Jelly Roll reflects on his path from juvenile detention to CMT Award winner

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Rising from the shadows to the spotlight, Jason Bradley DeFord, known as Jelly Roll, finds himself in awe of his meteoric rise within the country music industry. Once a name few knew, Jelly Roll has now etched his mark in the country music scene by securing Grammy nominations, bagging multiple People’s Choice Awards, and earning three wins Sunday at the CMT Awards, including Video of the Year.

Amid his rising celebrity, he has maintained a down-to-earth demeanor—which his fans have grown to love.

“None of this has settled on me. I am the most average guy ever,” Jelly Roll told Gayle King on “CBS Mornings” Monday, the day after his CMT wins. 

His performance at the CMT Awards, electric and emotionally charged, left both the audience and Jelly Roll himself in awe of the moment’s intensity.

“Feeling them and being able to give a speech and being able to try to try to talk directly and pour into somebody’s living room, that just fires me up in a way, man. I think it’s God,” he said.

By the time he accepted his first award for performance of the year, Jelly Roll had been overcome with the magnitude of the moment.

“I was just overwhelmed with emotions. I started crying because I thought about the whole year…from that moment,” he said. “It’s amazing what God can do in a year.”

In a heartfelt moment during his acceptance speech for Male Video of the Year, Jelly Roll addressed those in juvenile detention, drawing from his past struggles in Tennessee with the law, including arrests for marijuana possession and attempted robbery that put him in and out of jail.

“I just want them to know that you can really overcome this. This is just a moment of your life and who you were isn’t who you are, and that you can change at any given moment of the changes around the corner for all of us. I truly believe that I epitomize it as much as I can,” Jelly Roll said.

Jelly Roll’s unique blend of country music with a gritty, hip-hop-like sound, along with his distinctive tattoos—some of which he humorously regrets—has set him apart in the industry. He’s not alone in bringing a distinctive sound to country. Fellow artists like Lainey Wilson and Cody Johnson are also making a name for themselves—with the support of Jelly Roll.

“These are like my friends. These are people that pour into me,” he said.

Jelly Roll will be busy this summer as he prepares to embark on his Beautifully Broken Tour.  

As he looks forward to his first arena tour, including performances at landmark venues like New York City’s Madison Square Garden, Jelly Roll contemplates just how far his dreams have come and just how much further they will go. “My dream was too small. I’m having to give new dreams now, I’m dreaming bigger,” he said. 

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