Jelly Roll’s love of music transcends genre: he’s a rapper, a rockstar, and a country boy all rolled into one. He’s riding high on the release of his new album Whitsitt Chapel, but his road to success had a rocky start.

He’s had to navigate struggles with mental health, drug use, jail time, and nearly losing custody of his daughter when she was still a baby. Jelly Roll has always been open about these challenges in his lyrics and direct conversation with fans and followers. He values transparency and hopes that by sharing his story, he can inspire others to overcome their challenges and find strength within themselves. He has always emphasized the importance of acknowledging our flaws, embracing our unique journeys, and assuring them that “nobody cries alone.”

His vulnerability resonates with fans, who find healing power not only in his brutally honest songs, but in being given the space to share their own stories and struggles. He identifies as “an empath by nature” whose mission is to create community through the universal language of music (while enjoying a cocktail or two along the way).

If you’ve seen Jelly Roll live on stage, you know he’s larger than life. If you haven’t, buckle in: below are seven things we learned when our friend Radio Sara caught up with him about his latest LP.

Keep scrolling to watch the interview with Jelly Roll in its entirety, and be sure to follow Radio Sara on Instagram and Threads.

  • His Mom Gave Him His Stage Name

    Jelly Roll’s mother gave him that nickname when he was a kid, and it stuck. His given name is Jason DeFord, but if you try to call him that, he probably won’t realize it’s him that you’re talking to.

    Plus, the name “Jelly Roll” puts him in a unique group: artists and bands named after food (think Red Hot Chili Peppers, Meat Loaf, Korn…)

    Jelly Roll throwing horns at the NHL Awards

    (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

  • Brent Smith Of Shinedown Inspired Him To Learn How To Sing

    He explains: “Before I went out (on tour) with Shinedown… I knew I was going to sing for 45 minutes every night, and I knew I was going to sing in front of who I think is one of the best frontmen in rock n’ roll (Brent Smith). So, I then took a vocal lesson for the first time.”

    What was his vocal warm-up like before learning the proper technique? “A shot of Jack, a bong hit, and some Lay’s potato chips!”

    Brent Smith of Shinedown on stage singing a song

    (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • Some Of His Biggest Hits Are The Hardest To Sing

    Confession time: “I’ve never said this in an interview, ’cause I’m embarrassed, but ‘Son of a Sinner’ and ‘Save Me’ are so hard for me to sing… So (years later) I had to learn how to sing ‘Save Me’ because muscle memory was like ‘You just sing as high as you can sing’, but then I was going out of key… I had to learn how to re-sing my own songs, the right way.”

  • He Was So Excited To Meet Garth Brooks, He Lifted Him Off The Floor

    “I didn’t realize I picked him up until the clip went viral,” Jelly Roll laughs. “I was just so excited, the big kid in me was like, this is Garth Brooks!… and then I get on TikTok, and my wife’s like, ‘There’s a video of you with 4 million views picking up Garth Brooks,’ and I was like ‘Oh no!'”

  • He Has A 'Nobody Cries Alone' Policy

    The connection to his fans is profound and fully transparent. “Nothing is more important than the relationship that exists between the artist, and the person that cares about the art… They should never hear news from anybody but me, good or bad.”

    He adds, “I’m an empath by nature. I don’t just hear you, I feel you.”

    Jelly Roll singing a song onstage

    (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

  • MSG Is The Holy Grail Of Venues

    He’s performed on hallowed ground like the Grand Ole Opry and Red Rocks, but Madison Square Garden in NYC is at the top of Jelly Roll’s music venue bucket list.

    exterior shot of the famous New York venue, Madison Square Garden

    (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

  • The Movie On His Life Is Already Cast

    Who would play him and his wife Bunny in a feature film? “Obviously, Jelly Roll’s gotta be Jonah Hill… He’s a lively jovial dude in real life, and he can also put on the serious stuff… and nobody but Margot Robbie could do Bunny. Who else is more fit?!”

    Jonah Hill speaking during a panel discussion.

    (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

     

     

  • Get To Know Jelly Roll

    Check out the full interview with Jelly Roll:

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