Jelly Roll‘s 15-year-old daughter, Bailee, lives with him and his wife Bunnie. It was Bailee who inspired Jelly Roll to turn his life around, after he found out he was a father while in prison, but it’s Bunnie who deserves a lot of the credit for making them one big, happy family.
The “Save Me” singer was homeless, living in his van, and dating Bunnie, who worked in the adult entertainment industry at the time, when he found out he was going to get custody of Bailee. Because of his lack of income, lack of permanent housing, and a felony on his record, it seemed unlikely that Jelly Roll would be able to prove himself as a suitable parent in place of Bailee’s mom, who was also battling addiction.
“She’s like, ‘Well, the first thing we have to do is get you somewhere to live in Nashville,” Jelly Roll shared on the Bussin’ With the Boys podcast (via CMT).
“Bunnie’s like, ‘Let’s just go get a condo so you have a bedroom for her.’ I’m like, ‘Alright, cool,'” he continues. “So Bunnie comes down there. We’re getting a condo. I’ll never forget, Bunnie looked at me, and man, it makes me emotional. She said, ‘No matter what happens with us, I’m gonna help you get this little girl.’… Bunnie bankrolled [it], and she never talks about that,”
For Bunnie, it was an easy decision to help Bailee, even if she wasn’t sure she would ever have a permanent place in her life at the time.
“It spoke to my heart,” Bunnie says. “When we went over to Bailee’s mom’s house — and this was in the midst of all this — I walked in, and Bailee didn’t even have a bed. She was sleeping on a chair. And she was there taking care of her two, two, or three little cousins, making them food. Literally, all she was doing was making them bread with peanut butter on it. And it broke my heart.”
The recent three-time CMT Music Awards winner also praised Bunnie on Mother’s Day, for the way she accepted him and his daughter, even from the early stages of their relationship.
“It takes a special kind of woman to raise a child that isn’t hers,” Jelly Roll said on Instagram. “When Bunnie and I was first starting to talk I knew I was about to get full custody of Bailee and also had another woman pregnant. Most women would’ve ran for the hills, but not Bunnie. She told me no matter what happened between us she wanted to help me get custody Bailee. 7 years later Bailee calls Bunnie Momma with no hesitation, and 7 years later Bunnie still blows my mind every day with how loving and patient she is with Bailee.”
It was watching Bailee get baptized when she was 14 that inspired Jelly Roll to release his debut country album, Whitsitt Chapel, out now.
“I had started thinking about where I was at when I was 14,” Jelly Roll tells Grammy.com. “I’m going to a little church, too, on a little back road on a hill, there’s just these little parallels. Bailee experienced and dabbled in marijuana for the first time, I caught her recently. Around the same age, I was dabbling in marijuana and trouble. It was just reflective. And then you start thinking about redemption. Outside of religion, the idea of being able to be redeemed is just a great idea.
“The idea that who we were is not who we are is so powerful,” he continues. “At that moment, I was like, ‘I want to write a conceptual album, that kind of outlines my journey of religion, my journey of spirituality, my journey of redemption, my journey of wrongdoings.’ [It’s] my take on all these things from a 14-year-old kid getting baptized at Whitsitt Chapel to the 39-year-old man that just watched his 14-year-old get baptized.”
Jelly Roll’s Save Me documentary is streaming now on Hulu. He will embark on his Backroad Baptism Tour on July 28, joined by a rotating list of opening acts, including Ashley McBryde, Chase Rice, Struggle Jennings, Caitlynne Curtis, Elle King, Merkules, Three 6 Mafia, Yelawolf and Josh Adam Meyers. Find Whitsitt Chapel and all of Jelly Roll’s music and upcoming shows at JellyRoll615.com.