Jelly Roll Makes Emotional Return To The Jail Cell He Was Locked Up In: “There Was A Time Where I Thought This Was It”

Jelly Roll
CBS Sunday Morning

These days Jelly Roll spends his days at awards ceremonies, in the recording studio, on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, and on tour playing in front of thousands of people.

But not so long ago, his life was entirely within the four walls of a jail cell at the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility.

The rapper-turned-country star was arrested at the age of 15 and convicted of felony armed robbery, spending the better part of a decade behind bars before being released and turning to music.

He’s never shied away from – or forgotten – his past.

Jelly Roll (whose real name is Jason DeFord) frequently visits inmates to share his story and play music, and has said that a big part of the reason he gives so much back to his community is because of how blessed he is after spending so much time locked up.

And recently, Jelly Roll made an emotional return to the jail cell he spent so much time in while he was incarcerated – only this time, he was free to leave.

The CMA New Artist of the Year returned to his old cell with CBS Sunday Morning, where he admitted that there was a time in his life when he thought that was all his life was going to be:

“There was a time in my life where I truly thought this was it. And then coming here after getting nominated for two Grammys, it just hits different.

I didn’t think I’d get emotional to be honest, but just this cell…even when I left here, I didn’t have a plan.”

And as he looked around the cell, he pointed out the spot where he spent so much time working on music:

“I wrote hundreds of songs right here.”

Those songs have definitely paid off, as he turned his rap career into a name for himself in country music, not only winning the CMA award for New Artist of the Year at 39 years old but also scoring two Grammy nominations – 15 years after he was released from prison.

But it was also in that cell where he wrote those songs that a guard told Jelly Roll that he had become a father, which is undoubtedly a big part of the reason he became so emotional when he made his return:

“He said, ‘DeFord, you had a kid today.’

I said, ‘What?’

He said, ‘Yeah, you had a child.’

And I was like, ‘What’s her name?’

And he was like, ‘Hell, I don’t know.'”

Jelly had spoken previously on the emotional return to his old cell, and the emotions and memories that it brought back:

“They took me back to my old jail yesterday. The jail that I found out I had my daughter in. They took me back to my old cell.

I walked in there certain I wasn’t going to be emotional, because I walked in so happy and in such a good mood. We’re chatting, I’m telling them stories, we walk upstairs.

And as soon as I walked into that cell I cried like a baby. It was like every memory from that jail cell. The hearing that I had a daughter, every song I wrote, everything I went through. And you’re just sitting there like, ‘Man, this is unreal.'”

He’s come a long way from his days locked up in that cell – proof that anything is possible, no matter what your circumstances.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock