How Jelly Roll Represents the Next Generation of Country Stars

Jelly Roll is having a very, very good week. Her new song just hit No. 1 on Billboard and the Mediabase airplay charts – uh, no, that’s not the country song.

“Son of a Sinner” is in Country Airplay’s Top 30 and climbing fast, but “Dead Man Walking” hit No. 1 on rock radio the morning Mr. Roll strutted through the Taste of country nights studio with an extraordinary amount of glide in its glide. To say Jelly Roll (real name Jason DeFord)’s energy is contagious would be to understate the spirit of the rock and rap veteran. Those who question his intentions as he makes his first round of presentations with country fans and the media are only showing their own bias. The guitars that accompany his new vocal ballad are as authentic as anything you hear on country radio today.

The Nashville native recently visited host Evan Paul to talk about his friends and country plans, how he’ll keep a foothold in rap music and why country fans are uniquely prepared for him in 2022. He also updated us on Waffle House Beef which started a decade ago when he was sued by the restaurant chain for using his logo on the cover of a song called “Whiskey, Weed & Waffle House”.

Eva Paul: Congratulations.

jelly roll: We lit everything.

You’ve had success rapping since Memphis with Three 6 (Three 6 Mafia) and Lil Wyte. Now you rocked. You play country. What do your hardcore fans think about you crossing genres?

I think they love it. I think a lot of them grew up with me, so a lot of my transition was just coming of age. I also think that I never deviated from my real message – my message is very clear. I am very direct about what I do. I have a mission statement. When I started music I came for a reason, I had a reason I wanted to do it, I had people I wanted to reach and I knew why. I never walked away from it. I will write a party song once in a while because I personally need to party a little in my own mind in the studio. I party a lot in real life. My goal is to be very cathartic and therapeutic in my message.

“Son of a Sinner” certainly does that.

It’s a touch-to-soul, man. Some things you hear, some things you feel, and this is one you feel, baby.

What are your biggest musical influences?

I’m influenced by everything from Three 6 Mafia and UGK to James Taylor, Bob Seger. Some of my favorites…Jim Croce…love the old outlaw stuff. I love old Willie. I love old Waylon records. Huge fan of all the old Cash stuff. They’re probably the guys who really shaped my style and my sound.

Are you gonna come back with Three 6 and do something?

Yeah, I talked to Juicy J the other day and DJ Paul. So yeah, we’re still talking about working together. I needed some 808s programmed to a new song I’m working on and sent them to DJ Paul. I didn’t even hesitate.

I have a record with Brantley Gilbert coming later this year that I’m rapping on again. I got my house guy, DJ Chill, who’s from here in Nashville, to do the 808s on it.

Is there any collaboration between you and MGK in the future?

I would be in. I like what he does. I have nothing against what he does. I think that’s great. He’s another great example of someone mixing genres and going where he wanted to.

I think we’re in that space now, man. I’m sitting here with you, Taste of country nights,

I think we live in this world where – I think it’s because we grew up in it, right?

Yeah, it’s different.

It’s cool because all the guys out there in their 30s and 40s now, early 50s are like, “I remember Ice Cube.” Me and Ernest, who wrote “Son of a Sinner” with me, he’s my guy. He’s one of my best friends. We used to freestyle in the basement and smoke together, you know what I mean. We both come from this root. Mitchell Tenpenny, all these guys, we’re all young enough to – you know, Tenpenny can probably sing every John Mayer song ever written.

He also has a good collection of kicks.

Amazing collection of kicks, man. It’s crazy. Sure it rivals mine, but I still beat it (Laughs).

You mentioned Ernest. Which other country stars have reached out to collaborate?

Yeah, I don’t know if it’s to collaborate yet, but Tyler Hubbard reached out to me, which I thought was really cool. Luke Combs wished me congratulations on my debut with Opry, which is really cool because I’m such a fan of Luke. I spoke to (Jason) Aldean. Jimmy Allen. You know what’s funny? Before, I had no friends in the music world, now I have a lot. I have been blessed. Thanks to Ernest, Morgan (Wallen) and Hardy have been my friends for a few years now. It was really cool… I’m much more accepted than I expected.

You’re the only guy I know who worked with Waffle House. Did you clear that up?

I don’t know if they crushed it, but I eat there. I have to admit that I gave in. It was difficult to carry the beef too long. I’m such a fan (Laughs).

What do you want your country audience to know about you if they don’t know your rock and rap music?

I will always give you real music. It will be for real people who have been through real things. It’s not just a kick – I’m cannonballing into country music, baby. I arrive with an empty stomach. I have an almost finished album. I feel good about it.

I come from here — this is where I want to be. I always wanted to do country music. It’s Nashville to me. I want to be a local kid. I’m big on local causes. I support efforts within the community. When all is said and done, I want to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Vote for Jelly Roll and the 2022 Hot List Awards

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