Jelly Roll Defends His Country Music Credibility in the Face of Criticism

Jelly Roll is easily one of the most talked-about artists in country music today. After years as a hip-hop artist, he transitioned to rock and then released his debut country record last year. Whitsitt Chapel propelled the Antioch, Tennessee native to new heights and opened countless doors for him. Last year’s highlights include a pair of Grammy nominations and the New Artist of the Year trophy from the CMA Awards. Still, many don’t believe he’s “country.”

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Objectively speaking, it’s a fair assessment. Jelly Roll doesn’t fit the accepted image of a country artist. He doesn’t have the rural or small-town background many country artists claim to have—whether they do or not. Then, there’s his music which contains samples and electronic drums alongside real instruments. To many, that’s a strike against the big man. However, the same can be said for many artists getting heavy rotation on country radio.

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What Jelly Roll has in spades, though, is authenticity. He has always written directly from his life experience. Addiction, crime, love, heartache, loss, and joy pepper his lyrics. In that aspect, even the most curmudgeonly country fans have to give him his due.

Recently, Jelly Roll appeared on the Full Send Podcast. While there, he talked about what being “country” means to him.

Jelly Roll Discusses Being Country

Quoting the phrase coined by legendary country songwriter Harlan Howard, Jelly Roll said, “To me, country music is three chords and the truth. And I know in my soul what I do is write three chords and the truth.” Then, he added, “I know if I don’t write nothing else, I write the truth.”

Jelly Roll went on to say that, in his eyes, being “country” and performing country music are two very different things. “There’s being country and being country music,” he said. “Because even country music as far as time has been wasn’t always just super country rednecks,” the “Son of a Sinner” singer added.

“It’s like country music has always had a wide stroke. Like, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson weren’t singing about fishing or hunting and they were as authentically country as you could be.”

Then, he summed up his view on the matter. “The country thing … is to me, it’s just my spirit is country music,” he explained.

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