An Emotional Jelly Roll Says He Writes Music to Help People

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Jelly Roll

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Jelly Roll is a singer, rapper, and songwriter. Look for his Hulu documentary, "Jelly Roll: Save Me," on May 30, and his new album, "Whitsitt Chapel," on June 2. www.jellyroll615.com

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Can I tell you this story? It's a bit of a story. But it's fun to tell. So I wrote like a hundred songs last year. And I didn't feel great about any of them to be honest. The label liked a few and was trying to pick radio singles, but I just didn't have no conviction about it, Joe. And my daughter at the same time had found her way into this little back road church in the middle of nowhere about a country where we live. She kept asking me to come and you know, I have a tumulus relationship with the Lord. So I wasn't, you know, sure how I'd show up. But I was like, you know what? I'll go and I went there. There's a hundred people, a back road church, you know, 20 of them were kids that went to high school with her. And around the same time, I caught this little motherfucker smoking pot. Right. She's 15. She's doing 15 year old kid stuff. And I was like, baby, you won't believe it. About about your age, I started making these same decisions. And I was going to this little bitty church in Antioch. I tell her the story of this church. She don't believe it. So I take her to this old church. It's still there. It's called Whitsit Chapel Baptist Church. And that night riding home with her, I didn't tell nobody, but in my mind, I thought that's the album I'm writing. Like fuck every song I wrote, I'm writing this album. I called Zach Crowell. He produced every Sam Hunt song ever. You know, one of the biggest producers in town. I've known him my whole life. He's here with me right now. And I said, dude, I want to write an album called Going to Church. And I just kind of want to write this kind of journey and just kind of A to Z and write a real project. And Zach was like, I mean, he's like, well, why don't you just call it Whitsit Chapel? So that's how we ended up doing Whitsit Chapel. So when Needle Favor came into the fold, I was like, what's worship music for center sound like? Like what is a motherfucker like me? You know, because you know, when you're a church, it's holy holy. You are great. I was like, I don't necessarily feel that way. So how do I feel? You know what I mean? And then it was our only talk to God when I need a favor. You know, and I was like, we got to build it with a choir and big production. I want that old stop clap. You know, that old church feel and I want to bring like that vibe of that church, you know, into the into the and the whole thing is the whole album is built on that vibe of like there's fire and brimstone. There's everything you go through in a Sunday morning worship service. If you ever been to a Sunday in the south worship service, they're going to convince you you're a horrible human at some point, you're going to hell. And then at the end, they'll hit a major key instead of a minor one finally and go, but there's hope. You know what I'm saying? So I was like, how do I? I was like, how do I write that? You know, man. Well, I've always been a fan of those preachers. I love the way they they captivate audience. Even if they're crazy, even if they're talking nonsense, there's something exciting about watching some dude preach the word and just yell it out on fire. So I got a I got I'm going to send you a link to the album, but I got a preacher throughout the whole album doing that Joe, who tied the record together. So you read like the album starts with this dude like in by the grace of God, we were saved and it just drops the first song. It's cool. That's a I got nerdy dude. I went like old school. I went like back to the 90s. I was in the studio like we were just getting high and coming up with shit. Beautiful. Yeah, it was so much fun. It's probably the most fun. I've ever had writing an album because it's the first time I've sat down a long time and wrote an album instead of just writing a bunch of songs and then picking an album. You know what I mean? I was like, I'm right. We're going to sit down and write an album. So that just came out of the blue inspirationally. Yeah, just I just wasn't just felt like something to do and I'm going to get like all the way real. I didn't understand what was I had commercial success for the first time in my life and I didn't know how to deal with that. So you do what everybody does in that moment. I'm sure you may or may not have been there in your career early where you like you chase it then you're like, oh my god, hold on. I can be yeah, and I realized that the songs wouldn't sound like jelly roll no more, you know, and I was like, no, I'm doing the thing that people do where they fuck their career up. I was like, I'm not doing that man. So you think that that's just a normal trap that happens to everybody that gets success and they don't want to fuck up that success. So they try to make a formula for what they think the people liked about their early shit. Yes, yes, 100% or they chase whatever the poppy record was or whatever the record that did the most. So it's like, how do I write another song like that? So I was coming off of a hit that I drag the one I gave you to Black Forest Son of a Center was my first radio hit like hit hit and I was like, I didn't know how to come out of it because I didn't write the song for radio. I wrote the song like I wrote every other song but then you start thinking, oh I can write songs for radio. I had fucking 70 radio songs like fuck. I'm not it. You know, it's like now man. I just need to I need to do what got me to radio. They do what jelly roll does and I was like, I know what it is. I'm gonna get back in my Fox on write me fucking album. Do you know what I'm saying? I took it off music row. We went back to some little old backass studio in the backwoods and we wrote it kind of like, you know, like we wrote all my early shit. I feel like it's like every level of success that you get you're presented with a unique problem that you haven't seen before and it's up to you to just figure it out. Just figure out what work. What are you doing this for and I think that applies to everything. I know it applies to comedy. It definitely seems to apply to music. I think it probably applies to everything figure out what you doing it for like what why do you like to do? I know you have to make a living but once all that's taken care