Jelly Roll Plans to Open Halfway Houses and Transitional Centers

Jelly Roll‘s rags-to-riches, prodigal son story is more than just a way for him to get notoriety. The 38-year-old was first incarcerated when he was just 14 years old, spending the next decade in and out of juvenile and adult prisons, racking up a lengthy list of serious charges, including aggravated robbery and possession with intent to deliver.

The son of a mother who had her own issues with mental health and addiction, Jelly Roll sees his rapidly-growing platform as a way for him to help others, the way he once desperately needed to be helped. He recently donated all of the proceeds from his sold-out Bridgestone Arena show to, in partnership with Impact Youth Outreach, build a recording studio inside the Davidson County Juvenile Detention Center, where he was once held. But his plans to offer assistance go far, far beyond a generous donation here and there.

“That’s not even scratching the surface of my plan,” Jelly Roll tells the New York Times. “I’m going to build halfway houses and transitional centers — that’s my real heart.”

It’s his own troubled upbringing, when he did not get the help he desperately needed for his own mental health struggles, which compels him to keep doing more to help others struggling as he once did.

“I just never forget being that kid,” Jelly Roll says. “Those years in juvenile were so formative, and it was so devastating for me to miss that time. On my 16th birthday, I didn’t get a car; I woke up incarcerated. I didn’t get my G.E.D. until I was 23 and in jail. I just missed so much of life. So I want to be remembered as a guy that did something for the kids in this town.”

Jelly Roll’s success is undisputed. His “Son of a Sinner” single spent a record-breaking 25 weeks atop Billboard‘s all-genre Emerging Artists chart, and he walked away with three CMT Music Awards, including Male Video of the Year, Male Breakthrough Video of the Year and the CMT Digital-First Performance of the Year.

“Music is like human nature,” Jelly Roll explains. “It evolves or dies. Artists should always be pushing the boundaries of what’s uncomfortable, and I plan to be doing that the rest of my career. That’s what I was thinking about when I was leaving the CMTs — now that I’ve gotten here, I deserve to stay.”

For a man who once believed he would spend his life in and out of jail, the CMT Music Awards felt like all of the milestones he missed, rolled into one glorious, redemptive night.

“It was an absolute dream come true, the best-case scenario, and I’ve had a worst-case scenario life up to this point,” Jelly Roll recalls. “I spent my entire childhood feeling like I didn’t belong — in every situation, I felt like the uncomfortable fat kid. So that was like my high school prom and the graduation I never had, on national television.”

Jelly Roll’s Whitsitt Chapel album will be out on June 2, marking his first full-length country music album, but likely not his last.

“The music started evolving as the man did,” the Nashville native says. “The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve found my singing voice and my love for instrumentation.”

Jelly Roll might be a rapper-turned-country-singer, with a bit of a checkered past, but he isn’t looking behind him. Instead, Jelly Roll has a laser focus on what is in front of him, and how he can best make use of the opportunities he has been given.

“[I’m] still trying to make fans when I’m at the gas station,” Jelly Roll says, adding that he is also studying the lives of the legends whose careers he hopes to in some way emulate.

“They’ve stayed true to themselves,” he adds “You know who they are, and they know who they are and who they’re singing for.”

Jelly Roll will embark on his Backroad Baptism Tour in July, joined by a rotating list of opening acts, including Ashley McBrydeChase RiceStruggle Jennings, Caitlynne Curtis, Elle King, Merkules, Three 6 Mafia, Yelawolf and Josh Adam Meyers. Whitsitt Chapel is available for pre-order here. Find all of Jelly Roll’s music and upcoming shows at