Jelly Roll Opens The 2023 CMA Awards With Surprise Collaboration of ‘Need a Favor’ With Country Music Icon Wynonna Judd
The artists were joined by a choir for their show-stopping performance.
Jelly Roll, Wynonna Judd; Photo Courtesy of CMA
To kick off the 57th annual CMA Awards held at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., five-time nominee and first-time performer Jelly Roll delivered a powerful production of his smash hit “Need a Favor” with surprise guest Wynonna Judd.
Jelly Roll stepped into a lone spotlight and sang the opening lines a capella before gesturing to the crowd to join in. He was then joined by country icon Wynonna Judd, along with a choir of background singers, to elevate the already poignant song. Judd, known for her vocal prowess, delivered a performance from her soul. Holding on to Jelly Roll and embracing him in a hug at the end, it was clear that the pair have a special musical connection. The performance concluded with a shower of pyrotechnics that lit up the stage.
“The feeling of opening the CMA Awards is a totally different thing. They were like, ‘You’re gonna get to perform this year.’ Right then, I was like ‘No way.’ I immediately got nervous. … They called back and said, ‘We think they want you to open the show. I was like, ‘You’re kidding me,’” the genre-bending star recalled. “ I think the only honor bigger than maybe winning a CMA is getting to open the CMAs.”
Jelly Roll (Jason DeFord) co-wrote “Need a Favor” with Austin Nivarel, Joe Ragosta, and Rob Ragosta. The track appears on his debut country record, WHITSITT CHAPEL.
Jelly Roll is a top nominee with an impressive five nominations: Single Of The Year (“NEED A FAVOR”), New Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist Of The Year, Musical Event Of The Year (“Save Me” with Lainey Wilson) and Music Video Of The Year (“NEED A FAVOR”).
With this accomplishment, the Nashville native joins Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Maren Morris, Willie Nelson, and Gretchen Wilson who also received five nods in a first appearance on the final CMA Awards ballot. According to the Country Music Association, the record for most nominations in a debut year is six, with Glen Campbell, Kacey Musgraves, Brad Paisley, and Lainey Wilson holding the current record.
The superstar will return to the stage at the end of the show to perform a moving rendition of The Judds’ “Love Can Build a Bridge” alongside first-time CMA Awards performer, K. Michelle. The pair recorded their spin on the song in honor of The Judds’ 40th anniversary. The collaborative track appears on the recently released A Tribute to The Judds album, which also features Ashley McBryde, Blake Shelton, Carly Pearce, Cody Johnson, Dolly Parton, Gabby Barrett, Gwen Stefani, and more.
Co-hosted by Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning, the 57th Annual CMA Awards aired live on Wednesday, November 8 on ABC (8:00-11:00 PM/EST). The star-studded show featured performances by Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Bryan, Luke Combs, Dan + Shay, Chris Stapleton, Jordan Davis, Cody Johnson, Ashley McBryde, The War And Treaty, Lainey Wilson, and more.
Always known for epic collaborations, the 2023 CMA Awards also featured a Jimmy Buffett tribute from Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Mac McAnally, and Zac Brown Band, a not-to-be-missed performance of country classics from Post Malone, Morgan Wallen, and HARDY, a performance honoring The Judds from Jelly Roll and K. Michelle, plus special duets from Carly Pearce and Chris Stapleton, Old Dominion and Megan Moroney, and Little Big Town with Tanya Tucker.
Paula Abdul, Bill Anderson, Nate Bargatze, Kevin Cahoon, Jordan Davis, Cynthia Erivo, Sara Evans, Brian Kelley, Lady A, Martina McBride, Parker McCollum, Craig Morgan, Darius Rucker, Corey Seager, Gerry Turner, Keith Urban, Hailey Whitters and Chris Young appeared to present during “Country Music’s Biggest Night.”
Those who are unable to watch the show in real-time can watch the CMA Awards the following day on Hulu.
Nicole Palsa is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. Since 2012, she has written about the newcomers, superstars, and legends of country music for publications including Music Mayhem, Country Now, and Country Music Tattle Tale. Palsa has served as a volunteer guide with Musicians On Call since 2016 and is a Troubadour member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications and her Bachelor of Arts degree in French. In addition to being a devoted country music fan, Nicole is a family historian and genealogist who can often be found in stacks of research. She is also an avid traveler with a passion for wildlife and nature photography.