of like what are you doing it for? You should be doing it for the love of this thing. Whatever this thing is that you do. You are a love-spreading machine as a human being right whether it's your love of Carpetree whether it's your love of electronics. What is it? What's your thing man? Right? Everybody's got a thing but not everybody finds her fucking thing. That's the problem with this world. So people get trapped in something that's not their thing and that's that's what they are now and they don't ever get to express themselves in a way that would make them feel good. Well for me always call it the why and it's like what you said even with the music and that's what happened with those 70 songs when the why comes down to all this is catchy or this is a good song. I'm past the point of like if this I want to help people Joe like my music has always been therapeutic. My music has always been for people. What got me into music was my mother. So my mother was a woman who struggled with extreme mental health issues and drug addiction and she would never come out of a room Joe. And she would come downstairs and she'd throw a record on she'd light a cigarette at the table and do that watch the house change like brothers sisters cousins coming from across the street. We didn't love tight neighborhood poor people, you know neighbors coming over her friends start flooding the house and she held court Joe. I would watch our kitchen turn into a nightclub and she'd start telling stories and listen. We didn't have Google. We had to believe the bitch back. You know what I'm saying? So she would be like James Taylor wrote this about his drug addicted mother. You know what I'm saying or something to play fire and rain or she'd be like Bette Miller wrote the Rose about we're just like all captivated and then she played the Rose and we're all crying in the kitchen together and it's like and I didn't understand because I'm a kid right but something changed in her when the record went on is how I looked at it. I didn't know anything about drug addiction anything about schizophrenia or bipolar or any of this stuff. She was dealing with romantic depression back in what they called. I didn't know any of this. I just knew that this lady never fucking leaves that room and when she does it seems like the music does it. So I spent my whole life writing songs for her. Right. I was like I kind of indirectly was like writing these songs for the addicted and the broken. You know what I mean? Because that's what I was seeing. So it's like I found purpose in the music and like I tell people if I was going to do it for money like any sane fucking comedian or musician out of quit 10 years ago because like I wouldn't I didn't make any for 15 years. You know if I was doing it for money how to quit forever ago and went got a job. I just knew that it was always helping people. You know what I mean? It's like the music was all because I seen how it helped my mother and I knew the power of music and to this day like when you first bring up music. I'm like I'm a mood guy. It's like, you know, you know how I feel about what I got to go listen to like yeah to this day. If I'm going through something in life, I'll grab a joint go hop in the pickup truck and tell my wife I'll be back and she knows what I'm doing. I'm just going to go listen to music for an hour and smoke a joint. I'm going to come back and sort through this shit, but it was something about that that made me want to write songs for purpose.The Jerogan Experience. Can I tell you this story? It's a bit of a story. But it's fun to tell. So I wrote like a hundred songs last year. And I didn't feel great about any of them to be honest. The label liked a few and was trying to pick radio singles, but I just didn't have no conviction about it, Joe. And my daughter at the same time had found her way into this little back road church in the middle of nowhere about a country where we live. She kept asking me to come and you know, I have a tumulus relationship with the Lord. So I wasn't, you know, sure how I'd show up. But I was like, you know what? I'll go and I went there. There's a hundred people, a back road church, you know, 20 of them were kids that went to high school with her. And around the same time, I caught this little motherfucker smoking pot. Right. She's 15. She's doing 15 year old kid stuff. And I was like, baby, you won't believe it. About about your age, I started making these same decisions. And I was going to this little bitty church in Antioch. I tell her the story of this church. She don't believe it. So I take her to this old church. It's still there. It's called Whitsit Chapel Baptist Church. And that night riding home with her, I didn't tell nobody, but in my mind, I thought that's the album I'm writing. Like fuck every song I wrote, I'm writing this album. I called Zach Crowell. He produced every Sam Hunt song ever. You know, one of the biggest producers in town. I've known him my whole life. He's here with me right now. And I said, dude, I want to write an album called Going to Church. And I just kind of want to write this kind of journey and just kind of A to Z and write a real project. And Zach was like, I mean, he's like, well, why don't you just call it Whitsit Chapel? So that's how we ended up doing Whitsit Chapel. So when Needle Favor came into the fold, I was like, what's worship music for center sound like? Like what is a motherfucker like me? You know, because you know, when you're a church, it's holy holy. You are great. I was like, I don't necessarily feel that way. So how do I feel? You know what I mean? And then it was our only talk to God when I need a favor. You know, and I was like, we got to build it with a choir and big production. I want that old stop clap. You know, that old church feel and I want to bring like that vibe of that church, you know, into the into the and the whole thing is the whole album is built on that vibe of like there's fire and brimstone. There's everything you go through in a Sunday morning worship service. If you ever been to a Sunday in the south worship service, they're going to convince you you're a horrible human at some point, you're going to hell. And then at the end, they'll hit a major key instead of a minor one finally and go, but there's hope. You know what I'm saying? So I was like, how do I? I was like, how do I write that? You know, man. Well, I've always been a fan of those preachers. I love the way they they captivate audience. Even if they're crazy, even if they're talking nonsense, there's something exciting about watching some dude preach