Jelly Roll

Jelly Roll

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About Jelly Roll

Sometime in 2022, Jason DeFord took his daughter to the little back-road church she’d been going to with friends. He’d had his first major hit with “Son of a Sinner” a few months earlier—a dark, big-hearted country-rock song about the moral failings in all of us—but was struggling to follow it up. Writing wasn’t the problem—he was writing like crazy, he just didn’t like any of it. But as he was leaving this little backroad church with his daughter, he got hit in the gut with a memory of being baptized in a pretty similar place around the same age, and he realized: “You know what, man? This is my coming-of-age record,” he recounted to Apple Music. 2023’s Whitsitt Chapel became a kind of new beginning. Born in December 1984 and raised in the Antioch area of Nashville, DeFord had been putting out music as Jelly Roll (“my momma gave me the name”) since the mid-2000s, most of it tough Southern rap detailing exploits and attitudes that put him in prison for a good part of his youth. “I was tearing my community apart making CDs bragging about it,” he said. Eventually, he got a glimpse of the bigger picture. “Some of the most honest people I’ve ever met in my life were in jail,” he added. “Some of the smartest people I ever met were in rehab.” Like a lot of classic country artists from Johnny Cash on down, his more recent music doesn’t judge so much as take inventory of the goods-and-bads and ups-and-downs that make our lives feel real to us. “The biggest problem we got right now is that I might drink a little too much and get a little rowdy,” he said. “I’m doin’ great, man. God’s looking at me with two thumbs up.”

Antioch, TN, United States
December 4, 1984
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