4 Inspiring Moments from the ‘Jelly Roll: Save Me’ Documentary

Jelly Roll has taken the world by storm as of late. Though the Nashville native has a troubled past racked with drug abuse and addiction that landed him in and out of jail for years, he’s always had a heart for music.

Videos by American Songwriter

The singer/songwriter started his career in his hometown as a rapper before transitioning to country music, where he scored his first No. 1 hit in the genre with “Son of a Sinner” in 2022.

This complex journey is the focal point of the new documentary, Jelly Roll: Save Me, streaming now on Hulu. American Songwriter attended a viewing of the doc at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on Tuesday (May 30). Here are four inspiring takeaways.

1. Having a baby changed his life

At the age of 24, Jelly Roll found himself in jail again when he received the most important news of his life. In the doc, he recalls being housed at a correctional facility on Harding Place and was in cell number 223 when a guard knocked on his door on May 22, 2008. “He goes, ‘You had a little girl today. Your daughter was born this morning,'” the singer recalls. “I go to the doors and beat on it and was like ‘Hey, do you know her name?’ He leans back to the window and goes, ‘Fuck, I don’t know man. I’m just telling you what they told me to tell you buddy.'”

Jelly Roll says it was this moment that compelled him to focus his attention on music and change his life for the better for his now 14-year-old daughter, Bailee.”I think I’ve lived an extremely selfish life to that moment. I think it was the first time in my whole life I thought about putting somebody in front of me. In that moment, I made a promise with her that I had to be there for her and it’s almost like something just clicked right then,” he explained.

“I came out of jail with a plan A and plan B. Plan A was I was going to come home and I was going to put every piece of energy I had in music. My plan B was get my GED while I was in jail to come home and enroll in a community college and try to live the square life and Plan C was I was going to go back to what I’ve always done. I came home and bet the farm on plan A,” he said to exclaims of support from the crowd.

2. He shares how music helped him get sober

Another powerful moment is when Jelly Roll visits a sobriety center. In a voiceover, the singer shares that he tries to visit 20 to 30 rehab facilities a year. On this particular day, he’s visiting a center where people of all ages gather to hear his story.

“You know what they say about us? We always trade one addiction for another one,” he told the room. “I started realizing that if I could channel that energy into obsessing about the things that made me better, like the same way that I would chase that street shit every single day and I woke up and that’s all that fucking mattered until I fell asleep, is how I started treating music.

“That’s not healthy either, but it worked for me because I made it healthy,” he continues. “So I just want to encourage you all to look at the gift that you think has been a curse and how that applies to something in your life.”

3. He visits the detention center where he once lived  

Jelly Roll reveals that he started using drugs when he was 15, going so far as to smoke meth out of a lightbulb, and had tripped on acid and mushrooms by that time. He soon got into drug dealing, which he says landed him in jail upwards of 40 times. Despite now being sober and quickly becoming one of music’s newest superstars, the rapper and singer still makes time to give back to those who are in the same position he was once in.

One of the most moving moments in the documentary is when Jelly Roll returns to the youth detention center in Nashville where he was kept as a teen. “Twenty-one years ago, I spent two Thanksgivings in a row here,” he said pulling up to the juvenile detention center with boxes of Cracker Barrel meals for the youth who are incarcerated there. Calling it the “saddest day of the year” having to spend the holiday locked up away from his family, Jelly Roll took time to talk with the young people and hear their stories.

That’s when one person shared their love of music and showed off their guitar skills. A guitar was handed to the teen and they started playing, proving the power of music. “I spent a lot of years destroying, I want to spend a lot of future years building,” Jelly Roll said to the camera. “I don’t think any one person has got the ability to change the world. But I think that if a bunch of people do a little bit, it gets a little bit better.”

4. Headlining Bridgestone Arena

For an artist, there’s nothing quite like headlining your hometown arena. But this was a particularly monumental moment for Jelly Roll when he headlined Bridgestone Arena in Nashville in December 2022. So much so, that he opened and closed the documentary with it. He built up to the moment like he was stepping into the boxing ring, complete with an announcer who said, “Sometimes a superstar is born and raised in right here Nashville, Tennessee. Tonight, one such superstar is proud to return to his roots.”

As he took to the stage to the bright lights and roars of applause from the packed crowd, Jelly Roll used it as an opportunity to reflect. “I never lived in the present because I was so haunted by the past, and I think I’m finally starting to let my past go enough that I can actually be present,” he observed as he soaked in the moment, bringing the doc to a powerful close.

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Ashley McBryde Explores ‘The Devil I Know’ on New Album

Shaggy Shares the True Meaning Behind “It Wasn’t Me”