the word and just yell it out on fire. So I got a I got I'm going to send you a link to the album, but I got a preacher throughout the whole album doing that Joe, who tied the record together. So you read like the album starts with this dude like in by the grace of God, we were saved and it just drops the first song. It's cool. That's a I got nerdy dude. I went like old school. I went like back to the 90s. I was in the studio like we were just getting high and coming up with shit. Beautiful. Yeah, it was so much fun. It's probably the most fun. I've ever had writing an album because it's the first time I've sat down a long time and wrote an album instead of just writing a bunch of songs and then picking an album. You know what I mean? I was like, I'm right. We're going to sit down and write an album. So that just came out of the blue inspirationally. Yeah, just I just wasn't just felt like something to do and I'm going to get like all the way real. I didn't understand what was I had commercial success for the first time in my life and I didn't know how to deal with that. So you do what everybody does in that moment. I'm sure you may or may not have been there in your career early where you like you chase it then you're like, oh my god, hold on. I can be yeah, and I realized that the songs wouldn't sound like jelly roll no more, you know, and I was like, no, I'm doing the thing that people do where they fuck their career up. I was like, I'm not doing that man. So you think that that's just a normal trap that happens to everybody that gets success and they don't want to fuck up that success. So they try to make a formula for what they think the people liked about their early shit. Yes, yes, 100% or they chase whatever the poppy record was or whatever the record that did the most. So it's like, how do I write another song like that? So I was coming off of a hit that I drag the one I gave you to Black Forest Son of a Center was my first radio hit like hit hit and I was like, I didn't know how to come out of it because I didn't write the song for radio. I wrote the song like I wrote every other song but then you start thinking, oh I can write songs for radio. I had fucking 70 radio songs like fuck. I'm not it. You know, it's like now man. I just need to I need to do what got me to radio. They do what jelly roll does and I was like, I know what it is. I'm gonna get back in my Fox on write me fucking album. Do you know what I'm saying? I took it off music row. We went back to some little old backass studio in the backwoods and we wrote it kind of like, you know, like we wrote all my early shit. I feel like it's like every level of success that you get you're presented with a unique problem that you haven't seen before and it's up to you to just figure it out. Just figure out what work. What are you doing this for and I think that applies to everything. I know it applies to comedy. It definitely seems to apply to music. I think it probably applies to everything figure out what you doing it for like what why do you like to do? I know you have to make a living but once all that's taken care of like what are you doing it for? You should be doing it for the love of this thing. Whatever this thing is that you do. You are a love-spreading machine as a human being right whether it's your love of Carpetree whether it's your love of electronics. What is it? What's your thing man? Right? Everybody's got a thing but not everybody finds her fucking thing. That's the problem with this world. So people get trapped in something that's not their thing and that's that's what they are now and they don't ever get to express themselves in a way that would make them feel good. Well for me always call it the why and it's like what you said even with the music and that's what happened with those 70 songs when the why comes down to all this is catchy or this is a good song. I'm past the point of like if this I want to help people Joe like my music has always been therapeutic. My music has always been for people. What got me into music was my mother. So my mother was a woman who struggled with extreme mental health issues and drug addiction and she would never come out of a room Joe. And she would come downstairs and she'd throw a record on she'd light a cigarette at the table and do that watch the house change like brothers sisters cousins coming from across the street. We didn't love tight neighborhood poor people, you know neighbors coming over her friends start flooding the house and she held court Joe. I would watch our kitchen turn into a nightclub and she'd start telling stories and listen. We didn't have Google. We had to believe the bitch back. You know what I'm saying? So she would be like James Taylor wrote this about his drug addicted mother. You know what I'm saying or something to play fire and rain or she'd be like Bette Miller wrote the Rose about we're just like all captivated and then she played the Rose and we're all crying in the kitchen together and it's like and I didn't understand because I'm a kid right but something changed in her when the record went on is how I looked at it. I didn't know anything about drug addiction anything about schizophrenia or bipolar or any of this stuff. She was dealing with romantic depression back in what they called. I didn't know any of this. I just knew that this lady never fucking leaves that room and when she does it seems like the music does it. So I spent my whole life writing songs for her. Right. I was like I kind of indirectly was like writing these songs for the addicted and the broken. You know what I mean? Because that's what I was seeing. So it's like I found purpose in the music and like I tell people if I was going to do it for money like any sane fucking comedian or musician out of quit 10 years ago because like I wouldn't I didn't make any for 15 years. You know if I was doing it for money how to quit forever ago and went got a job. I just knew that it was always helping people. You know what I mean? It's like the music was all because I seen how it helped my mother and I knew the power of music and to this day like when you first bring up music. I'm like I'm a mood guy. It's like, you know, you know how I feel about what I got to go listen to like yeah to this day. If I'm going through something in life, I'll grab a joint go hop in the pickup truck and tell my wife I'll be back and she knows what I'm doing. I'm just going to go listen to music for an hour and smoke a joint. I'm going to come back and sort through this shit, but it was something about that that made me want to write songs for purpose.