Arrested more than 40 times. Never made it out of the ninth grade. In many ways, he was destined to serve as a cautionary tale — either dead or serving a lifetime sentence for choices made as a youth.
Fortunately, Jason DeFord isn’t just another sad statistic. He overcame a troubled upbringing and is now one of the biggest names in music today.
Much to the delight of the 22,000 fans who sold out Jiffy Lube Live, the man known simply as Jelly Roll arrived in town for his latest stop on his tour. The show was particularly noteworthy for the Nashville native, he said, because it marked the most tickets sold for any of the shows on his tour to date.
Backroad Baptism Tour show No. 10 of 44 kicked off with Struggle Jennings followed by Ashley McBryde before each made way for the night’s main attraction. As he took to the stage, Jelly Roll had a mile-wide smile plastered on his face and it remained throughout his entire set.
Anyone who has seen the incredibly-moving documentary on his life, fittingly called Save Me, knows DeFord has struggled with self-worth for much of his life. In his words, he’s been a drug addict, a loser and a stealer. He’s been in and out of jail his entire life. To go from such lows to where he is now, with tens of thousands of adoring fans singing passionately along to his tunes, is all too surreal for the 38-year-old.
“Who’d have thought I could help people? Fuck. I still need help,” he said during the documentary.
This is why Jelly Roll and his band members have embraced a new tour motto of EDM, which stands for “Everything’s different now.”
The self-proclaimed king of white trash kicked things off with “The Lost,” a perfect tone setter off of his latest album, Whitsitt Chapel. As he belted out “I’m better with the lost than the found,” DeFord further illustrated why he’s so beloved by so many. After everything he’s been through, the man has something to say and it clearly resonates with others who have had to deal with their own shit.
A night like this isn’t just a concert. It’s an opportunity for some emotional healing. It’s therapeutic for those who have dealt with more than their fair share of adversity. That’s why, when Jelly Roll dropped “Save Me” on YouTube during peak pandemic, it seemingly blew up overnight.
“I just looked up and it was at a million views,” he said during the documentary.
That moment legitimately changed the life of the man who has said, “If I wasn’t in music, I would be dead or in prison.”
Considering how rapidly his life has changed since then for the rapper-turned-rocker-turned-country-music-artist, no one can fault him for how brutally honest he is on tracks like “Halfway to Hell” and “Creature.” DeFord is there, flaws and all, for the world to see.
This year has been a series of unforgettable moment for Jelly Roll, who won three CMT awards in April: Male Video of the Year, Breakthrough Male Video of the Year and CMT Digital-First Performance of the year for his smash-hit “Son of a Sinner.”
A little later into the evening, DeFord treated the sellout amphitheater to his follow-up hit, “Need A Favor.” In June it became the first song to enter the top 10 on both the Country Airplay and Mainstream Rock Airplay charts. Additionally, it held the top spot of Billboard’s Emerging Artist Chart for a record-breaking 25 consecutive weeks.
To put an exclamation point on an already wonderful evening, Jelly Roll tore into “Simple Man” before closing things out with “Save Me,” the song that did just that for the larger-than-life personality.