Jelly Roll Opens Up About His Past Mental Health Struggles

Jelly Roll‘s life could have turned out much differently than it has, and no one is more grateful than him that he is having the success he is having. The 37-year-old, whose real name is Jason DeFord, spent time in prison for various offenses, including aggravated robbery and drug possession with intent to deliver. His criminal past, now behind him, all stemmed from untreated mental health issues, a cause he is now championing with the goal of helping others.

“This is something I think people really need to hear,” Jelly Roll admits on Audacy’s I’m Listening podcast. “I woke up, and for no reason, I did not want to get out of bed. I could not pinpoint [why]… I just woke up and felt a cloud over my bed. Like the blanket was too heavy to push off of me.”

The immobilizing depression also led to anxiety, which triggered many of his behaviors.

“Then the anxiety sets in, the unrealistic anxiety,” reflects the singer. “‘Is this a bad omen? Is something bad going to happen to somebody around me and this is the feeling it’s fixin’ to happen? Is something going to happen to me? Then the next thing you know, you’re checking your blood pressure for no reason.”

Jelly Roll recalls, even in his childhood, dealing with depression and anxiety, which went untreated for years as he was told to “brush it off.” The lack of empathy from those closest to him led him on a rapidly downward spiral, one he now deeply regrets.

“I would have realized that my need for acceptance stemmed from feeling like I wasn’t good enough,” the Tennessee native reflects. “I felt like nobody accepted me…When you feel like nobody accepts you, there’s always that one group that will and it’s always the trouble. I feel like I might have made some crazy different life decisions if I could have sat down and felt vocal enough to say, ‘Hey, I’m leaning towards this because I don’t feel accepted anywhere else.'”

Jelly Roll left his life of crime for a career in music, releasing a wide variety of music for more than ten years. In 2021, he released Ballads of the Broken on BBR Music Group. The record includes his current Top 10 hit, “Son of a Sinner.” Although Jelly Roll has written, recorded and performed rap, rock and more, he now has his feet planted firmly in his own version of country music, with his sights set on the Grand Ole Opry, thanks to Opry member, Craig Morgan. It was during Jelly Roll’s first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry that Morgan revealed Jelly Roll said it was his “Almost Home” single that lit a fire in Jelly Roll to be a country music singer.

“Shortly after I got out of jail, I sat right over there in row 7, and I cried like a baby and watched him sing,” Jelly Roll said from the Opry stage. “And I remember thinking, ‘I want to make people feel the way he makes me feel right now.’ This is a true testimony that God is real and all things are possible. Because that same kid that was in jail and struggling, his wife is sitting right there. He’s not sitting there — he’s standing next to Craig Morgan.”

All of Jelly Roll’s music and tour updates can be found by visiting his website.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of BBR Music Group / Chum Daddy