WATCH: Jelly Roll Triumphs During First-Ever CMA Fest Performance

Re-live his CMA Fest debut.

By

Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

July 19, 2023

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Jelly Roll performs at the VIP Stage at Nissan Stadium on Friday, June 9 during CMA Fest 2023 in downtown Nashville; Photo Courtesy CMA

Jelly Roll made his CMA Fest debut with a performance of “NEED A FAVOR.”

The genre-bending star surprised fans when he appeared on the b-stage in the center of Nissan Stadium during the 50th anniversary of the iconic Nashville festival to perform his current chart-climbing single. 

He also performed “Son Of A Sinner,” his first-ever chart-topping hit at Country radio. 

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Following his two-song performance, the 38-year-old became overcome with emotion and broke down in tears as the crowd cheered him on and began to chant “Jelly Jelly Jelly.” 

“NEED A FAVOR” impacted Country radio on February 13 and marks Jelly Roll’s second Country radio single, following his chart-topping hit, “Son Of A Sinner.”

Jelly Roll performs at Nissan Stadium on Friday, June 9 during CMA Fest 2023 in downtown Nashville; Photo Courtesy CMA
Jelly Roll performs at Nissan Stadium on Friday, June 9 during CMA Fest 2023 in downtown Nashville; Photo Courtesy CMA

Co-written by Jelly Roll (whose real name is Jason DeFord) alongside Austin Nivarel, Joe Ragosta and Rob Ragosta, “NEED A FAVOR” finds the hitmaker telling the story of a man coming face to face with his demons and nearly losing the person he loves the most, and with nowhere left to turn he sends prayers up to God for a saving grace.

“I only talk to God when I need a favor / And I only pray when I ain’t got a prayer / So, who the hell am I, who the hell am I / To expect a Savior o-o-oh / If I only talk to God when I need a favor / But God I need a favor,” Jelly Roll sings on the tune’s chorus.

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“NEED A FAVOR” appears on Jelly Roll’s debut full-length country record, WHITSITT CHAPEL, which arrived on June 2 via BMG/Stoney Creek Records. The project, named after the church the Antioch native grew up attending, features 13 tracks. 

“This album is about growth and gratitude happening in my life. I wanted to create a project that felt hopeful. I believe the worst feeling a person can have is feeling hopeless or worthless. This is therapeutic music. Real music for real people with real problems,” Jelly Roll previously shared in a statement.

WHITSITT CHAPEL also includes three collaborations. Brantley Gilbert and Struggle Jennings joined Jelly Roll on “Behind Bars” and Yelawolf is featured on “Unlive,” while Lainey Wilson teamed up with the 38-year-old hitmaker to recreate his fan-favorite tune, “Save Me.”

Additionally, Jelly Roll will soon take his new album on the road to embark on his massive 44-date headlining arena tour, dubbed the Backroad Baptism Tour.

Hosted by Josh Adam Meyers, the trek kicks off on Friday, July 28 at Bank Plus Amphitheater in Southaven, Mississippi. The Backroad Baptism will run through Saturday, October 14, where the trek will wrap up in Tampa, Florida at MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre.

The three-hour CMA Fest special was hosted by Dierks Bentley, Elle King, and Lainey Wilson and aired on ABC on Wednesday, July 19. 

Dierks Bentley, Elle King, Lainey Wilson; Photo Courtesy CMA/ ABC
Dierks Bentley, Elle King, Lainey Wilson; Photo Courtesy CMA/ ABC

Dubbed “the music event of summer,” the special featured 30+ performances and surprise collaborations from some of Country music’s hottest stars, including Alabama, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Leon Bridges, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Dan + Shay, Jordan Davis, Vince Gill, HARDY, Tyler Hubbard, Jelly Roll, Cody Johnson, Elle King, Miranda Lambert, Avril Lavigne, Little Big Town, Ashley McBryde, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina, Old Dominion, Jon Pardi, Carly Pearce, Darius Rucker, Tanya Tucker, Keith Urban, and Lainey Wilson.  

CMA Fest marked its 50th Anniversary with a record-breaking celebration in Nashville, June 8 through June 11. 

The four-day event hosted an estimated daily attendance of over 90,000, a 12% increase from 2022, according to the Country Music Association. Additionally, the nightly concerts at Nissan Stadium saw 10% growth from 2022.

Lainey Wilson, Dierks Bentley and Elle King.; Photo by ABC/Robby Klein
Lainey Wilson, Dierks Bentley and Elle King.; Photo by ABC/Robby Klein

The festival also hosted fans from all 50 states as well as a record-breaking 51 countries.

“What a weekend! As we’ve spent the past year reflecting on this milestone celebration, one theme has persisted—the incredible connection between Country Music fans and the artists,” Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer, shared in a statement. “It’s magical because it still matters after all these years. From first-timers to legends, so many artists started as fans—some as far back as Fan Fair. Almost every artist who performs during the festival has had their own experience as a fan, so for many of them, taking the stage at CMA Fest is a full-circle moment. We only get the chance to celebrate our 50th anniversary once, and to do so in such an impactful way has meant the world to us. Thank you, Country Music!”   
More than 300 acts took part in CMA Fest this year, including performances at the Chevy Riverfront Stage, Dr Pepper Amp Stage, Chevy Vibes Stage, Maui Jim Reverb Stage and the Hard Rock Stage as well at Fan Fair X inside Music City Center.

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Lauren Jo Black

Written by

Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for Answers.com and her work being featured on Forbes.com. She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.