Jelly Roll never, ever imagined he would live the life he has now. The singer-songwriter, born Jason Deford, thought he was destined for a life in and out of jail, following his peers as they sold drugs as a means of income. He was obsessed by music from a young age, not knowing that it would be the music that would ultimately pave his way to an entirely different life.
“The music always met me where I was,” Jelly Roll tells The New York Times. “The streets — just to touch on this because I want to be open about it — I thought it was my only choice. I lived in a decently middle-class neighborhood, but I didn’t know one person on my street with a career. Everybody did drugs. People that had jobs were really blue-collar.
“I just was like, I know it’s going to take money to get out of here,” he continues. “And the most obvious way to make money was what was happening in the neighborhood. And it’s no excuse. The music just followed Jason — wherever old Jelly Roll went, he just drug the music along like a Santa sack.”
Jelly Roll has made a career by wearing his heart on his sleeve, which happened with his hit single, “Save Me,” a duet with Lainey Wilson. The song earned the pair a Grammy nomination, with the Nashville native also earning another nod for the all-genre Best New Artist, something Jelly Roll still can’t quite believe.
“To me, I’m just still me,” Jelly Roll admits. “So whatever’s actually happening in my life is what I’m putting out. I called my mother at the same time. It was me getting to call a woman I’ve called from jail. A woman I’ve called homeless, a woman I’ve called addicted. I got to call her and say I just got nominated for two Grammys. To me, that is the craziest call you can make.”
For all the demons that Jelly Roll has conquered, and for all of the hurdles he has overcome, the 39-year-old openly admits life isn’t always as easy for him as some might think.
“As jovial as I am in real life, the music is a reflection of a very, very dark hallway between my ears,” says the singer. “It’s the scariest place on earth for me. I dread going to sleep every night. The ghosts are there. But I’m going into my eighth year of marriage and I’ve never been more in love. I just want a wedding song — I’ve had so many funeral songs. I want to showcase that there are highs in life, too, and I want to figure out a way to incorporate them in the music. But ultimately, you know what I write about, and you know who I write for.”
Find all of Jelly Roll’s music and upcoming shows at JellyRoll615.com.