Jelly Roll has quite a story to tell.
The rapper-turned-country artist has a new album called Whitsitt Chapel due out everywhere soon on June 2nd, and today, he appeared on the massive Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
They talked about everything from his growing up in Nashville, to him going in and out of prison from a young age, being a rapper, and of course, his forthcoming country project.
Jelly, whose real name is Jason DeFord, has a pretty incredible personal comeback story, spending much of his early life in Music City in and out of the prison system.
He first entered the juvenile system at the age of 14, and spent his late teens and early 20s in and out of jail on charges like aggravated robbery and drug possession with intent to deliver.
And he told host Joe Rogan that he’s always made music to help himself and others get through hard times, specifically inspired by his mother, who struggled with severe mental health issues when he was a child.
Jelly says that she would rarely even leave her room, and when she did, it was to go put on a record in the kitchen. He understandably got really choked up telling story, wiping away a tear as he explained:
“I want to help people, Joe. My music has always been therapeutic. My music has always been for people. What got me into music was my mother.
So my mother was a woman who struggled with extreme mental health issues and drug addiction, and she would never come out of her room, Joe. And she would come downstairs and she’d throw a record on, and she’d light a cigarette at the table.
And dude, I would watch the house change. Brothers, sisters, cousins coming from across the street, we lived in a real tight neighborhood. Poor people, you know? Neighbors coming over, her friends start flooding the house.”
He continued, saying that she would tell stories about the songs she played, and they all just believed whatever she said, because they didn’t have Google back then:
“And she held court, Joe, I would watch our kitchen turn into a nightclub. And she’d start tellin’ stories, and listen, we didn’t have Google, we had to believe the bitch back then, you know what I’m sayin’?
So she would be like, ‘James Taylor wrote this about his drug addicted mother’ or something and play ‘Fire and Rain.’ Or she’d be like like, Bette Midler wrote ‘The Rose’ about… and we’re just all captivated.
And then she’d play ‘The Rose’ and we’re all cryin’ in the kitchen together. And I didn’t understand, ‘cuz I’m a kid, right? But something changed in her when the record went on, is how I looked at it.”
Jelly noted that there was obviously a lot more going on with her that he was unaware of because he was a child, but he did realize that the only time she’d leave her room was because of the music.
He added that he spent his “whole life writing songs for her,” not realizing for a while that he was writing it for many people who were also “addicted and broken”:
“I didn’t know anything about drug addiction, anything about schizophrenia or bipolar or any of the stuff she was dealing with, her manic depression back then, what they call it, I didn’t know any of this.
I just knew that this lady never fuckin’ leaves that room, and when she does, it seems like the music does it. So I spent my whole life writing songs for her. I indirectly was writing these songs for the addicted and the broken, you know what I mean? Because that’s what I was seeing.
I found purpose in the music. And like I tell people, if I was gonna do it for money, like any sane fuckin’ comedian or musician, I’d have quit 10 years ago, ‘cuz fuck, I didn’t make any for 15 years…
I just knew that it was always helping people, because I had seen how it helped my mother and I knew the power of music.”
I mean, I don’t know know how you can’t love everything about Jelly Roll and his story.
He comes across as such a down to earth, authentic, and humble person who really does care deeply about his music and the people who listen to it with no other motives or intentions.
You can watch the full clip below, it’s well-worth your time to do so:
Jelly Roll also recently debuted a song from the album with Lainey Wilson at the ACM Awards called “Save Me”:
“Need A Favor”