Watch: Jelly Roll and Wynonna Judd Open 2023 CMA Awards with a Bang

The 57th annual CMA Awards began with a bang Wednesday night (November 8), thanks to the emotive rapper-turned-country crooner, Jelly Roll. The Nashville-born, tattooed songwriter and performer took the stage to open the awards ceremony, singing his hit single, “Need A Favor.”

Videos by American Songwriter

Jelly, who is also slated to perform again later during the show with K. Michelle on the song “Love Can Build a Bridge,” showed why he’s one of country music’s rising stars by coming out a cappella. Wearing sneakers and a leather jacket, Jelly was backed by a band and a full choir wearing gold robes.

He was also joined by Wynonna Judd, daughter of the late matriarch Naomi. The two were also seen hanging out at the 2023 CMT Award earlier this year. Backstage following their performance, Wynonna said the pair met at the CMT Awards.

“I didn’t know anything about him until the CMT Awards and I stood up out of my seat because he rocked my world,” she told American Songwriter and other press backstage at the CMA Awards. “I ran up to him and Bunny afterward and I said, ‘I need to know the two of you’ and I just threw myself at them and said, ‘I need to be a part of your world and I don’t know what that looks like.’ So, here we are. I guess you just have to take a step out on faith and just show up and say, ‘I’m here, what do you want? I’ll do whatever.'”

Wynonna added that Jelly Roll is “so powerful” and “great at what he does.”

“I don’t know how many more of these moments I have left, but I can tell you this, that was definitely top 10 for me,” she said of performing with the singer. “Jelly Roll is a force to be reckoned with and he’s his own person. Getting to stand toe to toe with him was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done.”

The CMAs are currently being broadcast live on ABC, hosted by Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning.

[RELATED: Lainey Wilson Reveals the Wisdom Dolly Parton Passed Down to Her Ahead of the 2023 CMA Awards]

The performance to kick off the program comes as Jelly is nominated for several big awards this year at the CMAs, including Male Vocalist of the Year, Single of the Year (for his song “Need A Favor”), Musical Event of the Year (for his collaboration with Lainey Wilson on the song “Save Me”), Music Video of the Year (for “Need A Favor”) and New Artist of the Year.

Speaking with Audacy’s Grunwald earlier today, Jelly responded to a question asking if he was nervous. “Yes I’m nervous!” Jelly stated emphatically. He added, “I was telling my wife tonight that I think I’m going to wear a hat just because I know I’m going to be sweating.”

He continued, “I’m nervous just sitting here talking about it. This is crazy.” Then, he explained why he was so nervous despite his prior accomplishments. “It’s different than some of the other awards shows I’ve been a part of because they were fan-voted. This is different, man. This means the people inside this business are cheering for you. It’s a big honor.”

But those nerves didn’t show during his show-opening offering. Check out an image of Jelly and Judd performing together below.

(Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)

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