Jelly Roll Opens Up About His Time in Prison: “I Regret It Every Day”

The world will soon hear one of the most astonishing redemption stories – Jelly Roll’s.

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ABC News will release a documentary titled Jelly Roll: Save Me on May 30, a deeply personal glimpse of how the singer turned his life around after prison. Ahead of the premiere, the artist joined Joe Rogan’s podcast to reveal details about his felony conviction that significantly altered his life. 

The appearance served as the first time the Nashville native spoke out about the inexpungable charges. The “Need A Favor” singer was 15 when he entered the juvenile justice system. 

“This will be the first time I ever actually talked about the charge,” Jelly Roll admitted. “It was a heinous crime, admittedly. It was horrible. We robbed a couple of guys for some weed, but they called the police because we took some money and stuff.”  

Despite his freedom, he confessed that he carries the burden with him every day. He spent his young adult years incarcerated, missing out on memorable moments like high school. 

“It was an armed robbery. I mean, we went in there with a gun,” he pointed out. “I regret it every day of my life, Joe. I spent my 15th, my 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th birthdays incarcerated. “My daughter inevitably, by the grace of God, will get a car on her 16th birthday. You know, like the dream sh*t – with the ribbon. It’s gonna be a big moment. But they didn’t even give me an extra piece of cake for dinner. You know what I mean? Like, I didn’t have a guard tell me happy 15th, 16th birthday. You don’t get a family visit. I missed high school completely. I think I was in high school for like… six weeks.” 

While serving time, Jelly Roll discovered that he was going to be a father. That’s when he decided to make better choices and turn his life around. 

“The only sh*t that turned around for me was Bailey. I knew I got a woman pregnant, I’m back in jail. She’s pregnant. She hates me, we’re not talking… I’m a bad human,” he said. “She’s right. I was a horrible human. And I’m sitting in there, and that guard knocks on my door May 22, 2008. He said, ‘You had a kid today,’ and walked away. I still get emotional.” 

He continued, “It’s like a Damascus road experience in the bible. I immediately, Joe, was like, ‘I’ve got to do something. I’ve got to quit this sh*t. I’ve got to figure it out.” 

Once he was released, the aspiring vocalist started selling CDs out of his car and holding local concerts. Jelly Roll tied the knot to his wife Bunnie DeFord, who became the stepmom to his daughter. He turned into a rock & roll powerhouse, but it wasn’t until “Son Of A Sinner” that he made a mark on the country scene. The track reached No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart in 2023. Shortly after, he sold out a benefit concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena and swept the 2023 CMT Music Awards

Although his music career is at an all-time high, his criminal history still follows him. 

“Because the state of Tennesse has a zero-forgiveness policy on violent offenders, I’ve carried that felony for 20-something years,” he shared. “I go to buy my dream home – a guard-gated community, golf course. I’m crying, Joe…they accept my offer. Everything’s going great. I’m like, ‘This ain’t gonna be real.’ They turn around and say, ‘No. The golf course won’t let a felon be a part of the community.'”

As he navigates his freedom and fights for his right, he advocates for at-risk children in the criminal justice system. Jelly Roll will release his 13-song country debut on June 2. The track listing follows.

Whitsitt Chapel 
Track List:

1. “Halfway To Hell” – Written by Jason DeFord, Jesse Frasure, Matt Jenkins, Jessie Jo Dillon*
2. “Church” – Written by Jason DeFord, Michael Hardy, David Garcia**
3. “The Lost” – Written by Jason DeFord, Jesse Frasure, Miranda Lambert*
4. “Behind Bars” (with Brantley Gilbert and Struggle Jennings) – Written by Jason DeFord, Brantley Gilbert, Michael Whitworth, Andrew Baylis, Brock Berryhill, Austin Nivarel***
5. “Nail Me” – Written by Jason DeFord, Kevin Gruft, Austin Nivarel^
6. “Hold On Me” – Written by Jason DeFord, Hillary Lindsey, Alysa Vanderheym, Michael Whitworth^
7. “Kill A Man” – Written by Jason DeFord, Riley Thomas, Andrew Baylis, Michael Whitworth^
8. “Unlive” (with Yelawolf) – Written by Jason DeFord, Ashley McBryde, Andrew Baylis, Zach Crowell, Michael Wayne Atha^
9. “Save Me” (with Lainey Wilson) – Written by Jason DeFord, David Ray Stevens^^
10. “She” – Written by Jason DeFord, Austin Nivarel, Kevin “Thrasher” Gruft^^^
11. “Need A Favor” – Written by Jason DeFord, Austin Nivarel, Joe Ragosta, Rob Ragosta*^
12. “Dancing With The Devil” – Written by Jason DeFord, Hunter Phelps, Zach Crowell^
13. “Hungover In A Church Pew” – Written by Jason DeFord, Hunter Phelps, Zach Crowell^

^Produced by Zach Crowell
*Produced by Zach Crowell and Jesse Frasure
**Produced by Zach Crowell and David Garcia
^^Produced by Zach Crowell and David Ray Stevens
*^Produced by Austin Nivarel
***Produced by Brock Berryhill and Andrew Baylis
^^^Produced by Kevin “Thrasher” Gruft

Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for CMT

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