Jelly Roll‘s long and rocky road to country music stardom is well-documented.
The rapper-turned-country singer spent much of his early years in and out of jail, speaking openly about his past struggles with drug addiction and his legal troubles.
“In the beginning, I did a lot of drugs. I drank a lot of codeine, a lot of cough syrup. I took a lot of Xanax, did a lot of cocaine, just really took it overboard.
I’ve had years – dude, I don’t remember years. Also, addiction for me is more than just my problems.”
Jelly Roll, whose real name was Jason DeFord, spent time behind bars after being charged with felony armed robbery at the age of 16 for using a gun to steal marijuana.
But since then, he’s managed to turn things around and become one of the biggest names in country music right now: Not only is he fresh off his sold-out headlining Backroad Baptism tour, but Jelly Roll is riding high from two #1 singles off his first country album, Whitsitt Chapel.
It was also just announced that he would be performing at the CMA Awards in a couple of weeks, kicking off the show with his #1 hit “Need a Favor,” as well as performing The Judds classic “Love Can Build A Bridge” with R&B singer K. Michelle.
His current duet with Lainey Wilson, a revisited version of his 2020 single “Save Me,” is currently climbing the charts, and Jelly Roll has recently been featured on collaborations with Dustin Lynch and a new version of Craig Morgan’s 2002 hit “Almost Home.”
When it comes to artists in Nashville that everybody is lining up to work with, Jelly Roll is near the top of the list.
But there are a couple people on Jelly Roll’s list that he’d like to meet too.
“We’re not the best singers, you know what I mean? We’re a long way from the beautiful voices of Chris Stapleton or Chris Young. It’s way more gritty what I do and what Zach does — way more pitchy. But I think it’s filling a necessary void.”
And Jelly Roll says he wants to meet Zach Bryan in particular because he feels like the two have similar backgrounds.
I mean sure, Zach was recently arrested for obstruction in Oklahoma, but that’s where his criminal record ends. But Jelly Roll sees similarities in Zach’s military background and his own time spent incarcerated:
“I’ve just gotta hug him. As different as our stories are, they’re actually very similar.
The military is not extremely different from jail in the aspect that you give away certain freedoms, and one of them is choosing who you’re around. He never got to pick his squad or platoon in the Navy, and I never got to pick my unit or my cellmate.
So we just learned to love people.”
While Zach and Jelly Roll may be coming at country music from two different sides of the industry – Jelly Roll with the backing of Nashville and a major label and Zach preferring to do things independently while distancing himself from Music Row – they’ve both managed to become two of the biggest artists in country music in their respective lanes.
And with both of them having quite a few collaborations under their belt, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Jelly Roll and Zach Bryan teaming up on a song sooner rather than later.