Jelly Roll and Lainey Wilson Talk Grit, Friendship And The Importance Of Family

Jelly Roll: “Life ain't about what you do; it's about who you do it with."

When Jelly Roll and Lainey Wilson had a joint No. 1 party at Nashville's Tin Roof last week to celebrate their "Save Me," Jelly Roll's "Need a Favor" and Wilson's fifth consecutive No. 1 "Watermelon Moonshine," Jelly Roll's cousin set up in the back inking free tattoos for the event's 250 guests.

"That's how white trash our family is," Jelly Roll quipped before the party.

Jelly Roll is a Nashville-area native and convicted felon with "so many bad tattoos" he doesn't care to have anymore. He created his signature fusion of country, rock and rap after years of grinding it out and selling music out of the back of his car.

Wilson is a sweet-talking Louisiana native with no tattoos who lived in a camper when she got to town. Country fans fell in love with her authenticity, Southern drawl, unique bell-bottom style and unparalleled gift of storytelling and connection.

On the surface, they're an unlikely pair. At their core, Jelly Roll and Lainey Wilson are two genuine hearts standing in the spotlight as beacons for the underdogs. Jelly Roll is there for the kids with a bad rap sheet and genuine desire for a better life. Wilson shows up for the farm girls who want to sing their country songs to anyone who will listen. To succeed, both groups must outwork almost everyone else. But Jelly Roll and Wilson prove that anything is achievable with true talent and enough dedication.

"You had to have been crazy to put out as many projects as I did and them fail," Jelly Roll said. "To blow that much time and money on something and it not work, I think I just had this deep-rooted belief that I was here to represent a group of people that wasn't represented. I knew that one day it could connect."

Wilson said she thinks she is just a little bit crazy, too, to have kept reaching for country music stardom as long as she did. But she also believes you must take these chances in the music industry – or anything in life – to succeed.

"I think it was grit," Wilson said. "That grit that my mama and daddy instilled in me from the beginning, but also that faith that they instilled in me. I knew from an early age … that this was my calling. I knew that this was a gift. I truly believe that if you feel like you have a gift, you're supposed to share it with the world. And mine is telling stories."

Jelly Roll's dad pushed him to keep going in the music business when he wanted to give up, too. While Wilson's parental encouragement primarily came while she was on the farm – Jelly Roll's happened in the same bar where they hosted their No. 1 party.

Jelly Roll's father, Horace "Buddy" DeFord, was such a regular at Tin Roof that staff hung a plaque on the wall in his honor. Jelly Roll said his dad came there for happy hour and held court. The singer and his brother met him there, and about 10 years ago, Jelly Roll told him he thought he was ready to give up. He asked his dad for a job selling meat, which they did for a living. His father wouldn't hear of it.

"He said, 'Son, if you're working as hard as I think you are, and as hard as you're telling me you are, if you'd have did what my wish for you in life was, and you'd have went to Vanderbilt right after you left high school to be a doctor, you wouldn't have even had your master's yet to go into the doctor's program,'" Jelly Roll recalled. "He said, if you're really working that hard, I believe that one day this'll work."

When Jelly Roll moved into an ultra-exclusive neighborhood in the Nashville area a few years ago, his next-door neighbor was a doctor.

"I thought to myself, 'That old … man was right,'" he said. "It ended up working out. Since then, I outgrew the doctor neighborhood. So, I guess I could have been a brain surgeon. I don't believe you can truly work at something that hard and long and it not pay off."

Family means everything to both of the singers. Wilson FaceTimes her nephews every day and said her parents, sister and boyfriend are the ones who remind her of who she is.

"I can't be Lainey the artist if I'm not Lainey the sister, Lainey the friend, Lainey the daughter, Lainey the girlfriend -- all of those things," she said. "It's really important to keep your people close. I truly do think that that grit is just in my blood. I've come from five generations of farmers."

The singers think of each other as family, too. Jelly Roll said his wife is his anchor, but he calls Wilson to discuss everything from his career triumphs to the negative comments on his social media feed. She always answers the phone.

"That's the anchor in everything we do," Wilson said.

"Life ain't about what you do; it's about who you do it with," Jelly Roll said.

The pair even faced The United States Congress. Wilson spoke out against artificial intelligence, which replicated her likeness to sell weight loss gummies.

"When I was nine years old, and I was writing music and being Hannah Montana, I wasn't dreaming about sitting in front of a Congress and talking about AI," she said. "But it is something that has affected my life and affected my friends' lives. And I think when you have the opportunity if you've got the guts, do it. And I have the guts."

Jelly Roll faced Congress over the drug epidemic.

"It's often talked about artists that make deals with the devil, but I made a deal with God," he said. "I said, 'God, I (messed) up my entire life. If it ever gets better, I'll make sure you get some credit for it, and I'll do right with it. I'm just honoring my end of the deal. If God gave me a soapbox, I told him I'd stand on it, grab a megaphone and scream his name."

Wilson couldn't be happier to watch her friend succeed.

"It is so crazy to see the Lord using him and his story," she said. "It is just wild. I'm so thankful that (Jelly Roll) is a part of this format."

Latest News