‎Save Me (with Lainey Wilson) – Song by Jelly Roll

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    Jelly Roll, the stage name of singer-rapper-songwriter Jason DeFord, has long been one of Nashville’s best-kept secrets. A native of the city’s Antioch neighborhood, DeFord originally pursued music as a hip-hop artist, collaborating with regional talents like Memphis’ Lil Wyte and Juicy J and Nashville’s Yelawolf and Struggle Jennings. While DeFord is a formidable rapper—his flow ranges from a twangy, charismatic drawl to a rapid-fire clip—he also has a singing voice tailor-made for the kind of angsty country rock popularized by artists like Brantley Gilbert and Cody Jinks.

    On his proper country debut, Whitsitt Chapel, DeFord leans primarily into the latter, serving up a mix of brooding rockers and sincere ballads, with a particular thematic emphasis on redemption and recovery—fitting, as DeFord spent his teen years in prison and now works to help others with felony charges rebuild their lives. It’s that willingness to engage with darker realities that draws many to DeFord’s music, something he does not take for granted. “Some of the most honest people I ever met in my life, surprisingly, were in jail,” DeFord tells Apple Music. “Some of the smartest people I ever met were in rehab. I think I just gained such humility from that. When you grow up with literally the opposite of something, anything is awesome.”

    Whitsitt Chapel opens with “Halfway to Hell,” a look at the dueling forces of good and evil causing DeFord to wage war with himself. “Behind Bars” brings both Gilbert and Jennings on board, with a sing-along chorus anchored by the line “Most my friends are behind bars.” Yelawolf shows up with his brand of Southern hip-hop on “Unlive,” a woozy and unflinching look at how poverty and addiction are often so deeply intertwined. Lainey Wilson duets with DeFord on “Save Me,” one of the album’s most tender moments thanks to both vocalists’ vulnerable performances. The album closes with “Hungover in a Church Pew,” a hopeful tune about finding the strength to start over. “This is my coming-of-age record,” DeFord adds. “And it’s kind of a journey through my growth, the duality that I’m still a wild card but I’m an immensely changed man from who I was. The biggest problem we got right now is I might drink a little too much and get a little rowdy. But God’s looking at me with two thumbs up.” Here, DeFord shares insight into several key tracks.

    “The Lost”
    “We had finished the album, and I called Jesse Frasure to call Miranda Lambert and say, ‘Hey, if y’all don’t want to do this [co-write] tomorrow, that’s cool. This album’s done. We can go in there and dick around. But the singles are picked. This is only ice cream, right? If y’all want to go out for dessert, okay, but the steak and potatoes are here.’ And I thought Miranda will be like, ‘Oh, no problem. We’ll write on the next one.’ But Miranda’s like, ‘What are you talking about? We’re coming. I got ideas.’ She gives me a synopsis of what my album’s about and then goes, ‘This is what I’m thinking. What about this?’ And immediately I’m like, ‘You are just as badass as everybody said you are.’”

    “Behind Bars” (feat. Brantley Gilbert and Struggle Jennings)
    “‘Behind Bars,’ for me, was fun because it goes back to songs needing purpose. That song made the album solely because I’ve always wanted and felt the need to have an old-school sing-along. And I felt like ‘Behind Bars’ is perfect. [Thinking of] Garth [Brooks], it’s like ‘Two Piña Coladas,’ right? Like I’d never cut that song. But what would my ‘Two Piña Coladas’ sound like? And I think that’s ‘Behind Bars.’”

    “Nail Me”
    “The country music community came to me wide open. Ninety percent of country radio came to me wide open. I mean, unbelievable, the support. That 10 percent, though, from both sides. That 10 percent deserved 7 percent of my album. So I gave them ‘Nail Me.’ That’s how I felt. They didn’t even deserve a full 10 percent of my album, but they deserved a little 7 percent. So I gave them a song. It was just that I felt judged kind of all over again.”

    “Unlive” (feat. Yelawolf)
    “It’s the most tied to the old stuff. It was just so cool to write it with somebody like the Grammy Award-winning Ashley McBryde, that she comes straight in. And that song started by us just telling old white-trash stories. I won’t tell her stories, but we’re telling each other these funny stories about where we’re from. And she was like, ‘But you just can’t unlive where you’re from.’ I’m like, ‘Well, that’s the song today. Let’s write that one, Ashley.’”

    “Save Me” (feat. Lainey Wilson)
    “It was the middle of the pandemic. And when I say middle of it, I mean we were spraying boxes with Lysol. And I just couldn’t sit through that. I was like, ‘We got to work.’ And I was in such a dark space because of that; I knew I needed to write. My father had just died a year before. So I’m still learning how to grieve through that. And then I’m like, ‘We got to write. I got to get this out of me.’ So ‘Save Me’ came from a really dark space. It’s still really hard to sing.”



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