments of my whole life!”

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