Jelly Roll has stories to tell, and he’s sharing his words of wisdom through country music.
“I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it wasn’t for what I went through. I think it empowered me. I think it gave me my voice,” he exclusively told Fox News Digital. “It taught me a lot about overcoming. It taught me a lot about changing and the ability to change.
“I was a horrible human for decades, and to just be able to turn that around and give a message in the music and help people … and just try to give back as much as I can in every way I can is very indicative of where I came from and how important it is to me to always reach back.”
The “Save Me” singer, whose full name is Jason Bradley DeFord, has taken country music by storm with his inviting and honest approach to storytelling. He leads the pack as the most nominated male artist at the 2023 CMA Awards with five nods, including new artist of the year.
“To hear about being the most nominated is just unreal,” he said. “You know, I didn’t frankly … I don’t know if I expected to even be nominated, you know, and to wake up and have the nominations, and then be the most nominated male? Then to turn around and be asked to open the actual show?”
Not only will Jelly Roll open the 57th Annual Country Music Association Awards at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, but he’ll also close out the program with another performance.
“At every level, it just keeps getting wilder,” he admitted.
WATCH: JELLY ROLL TALKS ABOUT CMA NOMINATIONS
The “Son of a Sinner” musician has had a wild ride indeed. He grew up writing poetry in the suburbs of Nashville, and credits Johnny Cash, Bob Seger and James Taylor as musical influences, in addition to Three 6 Mafia and the hip-hop duo, UGK. He earned his nickname from his mom, who also inspired his love for a wide-range of music.
Jelly Roll’s eclectic style and tattooed face is not what many country music fans are used to seeing. He started in the music scene selling mixtapes and released more than a dozen independent catalogs before releasing his country album debut, “Whitsitt Chapel,” earlier this year.
He’s openly discussed his battle with addiction through the years, and at one point, served time in prison on aggravated robbery and possession with intent to sell charges.
WATCH: JELLY ROLL PROMISES ELECTRIC PERFORMANCE AT THE CMAS
“In the beginning, I did a lot of drugs. I drank a lot of codeine, a lot of cough syrup,” he told Billboard in 2021. “I took a lot of Xanax, did a lot of cocaine, just really took it overboard. I’ve had years – dude, I don’t remember years. Also, addiction for me is more than just my problems.”
Jelly Roll is more committed than ever to practicing what he preaches, and told Fox News Digital that his own lifestyle changes have reflected in positive results.
“The more that this thing grows and the more people that we help and the more that I start to deal with my past and the things that have affected me and my own mental health struggles, the more that I have a will to live,” he said.
“I’ve been working out. I’ve been losing weight, slowly but surely. I’m about 45-50 (pounds) down coming off tour, walking into the CMAs.”
He added, “I’m drinking less than I’ve ever drank, and I feel incredible. I’m drinking water like a fish. I’m getting it right out here. I want to touch people as long as I can.”
WATCH: JELLY ROLL WOULD HAVE NEVER PREDICTED HIS SUCCESS
Jelly Roll is also nominated for male artist of the year, single of the year, music video of the year and musical event of the year for “Save Me” with Lainey Wilson.
“Wednesday night, win, lose or draw, we walk in as a winner, baby,” Jelly Roll said. “The fact that we are even here, the fact that we are the most nominated, the fact that they took a risk and allowed us to open the show … we’re going to prove, we’re going to prove all the people that love us, right. And we’re going to prove them other motherf—— wrong.”
WATCH: JELLY ROLL SHARES INSIGHT ABOUT HEALTH JOURNEY
With success in his very recent past and now part of his future, Jelly Roll would have a difficult time convincing his younger self what lies ahead.
“If younger me was watching this right now, I’d look straight at him and I would say, ‘You’re not going to believe what’s going to happen to you, baby. You have absolutely no clue. You just hold on to your seat belt, Slim. It is fixin to get wild.'”