What Do the Lyrics to the Desperate Song “Need a Favor” by Jelly Roll Mean?

The Nashville-born country singer/songwriter Jelly Roll is one of the most popular artists on the scene these days as his his acoustic-driven track, “Need a Favor,” off his award-winning 2023 album, Whitsitt Chapel.

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Jelly Roll (born Jason Bradley DeFord) released a whopping 18 studio albums before Whitsitt Chapel earned him the fame and recognition he’d long sought. The album was introduced to the world with “Need a Favor,” the LP’s debut single.

But what does the song mean and for someone who had given so much to the industry, what did this final prayer of a song offer? Let’s dive in.


Early in Jelly Roll’s life, he was a truant. A drug dealer, he was arrested for robbery and possession. Later in his life, though, he found music. Like the military or working in a kitchen for some, music gave Jelly Roll the structure to find a future. With that as a backdrop, the song, “Need a Favor,” makes clear sense.

I only talk to God when I need a favor
And I only pray when I ain’t got a prayer
So, who the hell am I, who the hell am I
To expect a Savior, oh
If I only talk to God when I need a favor?
But God, I need a favor

Talking to God

When we are at our most down and out, who do we look to? A higher power. That’s what this song is all about. But sometimes it comes at a time when we haven’t otherwise kept a relationship with that higher power (for those who practice). So, what do you say in those moments of desperation? Maybe now you look to this Jelly Roll song.

I know Amazing Grace, but I ain’t been livin’ them words
Swear I spend most Sundays, drunk off my ass, than I have in church
Hard cover King James only been savin’ dust on the nightstand
And I don’t know what to say by the time I fold my hands

What Does He Need?

Towards the end of the song, we learn what the singer needs. His love to live. Speaking again to God, he sings:

Yeah, I owe you more than one and beggars can’t be choosers
But I’ll pay for all I’ve done, just please don’t let me lose her

And he says more of what’s happening—his partner is sick and he needs help.

Hangin’ in there, just barely
Throwin’ up prayers, like Hail Mary’s
If You’re still there, Lord, spare me
Oh my God, oh my God, Hail Mary

Final Thoughts

If desperation could sing, it would sound like “Need a Favor.”

Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images

One Comment

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  1. JellyRoll, Is amazing he gives me strength in his songs!!!!
    I’m stretching every penny I get to buy a ticket when he comes to Cincinnati I want to hug him most of his songs remind me of my son who’s been gone almost 8 years because it’s how my Billy K felt and I think it’s amazing how one can feel so much like mine that is gone, his music just hits me right on my heart…I will get to see him maybe not hug him but I will see him in concert!!! And if my son was here we would be all the way up front to see him cause he would have loved JellyRoll also,,See you soon Jelly your friend Tonia/Billy

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